Mobile services are now the main means of communication for the majority of the world’s population, supporting economic growth and connecting communities.
According to GSMA, effective spectrum licensing is critical to encourage the investment required to expand mobile access, meet the increase in demand for data services and enhance the quality and range of services offered.
There are 3 types of spectrum licences;
- A licence to transmit radio waves and have no interference. This is the most common type of spectrum licence. It grants the right to transmit on a specified frequency and stop others from transmitting interfering signals on the same frequency.
- A licence to have no interference on a specified frequency.
- A licence to transmit emissions without protection from interference.
Airtel Africa has confirmed the purchase of additional spectrum licences from the Communications Authorities in several African countries.
Richard Kadoro, a telecommunications researcher at the Computer Association of Zambia, said, “These investments also give an impression that the company is really laying the groundwork for a big thing, the rollout of the 5G networks that will give it a competitive edge against competitors in markets across its operations.”
A number of countries in the African region are considering the 5G network.
- Airtel Tanzania has purchased 140MHz of the additional spectrum from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority for US$60.1 million.
- The company said the spectrum is spread across the 2600MHz (2 blocks of 2×15 MHz) and 3500MHz bands, and this will help it expand its broadband capability, including 5G rollout.
Airtel Africa has a presence in 14 African countries, including the DRC, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Malawi and Uganda where the company is working to establish 5G networks and expand the existing 4G networks. Airtel Africa is a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel.
Just recently, Airtel Tanzania a subsidiary of Airtel Africa, purchased 140MHz of additional spectrum from the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) for US$60.1 million.
Airtel Tanzania is the country’s second-largest telecommunications service provider after Vodacom, followed by Tigo.
The company said the spectrum is spread across the 2600MHz (2 blocks of 2×15 MHz) and 3500MHz bands, and this will help it expand its broadband capability, including 5G rollout.
“This additional spectrum will support our network expansion in the market for both mobile data and fixed wireless home-based broadband capability, including 5G rollout, providing significant capacity to accommodate our continued strong data growth in the country. This investment reflects our confidence in the opportunity inherent in the Tanzanian market, supporting the local communities and economy through furthering digital inclusion and connectivity,” read a statement.
In March 2020, Airtel acquired 10MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz band in Nigeria for a fee of US$94 million. The spectrum was acquired from InterC Network (formerly Intercellular). The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) then approved the transaction, which was first announced in November 2019.
Airtel said that the additional spectrum will be used to increase the capacity of its existing network, support the further rollout of 4G, and expand its fixed-wireless broadband offering. The company added that the deal would also allow it to efficiently manage its CAPEX spend for 4G networks, as Airtel operates a single RAN network and the majority of its sites already support the activation of the additional spectrum. The acquisition will also provide more data, digital and broadband services opportunities and boost Airtel’s competitiveness in the Nigerian market.
In January last year , Airtel Zambia was awarded spectrum on the 800 MHz frequency band at the cost of ZMK12.5 million, paving the way for the company to roll out 5G network in the Southern African country.
Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) said some of the frequency will be used to strengthen the organisation’s ability to manage spectrum and thereby pave the way for the quick introduction of 5G services in Zambia.
The development was expected to improve Quality-of-Service (QoS) through an enhanced voice user experience with faster call setup, clearer voice quality and fewer dropped calls.
With a subscriber base of over five million, Airtel is the second largest in Zambia after MTN Zambia.
In June this year, Airtel Africa acquired an additional 58 MHz spectrum spread across 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz bands for a gross consideration of US$42 million to bolster its service delivery in the DRC. This is also expected to promote the country’s 4G market expansion for mobile data and wireless home internet.
Within the same month, Airtel paid US$40 million to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CAK) for a 60MHz of 2600MHz spectrum.
The newly acquired spectrum licence is valid for 15 years, effective July 2022, said Airtel Africa.
It added that Airtel Kenya Networks would use the additional spectrum to support the expansion of its 4G network to accommodate the increased demand for both mobile data and fixed wireless home broadband capacity.
The new spectrum licence, the company said, will also lay the foundation for future 5G rollout, providing significant capacity to accommodate Airtel Kenya’s continued strong data growth in the country.
Airtel Africa stated: “Kenya is one of our largest markets by revenue. This investment reflects our continued confidence in the opportunity inherent in the Kenya market, supporting the local communities and economies through furthering digital inclusion and connectivity.”
Meanwhile, Airtel Africa and American Tower Corporation (ATC) have entered into a multi-year partnership that will enable Airtel, via ATC’s Africa operation, to utilise communication sites to support its network expansion on the continent.
According to the agreement, American Tower will leverage ATC Africa’s operations in Africa in support of Airtel Africa’s network rollout.
Through the partnership, the companies expect to sustain increased connectivity on the continent and extend digital inclusion to underserved communities.
Under the deal, the companies have also undertaken to comply with ATC Africa’s new green site specifications designed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
The companies have agreed to continue working together to convert the existing telecommunications sites to ATC Africa’s green site specifications.
The partnership is also expected to reduce fuel price volatility exposure for ATC Africa and Airtel Africa.