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Africa beckons for broadband investments

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Better Internet access and bandwidth will help Africa grow and prosper – and there are a number of initiatives on the go to make this a reality.

“Africa, on the whole, is still not experiencing the benefits of direct internet access and increased bandwidth as is being enjoyed in South Africa,” says Winston Smith, MD of Alvarion Southern Africa and Nigeria. “This is due to the huge costs involved in bringing fibre optic cables inland to service inland African countries.”
However, a number of new projects planned to commence in 2011 will help to reverse this trend and help Africa to benefit from increased internet access and bandwidth.
O3b Networks is the developer of a new fibre-quality, satellite-based global internet backbone for telecommunications operators and internet service providers serving the emerging markets. The company has raised a total of $1,2-billion to launch its first satellites which will provide low-latency, fibre-quality internet connectivity between developing markets and the global internet infrastructure. This will potentially allow billions of people who have so far been poorly served or completely cut off from the internet have access to the greatest business and information resource of our time.
“A second project – the Yahsat project – will deliver two satellites to Africa to provide direct internet access to end users where there is no other means of connectivity, and in some cases competing in markets where there are other terrestrial based service providers,” explains Smith.
Yahsat is a breakthrough satellite broadband service for users in the Middle East, Africa and South West Asia. The service will offer customers uninterrupted high-speed internet usage from the moment the company goes live with the launch of its second satellite Yahsat 1B.
Alvarion is also focused on expanding its operations on the African continent this year. In 2010 much work was done around migrating customers from the fixed WiMax 802.16D solution to the new mobile WiMax 802.16E solution. The company also deployed a network in Nigeria with the operator Mobitel on its 4G platform, providing full mobile solutions to its customers there. “The initial network deployment is taking place in Lagos with the possibility of expansion into other markets in the future. Mobitel focuses on the residential customer market, offering self-installed modems, USB dongles as well as integrated WiMAX and Wi-Fi portable devices for data and voice services. Mobitel also services the enterprise market and operates its network in Nigeria on the 2.3GHz frequency,” says Smith.
Another key development which took place in 2010 was that Alvarion chose 4G Africa to deploy the first mobile WiMAX network in Cameroon. The deployment of the 4G based solution took place towards the mid-2010, but the commercial launch will take place this month in Doulala and Yaounde – two of the largest metropolitan areas in Cameroon. This network will operate on the 2.5GHz frequency band. The deployment is expected to provide connectivity to over 10 000 users within the first year.