K-NET lowers cost for mobile operators to serve rural Africa

Louise Duffy | 13-11-2012

International telco K-NET has developed a satellite backhaul network by combining iDirect's satellite platform and Altobridge small cell technology to bring mobile voice and broadband connectivity for the first time to rural communities in Ghana.

The network, developed for mobile operator Tigo, is now live across 10 sites in Ghana and has proven to lower the total cost of ownership by up to 65% compared with a conventional backhaul solution. Plans now call for K-NET to expand to 300 additional sites with private sector funding.

The low cost solution developed by K-NET includes satellite communications equipment from iDirect, 2G and 3G Base Station Subsystems (BSS) from Altobridge and solar power technology from Ameresco Solar. The combined solution enables mobile operators like Tigo to profitably serve rural communities with population densities of fewer than 1,500 people. The 10 communication towers implemented to date have experienced growth of more than 25% since the last one was completed at the end of July 2012. Several of the towers are now carrying more than 250,000 minutes of voice traffic each month, and more than 15,000 SMS messages.

The network received initial funding from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC). Cost savings of 65% has prompted K-NET to plan 300 additional sites in an effort to expand service to the 20% of Ghana's population that is currently without mobile coverage. Local government authorities expect the service to attract investors and open up more business opportunities and enhance teaching and learning in local schools.

Richard Hlormador, founder, chairman & chief architect at K-NET, said: "Providing affordable and reliable mobile voice and data connectivity is essential to economic and social development in Africa, but reaching remote and rural communities is a challenge. Small cells provided one part of the equation, but we also needed a backhaul solution that was quick to deploy, easy to operate, and allowed us to expand cost-effectively. The iDirect Evolution Platform, and specifically the X1 remote, perfectly integrates with small cell technology and provided the ideal solution for our requirements."

Richard Deasington, director of market development at iDirect, added: "Satellite technology and small cell technology have evolved to the point where they are not only a viable option for mobile operators, but a preferred solution for extending GSM and mobile internet service into remote communities. There is tremendous opportunity in the mobile industry and we are excited to partner with Altobridge, Ameresco Solar and other experts on developing more affordable and powerful backhaul solutions."