Airtel Tanzania – History, Network, Ownership and More

Airtel Tanzania Limited is Tanzania’s third-largest telecom company according to the number of subscribers, after Vodacom Tanzania in second place and Tigo Tanzania in the lead. By September 2017, 10.6 million voice subscribers were using Airtel Tanzania. Data from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) by December 2017 revealed that Airtel Tanzania’s share in the mobile telephone market was at 27.1 percent of the total customer numbers, estimated to be about 10.86 million at that time.

The company is part of the pan-African mobile network provider, Airtel Africa, the continent’s biggest mobile service provider with a presence in 14 countries on the continent outside of South Africa. On 3 April 2006, Airtel Tanzania launched the country’s first General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) service. The headquarters of Celtel Tanzania were in Celtel House in Dar es Salaam. Celtel rebranded all its operations in Africa as Zain on 1 August 2008.

History of Airtel Tanzania

Airtel Tanzania came from TTCL’s partial privatization on 23 February 2001. It was among the first phases to complete market liberalization. Consequently, Celtel International known as MSI at that time, with head offices in Amsterdam, Netherlands, combined with Detecon of Germany and acquired 35% stakes from the Tanzanian Government. Therefore, the consortium of Detecon and Celtel International overtook TCCL’s Board and Management control making it become an independent company. Currently, Celtel International belongs to a sub-group from UAE.

Getting a License

In November 2001, Celtel Tanzania got a license as a mobile operator in the country. The license resulted from Tanzania Communications Commission (TCC)’s decision and the need to create national licenses from zonal licenses in 1998. The adjustments resulted from the country’s very low number of subscribers (i.e. the overall figure in 1998 was 37,940) including operators putting concentration on just a few regions (i.e. the coastal region around Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam).

Celtel Tanzania’s Partnership

Sunil Mittal the chairman of Bharti Airtel
Sunil Mittal the chairman of Bharti Airtel

Celtel International partnered with Detecon from Germany during Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL)’s privatization. Both companies made an initial investment in TTCL worth $60 million in February 2001 to acquire a 35% stake in the company. Celtel International’s new partnership with TTCL included a clause to be liable to independent “Expert Determination” following TTCL’s poor financial indicators in 2000. According to this “Expert Determination”, an additional payment of $4.96 million was received from Celtel International.

At the start of August 2005, there was a legal separation of TTCL and Celtel Tanzania, giving each chance to handle business and financial operations independently. This new formal agreement was signed between Celtel Tanzania and the Government of Tanzania, TTCL’s structure of owning shares remained intact, with Celtel International keeping the remaining 35% and the Tanzanian government keeping the other 65%. Consequently, the structure of Celtel Tanzania was adjusted to adhere to the decision by the government to sell 25% shares worth USD28 million in Cellco to Celtel International.

Purchase by Zain

By September 2007, MTC Group, the parent company for Celtel was bought by Zain (an Arabic word meaning good, wonderful, and beautiful) joining its various brands scattered in 22 nations. This resulted in Celtel Tanzania’s rebranding as Zain Tanzania.

Purchase by Bharti Airtel

Bharti Airtel closed a deal on 8 June 2010, to buy mobile operations in 15 African nations, from Zain, an operator from Kuwaiti including Zain Tanzania, however leaving out Zain Sudan. Afterward, the company rebranded to Airtel Tanzania.

Present Ownership

After negotiations in Dar es Salaam between President John Magufuli of Tanzania and Sunil Mittal the chairman of Bharti Airtel in January 2019, the conglomerate from India agreed to give away more shares to the government, to settle current ownership disputes. After agreeing to transfer shares, the company’s ownership appeared as portrayed in the table below.

Shareholding In Airtel Tanzania stock
Shareholding In Airtel Tanzania stock

One Network

Airtel Africa’s operations by January 2016 were in 17 African nations. Labeled as “One Network”, the borderless solution for telecommunication across the continent was a first of its kind by Airtel across Africa. This service allowed Airtel customers to roam freely in other countries where Airtel operated as well as making calls just like local subscribers. The company extended this service to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India, to allow Airtel Africa subscribers to communicate freely without changing their SIM cards in those 3 Asian countries.

On the “One Network” recharging during roaming is possible in local currency or remotely from the home country of the subscriber. The Airtel mobile money services don’t work beyond borders, although plans to allow Airtel money between Tanzania and Kenya are underway.

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