2023: The Essential CommsUpdate Selection

By Tom LeinsDec 20, 2023


As another eventful year draws to a close, we’re looking back at the telecom stories that captured our readers’ attention throughout 2023.

With 5G rollouts, satellite broadband, SIM card registration and mega-mergers all on the agenda, the CommsUpdate team left no stone unturned in their quest to bring you the biggest daily news stories from around the world.

Read on for our most popular stories of 2023.

Starman: Musk’s Must-Read Mozambique Maneuvers

Our most read story of 2023 was published in June, when the Elon Musk-backed Starlink satellite broadband service went live in Mozambique.  

At the time of its launch, Starlink noted that Mozambique did not yet have a ground station for internet fallback and was relying solely on inter-satellite links, which could result in periods of intermittent service and high latency. The company was previously awarded an operating license in Mozambique in May 2022.

The omnipresent Starlink has proven to be enduringly popular with readers this year, with the company’s headlines accounting for five of our top ten most viewed CommsUpdate articles! Other locations of interest were Trinidad & Tobago, El Salvador, and Zambia

Starlink’s parent company SpaceX currently has around 4,000 satellites in Low Earth Orbit, with plans to launch 42,000 in total.

Starlink’s parent company SpaceX currently has around 4,000 satellites in Low Earth Orbit, with plans to launch 42,000 in total. To date, more than 60 countries are known to have authorized Starlink to offer fixed broadband connectivity.

Shaw Thing: Canadian Telecom Landscape Reconfigured as Rogers and Shaw Merge and Videotron Buys Freedom Mobile

The Canadian telecom landscape was reconfigured earlier this year, with a CAD26 billion ($19.3 billion) mega-merger.

April saw the conclusion of the long-anticipated merger between Canadian telcos Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications. The deal—which first reached agreement in March 2021—combined Rogers’ nationwide mobile network with both operators’ coast-to-coast fixed networks.

The resulting national cable, media, and mobile operating company offers fiber-powered cable internet to nearly 70% of Canadian households.

Rogers’ CAD26 billion purchase of Shaw—including CAD6 billion debt—went ahead following final federal approval for the requisite transfer of Shaw’s mobile subsidiary, Freedom Mobile, to Videotron. As a result of the merger, the Shaw family has become one of the largest shareholders of Rogers.

Running in parallel, Videotron’s parent Quebecor and Shaw separately announced that the acquisition of Freedom Mobile by Videotron was now complete. Freedom Mobile had an enterprise value of CAD2.85 billion.

Lucky 13: MTN Nigeria Expands Its 5G Footprint

For our third most popular story of the year, we take a trip to Nigeria, for a May 2023 report on the expansion of MTN Nigeria’s 5G network.

The network, which was launched on a commercial basis in September 2022, reached a total of 13 cities across the country in May. CTO Mohammed Rufai noted that more than 700 5G sites had been rolled out in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Owerri, Ibadan, Maiduguri, Abeokuta, Warri, Enugu, Ifo, Benin City, and Shagamu. 

The mobile market leader is aiming to increase 5G coverage to 10% of the population by the end of the year and 40% by 2025. Rufai added that MTN currently has no plans to shut down its existing 2G and 3G networks: “The fact that we are going to 5G does not mean we should not cater to the needs of the subscribers on the other technology.”

MTN competes in the 5G segment with long-term rival Airtel Nigeria and Mafab Communications, which emerged as one of two winners of the 3.5GHz spectrum auction held by the Nigerian Communications Commission in December 2021.

You’ve Got a Smartfren in Me: Indonesian Mobile Players Poised to Hook Up

In September 2023, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics (known locally as KemKominfo) piqued readers’ interest when it confirmed that two of the country’s major telecom operators—XL Axiata and Sinar Mas Group-backed Smart Telecom (Smartfren)—had entered into discussions about a possible merger.

Malaysia-based Axiata Group and Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas began exploring the possibility of a merger back in October 2021, but any amalgamation of XL and Smartfren was expected to prove challenging given the latter’s high level of debt.

Any debt-related concerns have failed to derail the deal, however, with the proposed merger understood to be approaching the finish line.

Any debt-related concerns have failed to derail the deal, however, with the proposed merger understood to be approaching the finish line.

XL Axiata, the country’s third-largest mobile operator by subscriptions, is expected to assume the position as senior partner. The enlarged entity is likely to have an enterprise value in the region of IDR116.7 trillion ($7.5 billion).  

The Final Countdown: Ghana’s SIM Card Saga Draws to a Close

To conclude our list of 2023 big hitters, readers were on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome of Ghana’s long-running SIM registration saga, which commenced on October 1, 2021.

The campaign was originally due to end on March 31, 2022. However, the deadline was later extended to July 31, 2022, as a large part of the population had not yet obtained the required national biometric identity card.

Further extensions to September 30 and November 30 followed. Finally, customers were given until May 31, 2023 to reactivate their accounts by completing the biometric capture process.

In an update following the May 31 deadline, the Ministry of Communications revealed that, of the 42.416 million SIMs at the start of the re-registration exercise in October 2021, 28.948 million had been fully registered, 7.996 million were unregistered and had been blocked, and a further 4.473 million delinked and removed from the National Communications Authority (NCA) database, while 225,411 blocked SIMs were in the process of being reactivated.

Almost a million re-registration exemptions had been granted to SIM owners in various categories, the largest being citizens abroad (332,524) and mobile money agents/merchants (666,816).

Ghanaians are no strangers to SIM registration programs; the NCA has staged multiple registration schemes dating back to 2010.

A Note About CommsUpdate

In 2024, CommsUpdate content will move behind our research paywall. This means it will be available exclusively to TeleGeography customers. 

This newsletter has been hitting inboxes since 2003. Over those last two decades, CommsUpdate has been powered by a team of industry experts. They’ve produced hundreds of thousands of articles on the industry, covering more than 240 countries.

All this to say: we don’t take this move lightly. But because this work is a time-intensive labor requiring both extensive knowledge of the industry and research prowess, we believe it’s worthy of its placement behind the paywall. 

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Tom Leins

Tom Leins

Tom Leins is a Senior Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. Based out of the company’s UK office, he also contributes to the company’s daily CommsUpdate newsletter, which includes his popular weekly MVNO Monday round-up. MVNO industry aside, Tom has developed a strong specialization in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, tracking mergers and acquisitions, spectrum auctions, regulatory developments, market opportunities, and growth trends.