East African providers race to develop new 4G networks
Tanzania and Uganda already have 4G networks up and running, with Rwanda poised to launch its own.
In 2013, the Rwandan government entered into a joint venture with KT (formerly Korea Telecom), which has invested $140.1m into Olleh’s Rwanda networks to run the country’s Long-Term evolution (LTE) high-speed network.
Service providers are still faced with the challenge of monetising the services
It will operate on an open-access model, meaning one infrastructure provider will serve the whole country.
Kenya plans to follow a similar model of open access for its 4G infrastructure, but it has been hit by delays.
Regulations are still being discussed at the information ministry, with deployment of the network expected next year.
4G networks, of which LTe is a subset, are set to utilise a part of the spectrum that is used by television channels in Kenya.
Danson njue, a telecoms research analyst at Ovum, says the lack of “digital-dividend spectrum due to delay in digital migration may have contributed to the delay in network roll-out.”
Elsewhere in the region, providers are competing to expand their customer numbers and footprints.
In Tanzania, where a number of companies have been gradually rolling out 4G networks since 2012, a 5GB, 30-day bundle costs TSh42,500 ($25) with Smile Communications.
In Uganda, where Smile also operates, there is 4G competition from MTN and Orange – which agreed in May to sell its operations in the country to Lebanese firm Africell.
Njue says there is a lack of affordable LTE-enabled mobile devices.
Service providers are “still faced with the challenge of monetising the services,” he explains.
In both Uganda and Tanzania, customers mainly access 4G networks via dongles and fixed or mobile routers. ●