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Niger hands Airtel 3G license, renews 2G permit

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger has awarded Celtel, a mobile phone operator owned and operated by Bharti Airtel, a license to operate a 3G network and renewed its 2G license in the West African nation, the government said on Wednesday.

The 34 billion CFA franc ($69.79 million) deal will run for 15 years, starting on Dec. 7, according to a government statement.

Celtel, which has 2 million subscribers in the country, began operating in Niger in 2001 had has held off competition from France's Orange and Moov Atlantique Telecom to remain the country's top mobile phone network.

($1 = 487.1900 Central African CFA Francs)

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Bate Felix)