Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), a company jointly owned by internet service providers iBurst and Broadlink, says it will roll out a fully fledged high performance network by the middle of next year.
It would become the first telecommunications service provider in South Africa to undertake a commercial rollout of the technology as early as next year.
The company plans to launch Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology fourth generation (4G) services, a global standard for wireless communication of high-speed data.
LTE is expected to significantly improve the speeds at which South Africans can download and upload data to and from the internet.
Vodacom and MTN, the country’s first and second largest cellphone network providers, are testing their LTE networks and have cautioned that the availability of spectrum within the 1800/1900 MHz to 2600 MHz range and the cost of devices to connect to a LTE enabled network would be challenges to the early rollout of the high speed networks.
Cell C is not actively trailing LTE.
Steven Boiles, Cell C’s Executive Head: Networks, said on Monday the company’s radio network equipment is LTE ready and could be easily upgraded depending on the spectrum allocated for trial and commercial service.
He said the operator would be looking at ways to boost its existing HSPA network speeds “with further rollout of dual carrier to boost capacity and further evolution to 84mbps release 9 and even possibly 168mbps HSPA release 10 technologies.”
Mlindi Kganedi, executive head of regulatory affairs at WBS said the company was confident it would launch LTE next year.
“We’re banking on the fact that the regulator is at the final stages of finalising the project itself.”
WBS said the increased capacity offered by LTE technology would enable it to realise revenues of about R3 billion annually.
In Africa only Globacom, a Nigerian telecoms company, has launched a LTE network.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has yet to provide the way forward on how spectrum within the required range would be allocated to existing operators and new entrants.
WBS already holds a license for spectrum within the range but wants more spectrum from Icasa.
Paseka Maleka, spokesman for Icasa said the regulator was still waiting for a policy directive from the Minister of Communications on how it should go about allocating the spectrum to the industry.
WBS subsidiary iBurst has just over 80 000 subscribers on its network which can accommodate more than one million subscribers.
Its clients include the banking, mining, education and cellphone industries.
It predicts that there will be almost five million LTE users in South Africa over the next five years.
The company offers speeds of 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) on its existing network.
Arthur Goldstuck, a technology analyst said by global standards a 4 G network is one that provides speeds of 100 Mbps.
The first phase of the WBS network rollout takes place mid next year.
A second rollout will expand the network and services to rural areas of Gauteng.
WBS will build 2500 base stations and would need to expand its backhaul capacity in areas of growth that include Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town but not completely upgrade its entire network.
According to the Global Suppliers Association at least 51 networks in 24 countries worldwide are committing to converting to LTE – an increase of more than 90 percent over the past eight months.
Source – IOL Business Report – Asha Speckman, October 11, 2011