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High cost blamed for Burundi's low internet penetration

High cost blamed for Burundi's low internet penetration

Burundi's government has blamed the high cost of connectivity for the East African country's low internet penetration rate ( under 10%).

According to Internet World Stats (IWS), there were 617,116 internet users in Burundi as at December 2018, with an internet penetration rate of 5.3% and just 3.9% of the country's 11.6 million people are on Facebook.

Speaking at a recent workshop on the drafting of a law to regulate ICT in the country, Acting Director General of the country's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and Control (ARTC) Hermalas Nahimana said the country is "stalling on the internet".

Nahimana said the internet penetration rate should not detract from the government's investment in fiber optics and the establishment of a universal service fund for telecom infrastructure in rural and remote areas.

In May 2019, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) described Burundi as one of the countries in Africa where the cost of GB mobile broadband is the most affordable at US$3.3.

However, ARTC believes the cost is still quite high and beyond the reach of the majority of citizens.

Christian Ntahondi, the head of the tariff control service at ARTC, said: "The high cost has restricted the transformative power of the internet in Burundi."

In spite of the low internet penetration, operators in the country are striving to improve the quality of services while also introducing new technologies.

Burundi has six operators led by the latest entrant Lumitel which controls 55% market share.

In March 2018, ITWeb Africa reported that Lumitel, a subsidiary of Viettel, is rolling out its 4G services nationally - just two years after it introduces 4G services with a focus on specific regions including Bujumbura, Gitega, Makamba, Muyinga, Ngozi and Rumonge.

Despite the low internet penetration, operators are making profits. In its latest report on Lumitel, Viettel revealed that the Burundian operator recorded the strongest financial growth of any of its four African subsidiaries in H1 2017, with revenue growth of 38% to US$25.19 million, compared to US$18.26 million in 2016.

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