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South Africa rolls out the continent's first next generation, 4-G mobile network

posted 1 Oct 2010, 04:17 by Mpelembe

Africa's first 4-G network is rolled out in South Africa as the continent moves to bridge the digital divide.


South Africa's third mobile operator Cell C announced the launch of its HSPA+ 900 Network in Cape Town on Thursday (September 30) as it rolls out the first next-generation, or 4-G mobile network in Africa.

The company's Cape Town launch followed launches in Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and East London, and represents the biggest city to date to be included in the company's 4-G network rollout.

The group expects average speeds of between 4-7 Mbps for its Cape Town network.

The rollout comes as cellphone makers look to Africa to provide a huge boost to cellphone sales in the coming years as Africans take up mobile phones that provide voice and data delivery, to bridge a digital divide following decades of underinvestment.

A Nokia executive said this week that the company expects Africa to have more than 300 million new subscribers by 2014, more than China and India combined.

Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said that the mountainous terrain around Cape Town had provided their most challenging step so far in rollout plans, but would leave Cape Town a "world class city that also has world-class wireless data speeds and world-class prices".

"There is round about 18 operators in the world today that are using HSPA plus 900 and we are the first one in Africa to use it and we have seen from other experiences around the world, be that in Finland, be that in Hong Kong, that the HSPA plus 900 technology works extremely well," Reichelt said during a media conference.

The high-speed network, dubbed 4GS - 4 Great Speed and 4 Great Service - uses Multi Standard Radio (MSR) technology to support the HSPA+ 900 MHz network.

The first phase of the 4GS network rollout, set for completion by the end of 2010, will cover approximately 34 percent of the South African population, with the network being launched on a city-by-city basis.

The company believes the technology can be used to roll out higher data transfer speeds to both the urban and rural populations in a country that still has a large, unserviced population in rural areas.

"South Africa is a very difficult place to cover because its very big, its very vast and people live very far apart so the idea has been what technology can we use to essentially get as good an indoor coverage as possible and as wide a coverage as possible, that's why we're using this technology here," Reichelt said.

Development experts say the roll out of mobile services in Africa has helped drive a rapidly increased pace of development and higher levels of economic growth.

The mobile operator said it would continue to expand its network rollout and aims to cover 67 percent of South Africa's population by mid 2011.