Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Powertel to introduce CDMA in Bulawayo

By Darlington Musarurwa, The Sunday Mail

POWERTEL Communications — a unit of Zesa Holdings — is set to roll out its Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) in Bulawayo before the end of the year.

CDMA is a competing cellphone service technology to Global Satellite Mobile (GSM) and uses a "spread-spectrum" technique whereby electromagnetic energy is spread to enable a signal with a wider bandwidth.

Before, the service was only confined to Harare.

The Sunday Mail Business understands that the telecommunications company has already sourced two base stations that will form the backbone for the service in the country’s second biggest city.

Presently setting up a base station in Zimbabwe costs between US$190 000 and US$270 000 depending on the equipment that is used.

According to Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira, provision of the service is now viable because of the use of a stable currency.

"We are working on the logistics, but we are working at introducing the CDMA service in Bulawayo as part of our national rollout project. We will definitely be expanding to other areas as well.

"It must be considered that we have an obligation to provide these services to the public as a social responsibility and also to break even," explained Mr Gwasira.

Powertel is working to strategically position itself in the telecommunications industry and is leveraging its projects on a strategic relationship it has with ZTE Corporation.

It is believed that availing CDMA in Bulawayo will help business and commerce as it will help to bridge the gap that has been formed by vandalism of TelOne equipment.

Experts note that CDMA’s spread spectrum signal provides the greatest coverage in the wireless industry, allowing networks to be built with far fewer cell sites than is possible with other wireless technologies.

The fewer cell sites naturally result in reduced operating expenses, a development that results in savings for both operators and consumers.

In addition, CDMA allows the largest number of subscribers to share the same radio frequencies, helping service providers increase their profitability, while the spread spectrum technology can provide up to 10-20 times the capacity of analog equipment and more than three times the capacity of other digital platforms.

Most often the technology has been used for "seamless widespread roaming coverage".

In 2005, Powertel Communications signed a US$35 million deal with a Chinese manufacturer for the supply of equipment for its national fibre network rollout programme.

According to the journal African Economic Outlook, mobile telephony operators have generally concentrated their investments on second generation networks in Africa and will now probably recover this money before getting into third generation high-speed networks, even if licences are granted.

In early 2009, there were five million subscribers — with 2,3 percent of the total subscribers in Africa — for services with Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and WCDMA High Speed Packet Access (HSPA).

Much of the investment has been widely concentrated in South Africa.

In particular, South Africa, Libya and Egypt make up to 82 percent of third generation connections in Africa.

Second generation Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications account for 96 percent of subscriptions and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology is only used by 1,5 percent, but some operators have adopted CDMA because it requires less capital investments.

Problems in the provision of CDMA in the region have been affected by high charges.

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest internet charges in the world.

A survey from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and World Bank estimates notes that the average price of a broadband connection in Sub-Saharan Africa is about US$110 for 100 kilobytes per second.

In Europe and Central Asia the price averages US$20, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it is an estimated US$7.

Middle East and North African countries pay below US$30 per 100 kilobyte per second.