Namibian cellco Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) says it is facing further obstacles in its already-delayed plans to roll out 4G mobile services. Last Wednesday Windhoek City Council deferred a discussion relating to the planned rollout which had been on its monthly agenda – which is just one of a long series of obstacles which MTC says have been put in its path by the municipality, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) and incumbent Telecom Namibia since it launched plans to roll out advanced high speed wireless radio infrastructure supported by new fibre-optic backhaul links in 2010. According to a report on AllAfrica.com, MTC first applied to the City Council in July 2010 for permission to install underground ducts in Windhoek for the laying of fibre-optic cables, while another application, for laying underground fibre-optic cables to MTC’s cellphone towers in the capital, has been pending since 12 December 2011. The council’s management committee has recommended that permission be granted to the municipality’s transportation and ICT departments to negotiate with MTC for the installation the ducts, but a decision has been suspended while ‘more information is being gathered.’ MTC’s original 2010 fibre application was opposed by Telecom Namibia, which argued that its own existing metro fibre infrastructure should be used instead on a wholesale basis by MTC, which countered that the PSTN operator’s backhaul facilities would be inadequate in the long term as additional fibre links and capacity would be needed to support expansion of 4G base stations. The report continues that in the meantime, following intervention by Prime Minister Nahas Angula, MTC and Telecom Namibia agreed that MTC would lease dark fibre from Telecom Namibia, but around six months after the agreement was signed, this has yet to be implemented.
MTC has also laid part of the blame for delays in 4G rollout on the CRAN, which is yet to issue the cellco with a commercial frequency licence, a fact which the cellco bemoaned during early-2012 Long Term Evolution (LTE) trials, saying that it had so far invested NAD225 million (USD29 million) in the 4G technology with no return. The CRAN replied with the statement: ‘Spectrum that is high in demand must be efficiently managed and cannot simply be issued [on] an ad hoc, first-come-first-served basis. It should be defined by a well-supported and well-defined allocation and assignment strategy,’ and indicated that MTC must wait for the regulator’s draft national frequency allocation plan to be implemented.