Interview: Motorola turns to WiMAX for Africa
ITNewsAfrica.com: What is Motorola’s strategy for Africa in the coming years?
Noel Kirkaldy: The African market has done very well in establishing voice connection through wireless, with 500 million mobile subscribers connected primarily through wireless GSM/TDMA technology. Motorola is a major player in this market, however our direction in the past year has been on broadband, currently way behind the voice market.
ITNewsAfrica.com: What is Motorola’s approach to broadband on the continent?
Noel Kirkaldy: We are talking about a broadband experience that is possible through technologies like 3G/HSPA, a third generation technology that can deliver broadband-like service. However, the next generation of solutions such as WiMAX and LTE will allow operators to continue offering broadband services to a much larger percentage of the population, as well as differentiate the broadband services as we see in other industries.
ITNewsAfrica.com: How will these new technologies benefit Africa?
Noel Kirkaldy: These technologies will allow operators to offer video services and broadcast on demand at a much more cost-effective basis than previous technologies. We brought voice and data, the next step is commercializing video. We see huge benefits because most of Africa has not made an investment in previous generation networks. In 2011-2012, many countries and operators can look to the latest generations and solutions such as WiMAX to potentially leapfrog previous investments that have been made in other parts of the world.
There are new auctions coming from ICASA, where operators would be able to acquire additional spectrum between 2,66 Ghz and 3,5 Ghz and choose which new technology to deploy. Some operators might choose WiMAX and then migrate to LTE. LTE is just starting with 5-6 live commercial LTE deployments, whereas WiMAX has probably 500 worldwide deployments already (24 commercial WiMAX networks in Africa).
There are various potential solutions and we listen first to the operators. At the end of the day, the user experience, whether is 3G or LTE, will be similar, but to an operator the costs of providing these services are different. We are looking to the latest solutions though because they can bring more benefits such as multi-screen video experience and multi-streaming that WiMAX is capable of. To be honest, the importance of WiMAX technology is that new operators can enter the market purely focused on data.
ITNewsAfrica.com: Will these new technologies be cost-effective in rural areas?
Noel Kirkaldy: Very much. Devices are key to the success of these solutions to provide true broadband experience. The equipments are based on the same core technology for both WiMAX and LTE. The new spectrum that will be available in the coming years, such as digital dividend band in the 700 MHz – 800 MHz frequency, will allow for much wider coverage for operators rather than just urban and sub-urban areas. We expect to see operators moving towards LTE as well as new entrants to choose either WiMAX or LTE.
By Denisa Oosthuizen