LAGOS, Feb 3 – U.S.-based Motorola Inc. <MOT.N> said on Wednesday it had signed a multi-million dollar deal with Zain <ZAIN.KW> to expand the operator’s mobile network into rural parts of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.
Motorola said its Home and Networks Mobility business had signed the order with Zain Nigeria to expand coverage, capacity and service quality in the West African country. It did not disclose financial details of the deal.
“With the expansion of its network and implementation of software upgrades, Zain Nigeria will provide service to rural customers that previously did not have access to cellular coverage,” Motorola said in a statement.
It said the expansion project, which would also bring improved data services for mobile phone users, was due for completion in early 2010.
Nigeria has around 70 million mobile subscribers and a population twice that big, making it the continent’s top mobile market. Expanding into rural areas is the major challenge for telecoms providers, with cities largely well served.
Zain — which was previously known as Celtel and is owned by Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co — is focused on emerging markets with a commercial presence in 23 countries around the Middle East and Africa.
Its main rivals in Nigeria are South Africa’s MTN <MTNJ.J>, local firm Globacom and Emirates Telecommunications Corp <ETEL.AD>.
Motorola deployed Zain’s existing GSM network in Nigeria and the two firms also have agreements in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: Codewit forum ) (Reporting by ; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Hans Peters)