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Africa's Wireless Gold Rush

Ray Le Maistre
LR Mobile News Analysis
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief

The annual AfricaCom trade show opened its doors in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday morning, accompanied by a slew of news announcements (mostly regarding wireless deployments) from the likes of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR), Bluwan S.A. , Ceragon Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: CRNT) and many more.

It's no surprise to find multiple network expansion investments, given the rate of mobile growth in the region: According to a new report issued by the GSM Association (GSMA) , sub-Saharan Africa is "the fastest-growing mobile market in the world," with an average annual growth rate of 44 percent since 2000. The region now has 475 million mobile connections, compared with 12.3 million fixed lines.

As a result of that growth, network operators are investing in their access, backhaul and transport infrastructure. Here's a snapshot of what's going on:

  • Togo Cellulaire is expanding its 2G, 3G and backhaul capacity with base station, microwave and router equipment from Alcatel-Lucent. The vendor is also supplying its 100Gbit/s optical gear to a consortium of Angolan network operators that is building a long-distance data transport link to the West African Cable System (WACS).

  • Somaliland service provider Somcable is to provide high-speed broadband access services to customers in The Horn of Africa region using Bluwan's Fibre Through The Air (FTTA) system in a deal valued by the vendor at more than US$3 million. The Bluwan gear will be deployed by systems integration partner Globecomm Systems Inc. The deployment is part of a network revamp by Somcable, which has also deployed Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) routers and replaced legacy Alcatel-Lucent transport equipment with packet-optical gear from Optelian . (See Globecomm, Bluwan Team for Wireless Broadband.)

  • Mozambique Cellular (mcel) is expanding its backhaul network with microwave equipment from Ceragon in a deal valued at $6.5 million.

  • Alvarion has unveiled a new wireless access product, the BreezeCOMPACT High Power unit, designed to provide mobile data coverage inside buildings. The product supports Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) as well as mobile WiMax (802.16e). Alvarion also announced it has been chosen by BusyInternet, an ISP in Ghana, to supply its 4Motion mobile WiMax radio access equipment for a network rollout in Accra. In addition, Zimbabwean operator uMAX has completed the rollout of a mobile WiMax network in Harare using the vendor's base station gear.

  • Mobile small-cells specialist PureWave Networks Inc. has won a contract to provide mobile WiMax base stations to Unique Solutions in Gambia.
  • Guineanet, an ISP in Equatorial Guinea, has expanded its mobile data network using dual-mode base station technology (supporting WiMax and LTE) from Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN).

    — Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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