Final Frontier for Wireless Hard to Break Through

With a vast, unserved population, Africa used to be a no-lose proposition for mobile phone operators looking for new customers. But after a wave of investment, the wireless industry’s final frontier is showing signs of age.In Egypt, France Télécom has been sparring for two years with its junior partner, Orascom, for control of MobiNil, the leading Egyptian mobile operator and France Télécom’s largest African holding.In Johannesburg, Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile operator in India, is in the second year of on-again, off-again negotiations to merge with MTN, the largest mobile African operator, with 91 million customers in 21 countries. The companies have set a deadline of Friday to reach an agreement or cut off talks.And last Monday, Vivendi, the French media company that owns a majority stake in SFR, broke off talks with Zain, the Bahraini group that is looking to sell its 16 sub-Saharan African phone businesses serving 40 million people.To read this report in full in The New York Times, see:

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