Telecom services in Lesotho are managed by a privatised national operator, Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL). The mobile sector is a duopoly between South Africa-based Vodacom and ETL, though competition is insufficient to promote effective price reductions for consumers.
Mobile penetration remains below the regional average, while the small size of the market provides little incentive for new players to enter the market.
Fixed-line teledensity is also low, but the fixed network has gained value since DSL services were launched in 2007. In parallel, ETL has rolled out a fixed-wireless network. In addition, the company has introduced a fixed-mobile convergence product and is capitalising on its multi-platform capabilities.
Vodacom was the first operator to introduce mobile broadband services in the country, supplemented with a WiMAX network. In late 2014 the company launched commercial services based on LTE technology. This was followed by fixed-wireless 5G trials in early 2019 based on a trial 3.5GHz licence. Vodacom Lesotho was among the first network operators in the region to conduct such trials.
Although landlocked, Lesotho has benefited from connectivity to the several submarine fibre optic cables which land on African east and west coasts. These have considerably improved international bandwidth, though access prices for the two ISPs remain high and as a consequence internet take-up among consumers has been stymied.
BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes.
However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.
- Vodacom Lesotho continues with 5G trials;
- ETL expands FttP network;
- Safaricom and Vodacom Group acquire the M-Pesa brand;
- Improved internet connectivity following landing of international cables;
- Universal Service Agency expanding base tower infrastructure in remote areas;
- Report update includes ITU statistics, regulator’s ICT market report, Telecom Maturity Index charts and analyses, operator data to Q1 2020, assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.