Cellcom Liberia, part of the Cellcom Telecommunications group, has connected its HSPA+ mobile network to the new African Coast to Europe (ACE) fibre-optic cable and says that the trial period for connecting users has proved successful. The firm’s head of corporate communication Dr Kimmie Weeks says that on 1 January this year thousands of subscribers to its HSPA+ network were able to take advantage of the data speeds available via the fibre cable for free. Cellcom CEO Avishai Marziano added: ‘Our [HSPA+] network is the only super-fast network in Liberia. Now that we have connected it to the fibre-optic cable, it will be 100 times faster compared to any other network in Liberia.’ According to Dr Weeks, even with a densely populated network, Cellcom customers will be able to enjoy transmission speeds of over 150Mbps. In light of the successful trial, Cellcom is now looking to commercially launch its so-called ‘4G’ network (see below) on 18 January, in line with ACE’s ready for commercial service date.
In August last year, Cellcom was investigated by the national regulator, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), over the network operator’s claim that it is able to offer 4G-based services. At the time the LTA released a statement noting that Cellcom’s operating licences only cover 2G (GSM) and 3G (W-CDMA/HSPA) cellular services. ‘With regard to Cellcom’s claim of having 4G capability, the LTA has embarked on an investigation exercise to determine the veracity of this claim as is being advertised by Cellcom,’ the watchdog said in the statement. Previously, in June 2012 Cellcom launched what it is calling a fourth-generation (4G) mobile network, offering customers advanced videocalling and high speed mobile internet access as affordable rates. However, TeleGeography notes that it is unlikely that the new infrastructure is a true 4G platform, given that in May that year the cellco revealed it was planning to deploy a high speed HSPA+ mobile network in partnership with Huawei – claiming a first for the African country. As such, the mobile operator is unlikely to be in breach of its operating licence as the HSPA+ upgrade does not constitute a full 4G network.