Smile Communications was awarded the license to use the 800 MHz frequency spectrum in Nigeria, enabling the operator to leverage LTE technology and achieve a highly advanced network. Partnering with Ericsson, Smile Communications began a three-year LTE network deployment project, deploying transmission and Ericsson’s Packet Core solution, in over 1,100 LTE sites across Nigeria.
The first phase of the rollout was completed in Ibadan in February 2013, making Smile Communications the first operator to deploy LTE technology in West Africa. Commercial services were launched in Lagos a year later, and plans are in place for continued rollout across the country. Sites in Port Harcourt and Abuja are scheduled to commence shortly.
In order to cement its place in the market, Smile Communications needed a partner it could rely on to deliver a seamless and quick completion. Ericsson was responsible for the design, installation, implementation and integration of the network.
For the first time in West Africa, Ericsson also deployed its compact and fully integrated AIR (Antenna Integrated Radio) Antennae, which offer a fast rollout time, and better coverage and throughput. A project team of around 15 people rolled out the full core network, 75 LTE Radio sites and approximately 80 microwave transmission links.
Remote integration was performed by Ericsson’s Global Competence Center. The network rollout in Lagos was completed in record time with a deployment period of just one month.
Ericsson has a strong relationship with Smile Communications at all levels. As its main supplier, the operator sees Ericsson as the key strategic business partner to help achieve its ambitions in Nigeria. Tom Allen, Chief Operating Officer, Smile Group says: "At Smile Communications, we seek to deliver affordable, high-quality and easy-to-use broadband internet access to our customers. Ericsson is helping us do this."
Engaging a nation
The rollout of the LTE network has had a significant impact on the user experience in Nigeria. Download and upload speeds in the completed areas are exceptional and customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Nigerians can now experience a truly world-class data service with faster web browsing and downloads, and are voting with their feet. Smile Communications saw a rapid increase in users on its network after just a few months of the launch in Ibadan and Lagos.
The importance of establishing a high quality mobile broadband service in Nigeria cannot be overestimated. It opens up opportunities for people to improve their productivity locally and fuels new business, which all feeds into boosting economic growth in the country.
Magnus Mchunguzi, Vice President, Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa talks about the significance of the project for the region: "With mobile data traffic estimated to grow 17 times by 2019 and Nigeria currently holding the highest number of mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa, superior network performance is imperative. As a global HSPA and LTE leader, we are committed to partnering with Smile Communications in meeting the growing demand for an enriched broadband experience."
Looking to the future
With headquarters in South Africa, Smile Communications is an important player in the African market. In addition to Nigeria, the operator has also been granted a license to deploy 4G LTE in Tanzania, Uganda and DRC – so this is just one of the first steps in Smile Communications’ mission to bring a high quality broadband experience to its customers across Africa.