Zimbabwean data services and internet access provider Broadlands Networks has announced plans to launch commercial voice, data and value added services in three cities by the end of next month over a broadband wireless access network based on ‘4G’ technology. The South African-backed operator says it has already pumped USD30 million into its launch plans and intends to spend a total of USD100 million rolling out triple-play services including VoIP telephony and residential TV subscriptions via set-top boxes. Broadlands currently offers high speed wireless internet/data services in and around the Central Business District in the country’s capital Harare, mainly serving corporate users. It plans initially to cover Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru with its new multi-service range by installing its own wireless last-mile infrastructure, although the actual technology being used for the rollout is unclear from the firm’s announcements so far. Some reports have alleged that the privately-owned company is implementing a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, but it is not known to have been issued a mobile operating licence, whilst the other main 4G technology, WiMAX, is a feasible candidate. Whatever the chosen access platform, Broadlands has ambitiously stated that it plans to complete a ‘countrywide’ footprint by June this year. It has installed fibre-optic infrastructure in Harare’s highest-density traffic areas to support the ‘4G’ service, which it says is currently being trialled by 5,000 users. Regarding phone numbers, it says it expects to have settled ‘numbering issues’ with the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) by February.
Previously, Broadlands built a Local Multipoint Distribution System (LMDS) wireless broadband data network connecting Harare with Bulawayo, aimed at providing companies in the two cities with internet access, VoIP, videoconferencing and LAN connectivity. The network was built via a contract with China-based Alcatel Shanghai Bell. Broadlands is the holder of a public data network licence in Zimbabwe, which permits transmission via a range of technologies including VSAT, and the company is a member of the Zimbabwe Internet Access Providers Association (ZIAPA). Broadlands Networks was formed in South Africa and reportedly has a presence in seven other countries: Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Gabon. Today, its Zimbabwe website (www.broadlands.co.zw), as listed by POTRAZ, appeared to be unavailable.