MTN plans $250 mln Ivory Coast telecom network upgrade

ABIDJAN, June 5 Thu Jun 5, 2014 12:01pm EDT

ABIDJAN, June 5 (Reuters) - MTN Group, Africa's biggest telecommunications operator, plans to spend around 120 billion CFA francs ($250 million) upgrading its network in Ivory Coast, the head of the West African nation's local subsidiary said.

The South African company is the number two operator in Ivory Coast - French-speaking West Africa's largest economy - behind France's Orange.

"We want to be first," Wim Vanhelleputte said on Thursday at the inauguration of a new data centre in the commercial capital Abidjan.

"Today we have a market share of 37 percent. We are aiming to go to at least 40 percent, and that will be possible through this kind of investment," he said.

Vanhelleputte said MTN was spending 40 billion CFA francs this year to renew, modernise and extend its Ivory Coast network and planned similar investments in each of the next two years.

The company is particularly seeking to meet growing demand from clients for fast data services. "Today we have 1,000 km of fibre optics in Abidjan," Vanhelleputte said.

Ivory Coast has around 19 million mobile phone subscribers out of a total estimated population of some 24 million.

In addition to Orange and MTN, Libya's Green, Etisalat's Moov and Koz, part of Lebanon-based Comium, also operate in the country. Domestically-owned Cafe Mobile and Abu Dhabi-based Warid Telecom both hold unused operating permits.

($1 = 481.7900 CFA francs) (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Joe Bavier and John Stonestreet)