Orange has bolstered its presence in Africa via a deal with Ugandan operator Hits Telecom, which will see the French-based company launch services in Uganda under the Orange brand in the coming months. The deal will see the creation of a new company called ‘Orange Uganda Limited,’ which will be 53 percent controlled by Orange parent-company France Telecom, though financial details were not disclosed. Under the terms of the deal, Hits Telecom’s nationwide telecoms license will be transferred to the new company and Orange will also have access to Hits Telecom’s GSM network. All Hits Telecom Uganda staff will transfer to Orange Uganda.

In a statement, Orange noted that Uganda has a population of around 30 million but mobile penetration of less than 17 percent. It adds that the deal is part of a strategy to further strengthen its presence in East Africa; the operator already has a presence in 15 African countries, but mostly concentrated in the French-speaking regions of West Africa. Last month, Orange launched its operations in Kenya – following last year’s acquisition of a 51 percent stake in the incumbent operator Telkom Kenya – and is planning to sign-up 1.5 million customers within a year. According to Wireless Intelligence data, Hits Telecom had 135,335 mobile connections in Uganda by end of second-quarter 2008. The market is led by MTN (2.8 million), followed by Zain (1.8 million), Uganda Telecom (1.3 million) and Warid (250,000).