Ericsson won its first LTE managed services contract in sub-Saharan Africa with a deal to operate Smile Communications' 4G networks in four countries in the region.
The Sweden-based infrastructure provider won a five-year deal to manage the operation and maintenance of Smile's commercial LTE networks in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, and a forthcoming network in Democratic Republic of Congo that is scheduled to go live in July.
The deal covers network operation, performance and optimisation, along with field services and management of spare parts. Smile Communications said the agreement enables it to focus on providing high levels of customer service and experience in the markets.
Tom Allen, Group COO at the operator, said the companies are "long term partners focused on delivering on the Smile promise to be the broadband provider of choice in Africa and to ensure that our customers fully benefit from the internet world."
Ericsson's sub-Saharan Africa president, Fredrik Jejdling, said the managed services contract "further extends our partnership with the operator in the region." The infrastructure vendor is the sole supplier of LTE kit for Smile's network in Nigeria, a company statement revealed.
Smile Communications is one of a new breed of African operators that are focussed solely on deploying LTE networks. While the infrastructure is initially being used to provide mobile broadband services to business and residential users, the operator is gearing up to launch voice over LTE (VoLTE) during the summer months.
Key challenges for the operator include building a network that covers the same footprint as competing 3G services, and gaining the necessary spectrum to launch services, Allen previously told FierceWireless:Europe.
Spectrum challenges have meant that Smile has, so far, focused on launching services wherever it can access 800 MHz spectrum. "Rolling out 4G LTE in 2.3 GHz or higher takes between six and eight times more base stations at 800 MHz," Allen said.
- see this Ericsson announcement
- view this FW:E Africa LTE special report [registration required]
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