The consortium or public private partnership (PPP) model is the most ideal for the deployment of 4G or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure in Kenya according to MTN Business Kenya managing director Tom Omariba.
Omariba said that the 9-member consortium set up to drive the deployment of the country’s LTE network is the best way to go as it would lead to the provision of enhanced and more efficient ICT services in the country.
“We started from 2G, then moved to 3G and are now set to deploy the 4G or LTE network. The LTE infrastructure has several benefits the main ones being that it would enable users to do more in terms of data speeds and volumes that can be transferred as well as the fact that there is no need for many base transmission stations (BTS),” said Omariba.
Speaking during a panel discussion on digital ecosystem evolution at the 9th East Africa Com conference held at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel on Tuesday May 21 – 22, the MTN Business Kenya boss added that deployment of LTE in the country would eventually result in data costs decreasing significantly.
“The costs of maintenance of the network will eventually come down as one BTS can cover longer comparatively longer distances, meaning that with LTE, coverage is more for the same amount of initial capital expenditure or CaPEx,” said Omariba.
The 9-member LTE consortium – which includes the Kenya government (through Treasury) as well as Safaricom, Telkom Kenya-Orange, Airtel, Essar Telecom’s yuKenya, KDN, MTN, Alcatel-Lucent and Epesi Communications – was set up to implement the initial phase of the project at cost of Kshs 8.4 billion.
The mobile network operators in the consortium – Safaricom, Telkom Kenya, Airtel and yuKenya – are expected to provide their masts and BTS under a shared-infrastructure model while the equipment makers reach a formula on how to roll out the network.
“The Kenya LTE consortium has to cover 98 per cent of the country and will upon deployment have far reaching benefits to both the government and private sector as it would boost provision of various crucial services – including e-Government; e-Health and e-Learning among others. Imagine having the same kind of connectivity in all parts of the country,” stated Omariba.
However, no much activity has been achieved since the consortium was put together with a member of the consortium – Safaricom – expressing willingness to deploy its own LTE network. Ericsson has also reportedly proposed to build a country-wide 4G network for free and recover the costs after a 15-year period, a move that would automatically scuttle the 9-member consortium.
“The private sector is selfish that’s why we’ve delayed the roll-out of the LTE/4G network in the country. There’s been no much progress made by the consortium since they were set up apart from lots of stakeholder meetings and discussions with various teams including legal, financial and taxation,” said Omariba, adding that the consortium was meant to work in the same way as the TEAMS cable model.
Industry statistics indicate that by 2020, it is projected that the ICT industry will have moved to 5G technology, with much of the data traffic expected to come from smart devices like home appliances rather than phones and tablets.
Already, several African countries have LTE/4G networks among these being South Africa, Tanzania, Angola and Rwanda.