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Nigeria’s first HSPA network on the way

Nigerian operator Globacom this week awarded a contract to Alcatel-Lucent to build what it claims is the first 3G UMTS/HSPA network in West Africa.

The agreement following on from a $600m network expansion deal awarded to Alcatel-Lucent in February.

Installation will be carried out in a number of major cities, including the capital Abuja and major commercial centres Lagos and Port Harcourt where Globacom has already conducted field trials.

Alcaltel-Lucent said that the network will be built to provide mobile broadband services to 1 million users. But it is unclear what level of take up can realistically be expected, especially given that two other main operators – front-runner MTN and another major regional player Celtel – also acquired 3G licences recently, along with newcomer Alheri Engineering.

The possibly disruptive role of Nigeria’s WLL operators, some of them already operating or planning to launch mobile broadband networks, has to be taken into account as well.

Given that the average annual income in Nigeria is below $600 it is likely that all these players will, initially at least, be primarily targeting the corporate market. While the often parlous state of the country’s fixed communications network certainly made 2G mobile a profitable business to be in, whether the same is true for wireless broadband in an initially smaller marketplace is, as yet, an open question.


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