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Burkina watchdog fines cellphone firms $12 million for poor service

By Mathieu Bonkoungou

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso's communications regulator has ordered three cellphone companies to pay 5.8 billion CFA francs ($12.23 million) in fines for poor service.

The Authority for the Regulation of Electronic Communications and Post said on Thursday it fined Airtel Burkina 2.4 billion CFA francs, Onatel 2.07 billion and Telecel Faso 1.3 billion. It gave the companies 15 days from April 11 to pay the fines to the finance ministry.

It cited poor signal strength, poor coverage, high cutoff rates and low internet connection rates and gave the companies three months to improve their services.

Onatel is a subsidiary of Maroc Telecom . Airtel is part of India's Bharti Airtel while Telecel Faso belongs to group Planor Afrique SA owned by Burkinabe businessman Appolinaire Compaore.

Mathurin Bako, president of the regulator, said sanctions for non-compliance could include license suspensions for up to a month, non renewal or outright license revocation, though the government would have to apply these penalties. ($1 = 474.3170 CFA Francs)

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Keiron Henderson)