Telecoms major Airtel has said it will more than double the number of its 4G network sites in Tanzania after securing a license for the high-speed internet for which it will pay over $12 million to the government.

The Tanzanian unit, which is a subsidiary of the Indian-based Bharti Airtel, has also been allocated an additional frequency spectrum at an annual fee of $600,000, the company said in its latest financial update for the nine months to December 2019.

“Airtel Tanzania has been authorized by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority to use 10MHz in the 700MHz band for eight months,” Bharti Airtel said, adding that the license of 700MHz band will be issued after the completion of the payment to the regulatory authorities in June.

The network operator had rolled out its 4G network in Tanzania last November under an eight-month provisional license subject to full payment of the licensing fee. The plan is to expand its network to 25 other towns.

Tanzania’s mobile industry, where Airtel is a major player alongside Tigo and Vodacom, has been growing since the turn of the century. Out of the more than 40 million mobile voice subscriptions registered in 2018, roughly half the devices were used to access the internet, indicating the high number of basic cellphones throughout the country.

But some two-fifths of Tanzania’s population still remain offline and excluded from the socio-economic benefits of the internet even though the country’s mobile internet penetration has nearly quadrupled from 2010 to 2018, a March 2019 report by GSMA shows. More so, around a fifth of the population, representing 11 million people, is not covered by a mobile broadband network.

Meanwhile, Airtel’s quarterly financial result, the third since raising $750 million through its initial public offering (IPO) in June last year, reveals that its regional unit – Airtel Africa – recorded revenue of $883 million, up 14.2 percent year-on-year from $783 million. This is largely driven by improved performance in the ‘Rest of Africa’ region, supported by solid results in Nigeria and East Africa, the company said.

The company’s customer base in Africa stands at 107.1 million, out of which 32.9 million were data users. Airtel Africa is the holding firm for Bharti Airtel’s operations in 14 countries across the continent. Its shares were priced at 80 pence apiece, giving it a market capitalization of around $3.9 billion.

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