Panaftel Wireless To Launch Broadband
Panaftel Wireless plans to launch a nationwide high-speed wireless broadband network at the end of August 2012, eight months after securing its operating licence. The service will be pitched as an affordable alternative to often unreliable mobile internet services, as well as expensive and patchily-available ADSL offerings. With BMI observing high levels of demand for broadband services in Nigeria, we welcome the launch of the new service, but caution that affordability will remain a key obstacle to uptake and consumers may still prefer to use cheaper and more flexible mobile phone services.
Owned by Proclaim 360 Communications Ltd, Panaftel Wireless is licensed to deploy iBurst base stations and transmitters capable of delivering broadband access rates of up to 2Mbps to business and mass market customers alike. End-user devices such as handsets, wireless modems and PC cards are being supplied by Japan-based Kyocera Corporation, an experienced manufacturer of CDMA handsets, while the network infrastructure is being supplied by ArrayCom. The latter's IntelliCell technology is based on the 4G wireless IEEE802.20 technology standard.
|Mobile And Wireless Boost Broadband|
|Nigeria Broadband Market Trends|
Services will initially be available in Lagos only, but Panaftel Wireless plans to extend coverage to Port Harcourt and Abuja soon afterwards. The operator claims a key part of its strategy will focus on covering rural areas of Nigeria currently shunned by mobile operators due to the need to build costly base stations and backhaul infrastructure that will still be underutilised. Meanwhile, mobile phone services remain beyond the budgets of most rural communities. The fixed-line infrastructure operated by incumbent Nitel rarely extends beyond the major cities and, even there, ADSL-based broadband services are not widely available.
The operator's website details a number of data packages that will be offered to customers, but pricing has yet to be disclosed. It is therefore difficult to predict the impact Panaftel's new service will have on consumers, already used to cheap mobile phone services and limited mobile data applications. Panaftel is partnering with Main One Cable Company, operator of West Africa's principal international submarine cable system. This partnership should yield lower-cost bandwidth for Panaftel, which should allow it to profitably subsidise end-user equipment and roll out to less affluent regions.
BMI currently forecasts the number of broadband subscribers in Nigeria should rise from 5.896mn in 2011 to 19.575mn by 2016, with penetration set to rise from 3.6% to 10.6% over the same period. Initiatives such as the Panaftel roll-out should also boost growth.