Intelsat Invests in Rural Small-Cell Developer to Help Connect Sub-Saharan Africa

Intelsat Invests in Rural Small-Cell Developer to Help Connect Sub-Saharan Africa

Luxembourg-based Intelsat announced that it has made an investment in London-based network infrastructure developer Africa Mobile Networks (AMN). This is intended to accelerate the deployment of mobile connectivity to underserved communities across multiple countries in sub-Saharan Africa. AMN has developed a low-cost small cell powered by a solar-based system that can be deployed and installed in less than six hours.

As part of the long-term agreement, AMN will leverage Intelsat’s EpicNG high-throughput satellites, as well as the 23 Intelsat satellites covering the continent. Once installed, AMN’s sites will connect over the Intelsat fleet to the core of a mobile network operator and deliver 2G mobile services, such as GSM voice, SMS and GPRS/EDGE packet data. The system has the ability to upgrade base stations to 3G and 4G/LTE, as data demands allow.

AMN provides MNOs with a network-as-a-service (NaaS) solution in which AMN will fund, build and operate rural networks for the operators. As a result, African mobile operators will be able to extend their coverage with minimal risk in terms of expenditure, which will enable them to grow their subscriber and revenue bases and better serve all their customers.

Tarifica’s Take

Despite the enormous expansion of mobile networks and services in markets across the world, many rural regions remain underserved, or not served at all. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing high growth, and many of its economies are mobile-first; however, lack of network access remains a major issue for the continent. Satellite-based solutions have proved their merit when it comes to connecting such areas, and AMN is serving a worthy goal by providing access to connectivity to MNOs in areas where cell towers do not currently exist.

In countries where a large proportion of the population lives in underserved or unconnected regions, neglect of those regions is not an option for operators. It is not simply a matter of expanding the footprint or gaining an edge over competitors by advertising a higher percentage of area covered. Rather, reaching rural areas and potentially adding significant populations as customers is key to achieving the most basic goals of an operator.

By providing satellite-based signals, AMN is sparing MNOs the need for very costly proliferation of cell towers, as well as sparing them the cost of developing satellite solutions on their own. This service is, therefore, indispensible for many MNOs in sub-Saharan Africa. By bringing its own, even more sophisticated technology and expertise to the problem by enhancing AMN’s system, Intelsat is also making a valuable contribution to the mobile markets in the region. This contribution is likely to significantly increase the number of mobile customers and, by extension, mobile money users and ultimately, consumers of mobile data.