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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June, 2004, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Vodacom first for 3G in Africa
Mobile phone user
Africa is the world's fastest-growing mobile phone market
South Africa's Vodacom has won the continent's first licence to provide new generation, or '3G', mobile telecommunication services.

The firm said the new service, which provides high-speed internet access from mobile phones, would be available in parts of South Africa within a week.

Chief executive Alan Knott-Craig said he was confident 3G would deliver "significant growth" in the years ahead.

The 3G launch comes as Vodacom is facing tough competition.

Although it remains South Africa's dominant mobile phone company, its share of the market slipped to 54% in the year to late March, down from 57% one year earlier.

Nigeria setback

Last week, Vodacom's international ambitions also received a setback when it pulled out of a deal which would have given it a prized foothold in Nigeria, seen as Africa's most lucrative mobile phone market.

Mr Knott-Craig said Vodacom had withdrawn after it emerged that its local partner, Econet Wireless Nigeria, had gone back on an agreement not to pay the balance of brokerage fees charged by three Nigerian investment firms.

He added that while there was "no sign of impropriety" in making the payments, the incident amounted to "a breach of good faith."

Vodacom, 35%-owned by British mobile phone giant Vodafone, said it was on the lookout for alternative investment opportunities in Africa.

Mobile telecoms have proved a rare business success story in Africa, with usage stimulated by the poor state of fixed-line networks across much of the continent.

Last month, a report from the International Telecommunication Union found that mobile phone usage in Africa was increasing at an annual rate of 65%, more than twice the global average.

Vodacom, with more than 11 million subscribers spread across South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and Lesotho, is the continent's biggest mobile phone operator.

Vodacom's biggest shareholder, the South African monopoly fixed-line phone company Telkom, on Monday said full-year operating profits jumped by 40% to 9 billion rand ($1.3bn), while operating revenues climbed 8.8% to 40.8 billion rand.

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04 Nov 03  |  Business

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