Safaricom threatens to pull out of LTE venture

Kenya’s Safaricom has said it will pull out of a joint venture to build an LTE network in the county if it is forced by its government to use the 2.6GHz frequency band. The company has pointed out that the 2.6GHz frequency band will make it be prohibitively expensive to build out an LTE network across the country, due to its limited range. Safaricom is instead seeking assurances that it will be able to use 700MHz, which requires far fewer base stations and has higher in building penetration capabilities.

“We would want to know the frequency band that will be used; if it is not the 700MHz then they (government) may consider our self out of it,” said Nzioka Waita, Safaricom’s corporate affairs director told Business Daily Africa.

Currently the licenses for 700MHz frequencies are used by TV broadcasters, who are currently unlikely to hit a June 2012 deadline for digital switchover.

Safaricom’s move will impact the Kenyan government’s plans as it is one of the few companies that is able to raise the capital to invest in an LTE network build-out. The Kenyan government has stated its intention for an LTE network in the country in October last year, to be created through a Private Public Partnership (PPP) which would include, Airtel Kenya, Essar Telecom Kenya (yu) and Telkom Kenya (Orange Kenya); local broadband providers Kenya Data Networks (KDN) and MTN Business Kenya and global vendors Alcatel-Lucent (France), Epesi Technologies (US) and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN, Finland).

In a recent interview with Dr Adesina Iluyemi, co-founder and vice president of MoDise, stated that LTE networks in Africa could have a tangible effect on medicine in the country, with doctors being able to diagnose via video conferencing as one potentially life-saving application.

The LTE Middle East and North Africa conference taking place on the 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE. Go to the website now to register your interest.

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