Smile Expands LTE Portfolio To Uganda And DRC
Smile Telecoms has announced plans to deploy LTE network services in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of its expansion strategy, following the launch of its first commercial network in Tanzania in June 2012. Smile's LTE investments bodes well for broadband services development in the region, although we maintain a subdued outlook for the immediate take-up of LTE services in most countries in the region, including Uganda and the DRC.
Smile partnered with French-US equipment vendor Alcatel-Lucent to build its Tanzanian LTE network over the 800MHz band ( see our online service, June 12, 'Smile Takes A Gamble On LTE'). The operator has now set its sight on Uganda and the DRC, where Alcatel-Lucent will design, build and operate its 4G LTE infrastructure as part of a five-year agreement. Smile has set an ambitious target of three years (2015) to achieve nationwide coverage in all three countries using the 800MHz or 2.6GHz bands with mobile broadband access speeds of up to 20Mbps. The operator claims to have deployed four base stations in Tanzania and three in Uganda. It is yet to inaugurate its service in the DRC, but intends to have 30 base stations in the capital Kinshasa by Q3 2013.
Smile was relatively unknown before its recent aggressive roll-out plans. Some more revelation about its background and backers suggest it may have sufficient resources and management expertise to become a dominant player in the region's broadband market. Smile was launched as a WiMAX operator in 2007 by a former executive director at MTN Group, Irene Charnely, but switched to 4G LTE technology in 2009 because of its better growth prospects. The company is backed by Saudi Arabian firms Al-Nahla Technology and Atheeb Trading Company.
|Uganda & DRC Internet Penetration, 2010-2017|