Number of mobile phone users in Burundi rose 13 pct in 2013

BUJUMBURA Wed May 21, 2014 9:12am EDT

BUJUMBURA May 21 (Reuters) - The number of mobile phone users in Burundi rose 13 percent in 2013 from the year before as most operators expanded their infrastructure networks, the industry regulator said on Wednesday.

Mobile phone subscriptions in the small east African nation reached 2.53 million last year versus 2.24 million in 2012.

"Some companies which were just covering the capital Bujumbura are now present in a large part of the country," regulator ARCT said in its report.

Competition between operators in reducing call prices and handset costs has also contributed to the rise in subscribers, ARCT added.

Burundi had only 270,000 mobile phones users in 2007.

The landlocked nation of over 8 million people has five active mobile firms, led by Ucom, owned by Egypt's Orascom , with 64 percent of the market.

The rest of subscribers are shared between Econet, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless, Africell owned by VTL holdings of Dubai, Lacell SU from Nepal, and state-owned ONAMOB.

The government has recently granted a licence to a sixth operator, Vietnam's Vietell Telecom, for $10 million.

Some analysts say six operators are too many in a small country such as Burundi, but authorities say it is good for competition in the industry, and for their contribution to the economy through tax payments. (Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Potter)

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