MTC Namibia 3G HSDPA Green Network, Namibia
Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTC) is one of the largest GSM operators in Namibia. In September 2006 the company announced plans to launch a new 3G network. MTC is 34% owned by Portugal Telecom and has contracted Siemens to build the network. Siemens has said it has been contracted to supply and install a state-of-the-art 3G HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) network.
The system will be one of the first such networks in sub-Saharan Africa. The network will support GSM, GPRS and EDGE connections but will mainly be used for voice. MTC, which has just over 500,000 subscribers, had 95% population coverage at the end of 2006.
The company is also continuing to expand its GSM network with a further 122 base stations installed from June to December 2006.
RIVALS AND SUPPORT
A rival to MTC called Powercom (backed by local utility player NamPower and Norwegian group Telecom Management Partners), has also said that it will build a 3G network across the country but has not yet announced the start. Analysts have said that installing high-powered networks in relatively poor countries does not make economic sense as 3G networks have still not proved themselves profitable in most advanced economies.
However, supporters of 3G for Africa have argued it makes sense because of the poor state of the fixed line networks make mobile broadband services a more accessible prospect for the population.
SATELLITE BACKHAUL SOLUTION
In early 2007 NMS Communications was contracted by MTC Namibia to deploy their AccessGate RAN backhaul optimisation solution to support the rapid growth of its mobile subscriber base to 50 new population centres throughout the country.
AccessGate will be deployed in conjunction with VSAT modems and hubs developed by satellite-based broadband access solutions provider iDirect. Advanced Telecoms, a leading regional integrator of solutions for mobile applications and infrastructure, is providing design, installation and support services for the MTC deployment, along with support from SatCom, a leading Namibian satellite implementation company.
The use of AccessGate will optimise the transport of GSM and UMTS voice and data traffic over both TDM- and IP-based wireless networks, allowing MTC to accommodate growth and roll out new subscriber services more quickly. AccessGate is equipped with deep packet inspection RAN optimisation technology as well as vendor-independent, multi-service and multi-protocol aggregation capabilities.
Jochen Traut, general manager of Operations at MTC said: "Cost-effective deployment of mobile services is extremely important in Namibia, as is the ability for us to provide a quality, affordable offering to our customers… This future-proofed solution allows us to rapidly deploy new base station equipment in our network for the communications needs of today, while significantly reducing our operational costs and preparing for tomorrow’s growth in both subscribers and new services."
MTC Namibia is also to trial the powering of cellular base stations using wind and solar power. Using technology developed and tested by Motorola in Swindon, UK, MTC will incorporate the first base stations with sustainable technology (the company has used solar power before).
The base stations will use a combination of wind power and solar panels to power not only the base station itself, but also an electric fence around the unit, a weather station, VSat (satellite transmitter/receiver) and a modem to send back regular reports to the control centre.
The base stations need between 1,200 and 1,500 watts and come with a 6KW wind turbine and a four panel solar array measuring 3m x 6m, tilted 26 degrees north to maximise solar output. The power generated is stored in a bank of deep discharge lead acid batteries which can last two to three years before requiring replacement.
Following an initial four-month trial the system will be reassessed with weather centre data to determine how the alternative energy system performs in a variety of weather conditions. The data will be used to design the next generation of stations.
The first base station to use the technology will be in the village of Dordabis, 40km from the capital Windhoek.
The cell will serve about 1,500 people in the village, as well as farming communities up to 30km away. Joachen Traut said: "We firmly believe we need a solution to go into rural areas and the key is speed – we need a quick roll out… Namibia is a huge country with only two million people – to get power to rural areas is very expensive."
The trial is expected to run from April 2007 to July 2007. Linda Brown, GSM solutions manager for Motorola UK, said: "We have to generate power significantly higher than what the cell needs for us to pass on power to the base station… Capital costs for wind and solar are in the same range as a grid connection. But the roll out time is an advantage; it’s much faster… Operating costs are much better than a grid connection or using diesel."