Uganda: COVID-19 deals decisive blow to Smart Telecom
A source within the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has confirmed that Smart Telecom (Sure Telecom) will cease its operation in Uganda on 31 August 2021 due to operational challenges caused by COVID-19.
Speaking under condition of anonymity, the source said the UCC and Smart Telecom have reached an agreement on the company’s exit strategy, which includes refunding all prepaid subscriber purchases that runs beyond the exit date.
“Discussions have been going on between the UCC and Smart Telecom over its plans to exit the Ugandan market and how the issue of prepaid customers will be settled. That has been agreed and the company is ceasing operations this month end. You see, there is so much competition in Uganda’s telecommunications market and as a result so many operators are currently struggling financially. We expect a few more operators to exit the market if the status quo continues as many operators do not have the financial muscle to expand and grow their networks,” the source stated.
In July, UCC assured industry players and other stakeholders that the sector continues to demonstrate resilience as it weathers challenges caused by COVID-19 and that subscriber numbers and revenue were both up in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period of 2020.
The regulator stated:“The number of customers in country had grown from 27.7 million in December 2020 to 28.3 million at the end of March 2021 with penetration rate at almost 70%.”
Neither the UCC nor Smart Telecom responded to requests for comment. The operator’s website is already inaccessible.
Smart Telecom launched its operations in Uganda in 2014 after purchasing the Sure Telecom licence which had failed to attract subscribers when it launched in December 2012.
At that time, the company said it intended to invest US300-million in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania.
Uganda’s telecommunications market is home to several mobile phone operators, including market leader, MTN Uganda, as well as Airtel Uganda, Africell, Smile Telecom, Lycamobile and Telecom Uganda.