Uganda Telecom's network expansion almost complete

Uganda Telecom, one of four players in Uganda's telecommunications market, has expanded its GSM/EDGE network coverage in the country by adding 94 base transmission stations (BTSs).

Uganda Telecom, one of four players in Uganda's telecommunications market, has expanded its GSM/EDGE network coverage in the country by adding 94 base transmission stations.

The company, which was recently bought into by Lap Green Com, a Libyan government investment company that is shopping around the continent for telecom interests, is looking to complete an expansion project that has cost $150 million.

At the end of this month another 35 base stations will have been added, taking the total to 129. Together with its existing BTSs, Uganda Telecom will have more than 250 altogether.

This massive expansion project has been undertaken in part by French telecom infrastructure giant Alcatel-Lucent and Chinese technology firm Huawei Technologies.

Uganda Telecom embarked on the project in November 2007.

The company, which boasts of a mobile subscriber base of more than 1 million customers, will have doubled the number of BTSs in the country, with the aim of providing more access to communication.

"We are plugging the holes and providing network in areas where it was not there before," Hans Paulsen, the company's chief commercial officer, said. "We are the only truly Ugandan company, and we best understand the communication needs of our people."

In June last year, Uganda Telecom contracted Huawei Technologies -- at a cost of $50 million -- to augment its GSM  network to 70% national coverage.

Under the contract, Huawei would provide and install an additional 200 BTSs in the first phase, and another 100 in the second phase.

In August, Alcatel entered into a $20 million contract with Uganda Telecom to increase the latter's network and overall service quality.

When complete, the network will enable Uganda Telecom to expand its offerings with high-quality mobile voice, high-speed broadband, video streaming, access to corporate e-mail and intranets, and many other applications that can help generate additional revenue.

Alcatel was tasked with extending Uganda Telecom's GSM/EDGE network and deploying the first third-generation UMTS/HSPA network in the country. It is also providing a new generation of microwave systems to optimize the transmission of voice and data traffic from the base stations to the core network, with the capability to adapt more quickly and efficiently to the growth in traffic and services.

Alcatel will also be responsible for network design and complete network deployment, including network integration and maintenance services.

Uganda Telecom is also the largest ISP in Uganda and boasts the largest landline network.

As part of the rollout plan for those areas of the country with new or improved network coverage, Uganda Telecom is promising discounted rates to all its mobile customers who are within reach of the new stations.

The investments have been made possible by equity funding that was raised by the company's majority shareholder, Libyan African Portfolio (LAP). LAP's telecommunications arm, Lap Green Com, bought a controlling 51% stake in Uganda Telecom last year from UCOM, which was made up of interests from South African and German investors.

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