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Internet Solutions inks ATC deal to further ‘Wi-Band’ ambitions

4 Jul 2012

Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions unit and the South African subsidiary of American Tower Corporation (ATC) have signed a five-year contract under which the former will use the latter’s towers to expand its delivery of current wireless solutions and position it to offer Long Term Evolution (LTE) in South Africa. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, ATC acquired Cell C’s nationwide base station infrastructure in November 2010 in a ZAR430 million (USD55.7 million) deal, and has subsequently begun building its own mobile base stations from scratch in areas where the country’s incumbents have poor coverage.

In the short term, the agreement will enable Internet Solutions to extend its new ‘Wi-Band’ offering beyond large metropolitan areas to key markets throughout South Africa. Wi-Band, which was unveiled last month, is capable of transmitting data at speeds of up to 20Mbps, verified by extensive trials in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Wi-Band was enabled after Internet Solutions successfully applied for unused bandwidth in the 28GHz band; the spectrum is commonly used by telecoms operators for cellular backhaul rather than for providing access directly to end-users. However, by utilising a 30cm microwave antenna attached to an indoor unit, an Ethernet interface and a router or switch, Internet Solutions has made the frequency available to end users. Last month the company announced: ‘The offering bypasses the current industry impasse around the liberalisation of LTE-capable wireless frequencies in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum to give organisations easily deployed, reliable, fast, secure wireless connectivity’. Further, because Wi-Band operates in a regulated, licensed spectrum band, interference is eliminated.

The 28GHz spectrum was previously auctioned in the UK in 2008 by national regulator Ofcom, after years of disinterest in the unused frequency band. However, in the ensuing years actually utilising the spectrum proved problematic to most of the buyers – predominantly would-be WiMAX operators and internet service providers (ISPs) – with the frequencies either falling into disuse or being used primarily for backhaul purposes.

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