orange-france-telecomTelecommunications firm France Telecom-Orange plans to announce its entry into the South African mobile market as it kicks off its sponsorship of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).

In a Johannesburg press event scheduled for Friday – planned to officially unveil Orange’s sponsorship of the football tournament that starts on Saturday – the invitation for the event further says the telco is to announce its “launch of operations in South Africa”.

“Leon-Charles Ciss, vice president marketing of AMEA (Asia, Middle East and Africa) operations will present Orange’s sponsorship program and promotional initiatives, and Sébastien Crozier, managing director of Orange Horizons will present the rollout of operations and the Group’s strategy in South Africa,” reads the invite.

It is unclear as to what Orange plans exactly regarding its forthcoming South Africa venture. But experts have been predicting the launch of Orange in South Africa over the last two years.

Birgitta Cederstrom, business unit leader, Africa ICT at Frost & Sullivan, was quoted in the press early last year as saying that Orange could enter South Africa as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). A MVNO does not own the radio spectrum or wireless network infrastructure over which it offers services and typically obtains bulk access to other networks’ services.

Orange operates in close to 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East in markets such as Kenya, Ivory Coast and Egypt

The telco is also the third largest in Africa with over 70 million reported subscriber numbers – MTN has 164 million users while Vodafone has 92 million subscribers on the continent.

And Orange has made moves of late to entrench and possibly even further grow its market on the continent.

Just this week the telco announced that it has teamed up with Chinese search giant Baidu to launch the tech giant’s mobile web browser in African and Middle East markets where Orange operates.

Last month, France Telecom-Orange and its partners launched the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable, a $700 million broadband network linking Europe to the African island of Sao Tomé & Principe in its first phase.

Upon completion, the cable is planned to extend 17,000 km from France to South Africa and connect to 13 countries in total.

Research firm Wireless Intelligence has also noted France Telecom’s expansion on the African continent over the last two years.

“France Telecom also inked a deal in Q4 2011 to acquire 100% of Congo Chine Telecom, a mobile operator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“The operator currently has only 1.5 million connections but is an example of the ‘high potential emerging markets’ currently being targeted by the group,” the researchers added.

Entering South Africa’s mobile market, though, could be tougher prospect than other African nations for France Telecom.

South Africa has an over 100% mobile penetration rate, according to BuddeComm research, with stiff competition among firms such as MTN, Vodacom and Cell C.

Source: ITWeb Africa