Africa gets its first 4G wireless network

Africa’s first 4G wireless network has been set up in Cameroon by a Swiss company.

Swiss company 4G Africa AG announced yesterday that it will deploy the first Mobile WiMAX network in Cameroon.

The deployment in the cities of Douala and Yaoundé, two of Cameroon’s largest metropolitan areas with a total population 5 million people, will provide coverage using Alvarion’s end-to-end Mobile WiMAX 4Motion solution at the 2.5 GHz frequency band.

4G Africa has chosen Alvarion, a global provider of 4G networks in the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) market, for this deployment, which is expected to provide connectivity to over 10,000 users within the first year.

4G WiMAX presents an ideal business case for enabling mobile broadband to mass consumers. By building a network based on Alvarion’s leading platform, 4G Africa can cost-effectively offer a wide range of data services to consumers in Cameroon.

Dov Bar-Gera, CEO, 4G Africa, said: “4G Africa is focused on establishing WiMAX networks in emerging Sub-Saharan countries, such as Cameroon with the overall aim to reduce the digital divide.

“Leveraging Alvarion’s technology and expertise allows us to provide a high-performance quality network, offering valuable broadband services to the residents in this market.”

He added: “We are excited to work with Alvarion on the first 4G network deployment in Cameroon and introduce a new era of communications to the residents of Douala and Yaoundé.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is considered to be one of the world’s fastest growing economies, yet lacks the proper infrastructure. We recognise the impressive track record Alvarion holds in Africa in regard to providing operators excellent WiMAX solutions and early deployment capabilities.

Eran Gorev, president and CEO, Alvarion, said: “Bringing Mobile WiMAX services to Cameroon will enable 4G Africa to provide residents with the benefits of a complete wireless broadband experience.

“Our advanced technology will provide complete network connectivity and allow 4G Africa to be one step closer to their goal of reducing the digital divide in Sub-Sahara Africa.”

Based in Zurich, 4G Africa was founded by a team of telecom entrepreneurs who were actively involved in emerging markets for the last decade.

4G Africa aspires to provide affordable, reliable and state-of-the-art broadband wireless internet access services in chosen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, in order to help close the digital divide. In 2011 the company will start offering wireless and different value added services in Cameroon.

The reality is every major carrier in the country is going to move to 4G at some point in time. While the mobile phone market was maturing it was all about the voice network. Carriers competed on coverage, voice quality, network reliability etc.

Those battles will still exist however the value is moving from the voice network to the data network. This is because of the rise of smart phones and smart devices where data becomes a more central part of the device experience.

The battlefield going forward will be which carriers have the fastest data network and that is where LTE comes into play. 3G networks had a fundamental problem and it wasn’t the speed. 3G networks were built for faster data but failed at handling a lot of concurrent consumers consuming data per network node. In essence if a lot of people in a particular city or area were on the 3G data network at the same time the network slowed down drastically.

4g looks to solve this problem by not only being faster with download speeds ranging from 6-12 MBS realistically but also to handle more data consumers per network node. This is the part that is a big deal. If it proves true then the carriers will start being more aggressive with their pricing for data plans. They will want to recoup those costs of the new network and since data is where the new value is I expect very aggressive data plans as the networks get established.

These faster data networks will be key to future consumer experiences with mobile devices. Sharing video, capturing and sharing live video, multiple party video conferencing, playing multiplayer graphically rich games in real time, etc all require faster bandwidth and networks that can handle millions of people consuming that data at the same time. The Qik application for iPhone and Android, for example demonstrates all the things that 4G will make better.

This move is good news for consumers and for the industry. Faster data speeds add value to the innovations we want to crank out over the next few years. Having cheaper access to these faster data networks lowers the barrier for consumers to begin using these new innovations.
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