Tanzania has granted a licence to Vietnam-based telecoms operator Viettel to build a third-generation (3G) mobile phone network in the east African country, a senior official said.
Viettel will compete with the four other main operators: Vodacom Tanzania, a unit of South Africa's Vodacom ; Bharti Airtel ; Tigo Tanzania, part of Sweden's Millicom ; and Zantel, a unit of Etisalat.
Three other mobile phone operators - state-run TTCL, Benson and Smart - have a tiny market share.
Viettel will start building its national network on Nov. 1 and is expected to launch its mobile services in July 2015, Tanzania's deputy communication, science and technology minister, January Makamba, told Reuters late on Friday.
"We also like the fact that they will roll out broadband through fibre-optic cable to rural Tanzania. These plans align with the government's objective of digital inclusion," he said.
Tanzania's mobile telecoms sector has grown rapidly over the past decade. The nation of 45 million people has 28.88 million mobile subscribers, representing a mobile penetration of 64 percent, the regulator says.
Makamba said Viettel plans to focus on rural areas where about 4,000 villages currently without a network would be covered by 2016.
"Viettel network will be 3G everywhere," he said. "We've also asked Viettel to deliver fibre to 150 district hospitals, 150 district government offices, 65 post offices and 500 secondary schools."
The Vietnamese firm would build 13,000 km (8,000 miles) of fibre cable to add to the existing 8,000 km network, he said.
Viettel operates in markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa, and has more than 60 million subscribers worldwide, according to its website. Its revenues in 2012 were $7 billion.