Rural Nigerian company to install wholesale open RAN

Rural Nigerian company to install wholesale open RAN for villages  

16 December 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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A Nigerian company that specialises in building mobile networks for rural areas is to install open-source technology to deliver 2G, 3G and 4G wholesale services, upgradable to 5G.

Hotspot Network has turned to Parallel Wireless, a US supplier, to install the system to offer mobile coverage to 2,000 villages.

Hotspot’s founder and CEO Morenikeji Aniye said: “Low ARPU [average revenue per user] in Africa makes the deployment of existing networks commercially challenging.”

Parallel Wireless is an open radio access network (open RAN or O RAN) company that delivers software-defined end-to-end networks, from 2G to 5G.

The company’s Africa sales director, Christoph Fitih (pictured), said: “Easy and affordable access to communication services is crucial to the overall social and economic growth of the region. As a result, the population will have access to financial and vital health services; children will have access to the educational services, farmers will have technical and financial resources to improve their business; and women will have the ability to build or expand their businesses.”

African operators “need to adopt a strategy that helps them focus on expanding the existing 2G or 3G networks and get ready to migrate to 4G and 5G at much lower TCO [total cost of ownership],” said Aniye.

Last year, MTN made a commitment to 5,000 open RAN sites, in rural and urban, and Parallel Wireless says it is working with systems integrators and ecosystem partners to make that a reality. 

According to the GSMA a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has no mobile coverage, and the federal government of Nigeria is committed to facilitating the achievement of its national policy goals for universal service and access to information and communication technologies in Nigeria.

Parallel Wireless and Hotspot said they want to help regional mobile operators build and expand wireless networks across Nigeria, providing next-generation digital services to local communities. The Hotspot project is working with Digital Farmers Club, its universal service provision fund and a scheme to bring smart agriculture.

Aniye said: “Open RAN coupled with NaaS [network-as-a-service] model helps maximise the network investment, as with open RAN networks become cloud-native and interoperable and can be automatically managed and upgraded to any future Gs.”

He added: “It will allow multiple operators to have access to the infrastructure and connect the end users.”

Fitih noted: “Connectivity will help make Africa prosperous and prosperous Africa is not just good for Africa, but it is good for the world.”

The Digital Farmers Club said it aims to create over 100,000 direct jobs and 1,500,000 indirect jobs across Nigeria.