Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) chairman Paul Harris recently announced a multi-billion-rand investment in a new high-speed LTE-A national data network for South Africa.
The network will use WBS’s existing spectrum in the 1,800MHz and 2,600MHz bands. The two bands will be aggregated, which will enhance the capacity and performance of the network.
Harris told MyBroadband they are confident the new network will provide competition to the incumbent telecoms operators in South Africa.
He said the network will provide performance, speeds, and prices that will fill a gap in the market and appeal to consumers.
Accelerated network roll-out through Vodacom agreement
To build a new network from scratch can be challenging and time-consuming, so to fast-track its roll-out WBS has signed a lease agreement with Vodacom.
The agreement will see WBS lease aspects of Vodacom’s sites and facilities.
Harris said they will have at least 500 sites active on Vodacom’s sites and facilities by March 2017, 2,000 by the end of 2017, and 5,000 by 2020.
“In addition to these base stations, we are planning to have a further 5,000 sites in operation on our own sites and sites of other telcos and tower companies in the same time frame,” said Harris.
He said network equipment will be acquired from established equipment vendors, which will assist with installation and management of the network.
Huawei will build most of the new WBS LTE-Advanced network. It is not an exclusive agreement, though, which means equipment from other providers may be used.
WBS will fund the new network from shareholder resources and traditional bank funding. “As a private company, these arrangements are of course confidential,” said Harris.
Vodacom to benefit from roaming agreement
Vodacom will also benefit from WBS’s LTE-Advanced network through a roaming agreement with the company.
Harris said the first roaming customer they have concluded a non-exclusive agreement with is Vodacom.
“The new LTE-Advanced network will have significant capacity, which enables us to allow other networks to roam on it,” said Harris.
“Roaming agreements provide us with an opportunity to utilise some of our capacity and earn income while we build our customer base.”
As it is a data-only network, it will not be suitable for voice calling.
Benefits to Vodacom and WBS
Harris said the agreement with Vodacom will enable them to fast-track their network roll-out and give them scale in a short time frame.
“The rest of the network roll-out will take place simultaneously. However, the nature of the business of securing new sites and transmission will be much more time-consuming,” said Harris.
He said the non-exclusive roaming agreement is a completely separate agreement, which will enable WBS to earn revenue using its spare capacity.
“From Vodacom’s perspective, roaming on our network will relieve some of their capacity constraints,” said Harris.
“We are very excited about the prospects of the business because we know that consumers and regulators are crying out for competition in the market that will deliver better and faster broadband at affordable prices.”