BusinessCompaniesInfrastructure: Liquid Telecom goes local


Posted on Wednesday, 13 November 2013 17:04

Infrastructure: Liquid Telecom goes local

By Gemma Ware

the nairobi data centre is the largest in east africa. Photo©Jonathan cole photography ltdLiquid Telecom, a Mauritius-based group, has built Africa's largest fibreoptic network stretching 15,000km across Southern, Eastern and Central Africa, and is now shifting its strategy towards linking homes and businesses to broad-band networks.

Nic Rudnick, chief executive of Liquid Telecom, says the company's main focus will be on access networks, such as fibre rings, that mobile operators can use to support the rollout of high-speed LTE broadband, and fibre links to homes and businesses.

we don't believe Africa is any different

Liquid Telecom plans to spend at least $250m in the next five years on this fibre rollout.

In Europe, Rudnick says the bulk of data is accessed using fixed-line internet connections, and "we don't believe Africa is any different."

While he admits internet usage will be driven by wireless devices, Rudnick says segments of the market that are particularly data hungry "need and want services with a greater throughput than you can experience using most wireless technology".

However, Rudnick says Liquid Telecom is still looking to expand its fibre network and is assessing greenfield projects and acquisitions in four African countries.

In September, Liquid Telecom integrated Kenya Data Networks into the group after buying a 61% stake in the loss-making company from South Africa's Altech Group.

Altech in turn took an 8.6% shareholding in Liquid Telecom. The largest shareholder remains Zimbabwean telecoms entrepreneur Strive Masiyiwa, through his South Africa-based
group Econet Wireless.

In September, the group launched East Africa's largest data centre, with 2,000m2 of carrier-neutral rack space in Nairobi.

"As we are rolling out our fibre connectivity solutions, the amount of data that has been carried across the region is obviously increasing exponentially," says Rudnick.

"We want to have as much of that data and processing capability as we can locally." Plans are already underway to build smaller data centres elsewhere in the region. ● 

Mobile broadband: Ghana on top

Ghana has been named as the african country with the best mobile broadband penetration, with 33.3 out of 100 people able to access the internet via their phones. An October 2013 report from the International Telecommunications Union placed Ghana at 49th in the world, well ahead of China at 75th, with 17.2 in 100 connected. Zimbabwe came second in africa with 29.7 out of 100 able to access mobile broadband, and namibia third, with 28.8.

Acquisitions: Vodacom moves to buy Tata's Neotel

Flush with Cash after the sale of its stake in Us operator Verizon for $130bn in september, UK-based Vodafone made a move to buy south africa's neotel via its local subsidiary Vodacom. The fixed-line company is majority owned by Indian group Tata Communications. The deal is estimated to be worth around $500m. south africa's wireless access Providers' association opposed the sale, saying it would stifle competition.

Interconnection: Respite for the little guys

South African mobile operators met with mixed fortunes after the telecoms regulator announced plans to slash by 75% the fees they could charge for connecting cross-network calls. while mTn and Vodafone criticised the cuts as too steep, the share price of Telkom, a smaller competitor, rose. Alongside Cell C, it will now have to pay less to MTN and Vodafone whenever its customers call those networks.

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