Independent tower Helios Towers has unveiled plans to upgrade and build backbone sites covering 1,800km of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The company stated that investment would be ‘double-digit millions’ and would improve mobile infrastructure and connectivity for around six million citizens in the DRC. Further, the investment will ‘support the continued expansion and improvement of the network by local mobile network operators (MNOs)’, the company added, noting that the move follows the recent award of inaugural 4G licences to cellcos including Orange, Vodacom and Africell.
The backbone network runs through multiple areas of DRC, including the equatorial rainforest and Kasai-central regions; the new investment project is due for completion by December 2018. The backbone network will add significant capacity to replace the existing satellite connectivity in the area and looks to support increased 3G capacity and the launch of 4G in Kisangani, DRC’s third largest city, and launch 3G in Northern Kasai.
‘DRC has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world, with only around 25% of its 85 million population having a phone today, but it is growing incredibly fast,’ Helios Towers CEO Kash Pandya was quoted as saying, adding: ‘Following the upgrade and construction of our backbone towers through some of the most remote areas in the country, last mile communications can eventually be created to connect towns and cities with increased reliability and speed, fit for the growing Congolese economy. The continuing investment in mobile infrastructure by mobile operators and Helios Towers is helping to connect and create economic prosperity for DRC’s growing and young population.’