yuMobile set to roll out 3G network [Nation (Kenya)]
(Nation (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Essar-owned yuMobile is set to roll out a 3G network across the country as it eyes a bigger market share in the data market.
The firm, the third largest mobile operator by subscription, was forced to abandon its earlier strategy to directly upgrade from 2G to 4G after the government-led initiative to build an open network failed to take off.
In a statement, the Communications Commission of Kenya said it has given the operator a spectrum to test-run the 3G network before it is offered to customers commercially.
"Essar (yuMobile) has been offered 3G spectrum on trial basis for a period of one year. At the expiry of this trial period, they may wish to apply for the 3G spectrum," the statement reads.
yuMobile chief executive Madhur Taneja said the firm, the only operator without a 3G platform in the country, was forced to change its strategy in order to keep afloat in an industry wrought with cutthroat competition.
"Initially we hoped we could ride on the private-public partnership approach adopted in the roll out of 4G to move directly to the network instead of first doing a 3G platform. But there seems to be no progress in that project and so we couldn't sit and wait indefinitely," Mr Taneja said.
With a 3G platform, yuMobile will now have the capacity to fight for a bigger market share in mobile data services. Last week, Mr Taneja said the firm would in March complete talks to sell an undisclosed stake to a strategic investor in yuMobile for $100 million (Sh8.54 billion).
The money, he said, would finance expansion plans and the rollout of the 3G network in order to offer faster speeds to subscribers.
Initially, yuMobile had decided to bypass the 3G network and shift directly to 4G, being a member of the consortium that was put in place to oversee the rollout in partnership with the government.
But the failure of the project to take off and the lack of spectrum caused by the delay in effecting digital migration has forced the company to change its strategy.
NEXT GROWTH FRONTIER
Safaricom was the first company to be awarded a 3G licence in Kenya in October 2007 followed by Airtel, which got one in June 2010. Telkom Kenya got its licence in November 2010.
yuMobile's decision to invest in a 3G platform is critical given that data is emerging as the next growth frontier for mobile operators.
The move comes barely two months after Safaricom requested to be allocated frequency to roll out its own 4G network, promising to provide free internet connectivity to public primary schools under the government's one-laptop-per-child project.
Also known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, 4G gives users faster internet speeds and improved internet capabilities.
FROM ANALOGUE TO DIGITAL
However, the rollout of the 4G network is pegged on the migration from analogue to digital television broadcasting — a process that will free up the frequency bandwidth to be occupied by the mobile network.
The government had on December 26 switched off the analogue broadcasting signal in Nairobi but a court ruling forced the regulator to reverse the move pending determination by the Court of Appeal.
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