Gambian internet service provider (ISP) Netpage has become the country’s first operator to launch a commercial 4G LTE-based wireless broadband service, ahead of rivals including ISP newcomer I-Link which said that it was preparing a similar launch for ‘early 2015’ upon its licence award last October. Balancing Act quotes Netpage CEO Simon Abraham who gave multiple reasons for launching LTE, including an improved customer experience, lower latency (dropping ‘from 75 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds’), replacing legacy wireless broadband infrastructure which had become problematic, as well as pure data speed – promising ‘up to 30Mbps’ at launch. Existing Netpage customers will be migrated to the LTE-based network at no cost. Three LTE broadband access devices are offered to end-users: Mi-Fi (personal Wi-Fi hotspot) portable routers, plus indoor fixed modems and higher-performance outdoor (externally mounted) units.
According to the Netpage CEO, all of the ISP’s existing wireless towers will be converted to 135Mbps-capable, while actual user speeds will continue to be upgraded from the initial 30Mbps. 4G coverage will initially extend to the same footprint as the current WiMAX-based network – which encompasses Greater Banjul and also reaches Brikama, the regional capital of the country’s Western Division – and in the medium term will be expanded to the more rural eastern areas of the country. The existing 30 WiMAX/LTE base stations will be doubled to around 60 LTE sites ‘by July 2016’, Mr Abraham claimed, while trials with vendorsTelrad and Airspan are ongoing to decide on the partners for the coverage expansion. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that the new LTE speed promised at launch is a 50% increase on the previous 20Mbps premium WiMAX package offered by Netpage.