Namibia rolls out 4G network

2012-05-21 22:32

Cape Town - Namibia has beaten South Africa and rolled out a LTE mobile network in Windhoek.

Operator Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) launched a 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in Windhoek, reported.

LTE is regarded as the next generation of mobile technology and despite test networks, operators around the world have been reluctant to fully commit to the technology that is up to 10 times faster than the 3G technology.

According to the Namibia Press Agency, MTC aims to have the whole of Windhoek covered by July 2012 and 45% of the country's market in a year’s time.

In South Africa, operators have made some moves toward faster network speeds, but it is unlikely that 4G will rolled out anytime soon.

Data demand

"We're rolling out where we can, but we haven't made a decision to go live. There are a couple of challenges: Ecosystem-wise, the LTE devices are still young, I mean it's a new technology, even though it's the most rapidly deployed one," Kanagaratnam Lambotharan chief technology officer of MTN South Africa told News24.

Vodacom announced on Monday that data demand was high, particularly with smartphone growth, but the company was renewing its base stations in the short term rather than building a new LTE network.

"We've made a substantial investment in the network - our group capex [capital expenditure] increased by 37% to almost R9bn - that gives you a capex just short of 13%," said Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys.

The Wacs (West Africa Cable System) which was recently completed at a cost of $650m from the UK to SA and has a capacity of 5.12Tbit/s is critical to the Namibian network.

A significant challenge in rolling out an LTE network is the lack of spectrum and the GSMA has urged governments to move faster in the allocation of spectrum so that operators have a viable business model to launch consumer services.

"In order to do that regulators and governments have to make spectrum available. In addition, regulators and governments need to overcome the temptation to levy mobile-specific taxes," said Peter Lyons, GSMA director for spectrum policy in Africa and the Middle East.

The latest generation Apple iPad is 4G capable, but there are few 4G mobile devices in the market; it is expected that once the technology is in place, that manufactures will shift their smartphones and tablets to the LTE standard.

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