6 Nov 2013

Africa: a ready market for cellular extenders

By Andy Robb, chief technology officer at Duxbury Networking

The market for increasing mobile network coverage is expected to grow rapidly over the coming year in Africa where the combination of inherently poor coverage in most rural areas and the limited availability of land-line options have contributed to a ‘mobile only’ mindset among consumers - and one of the highest GSM cellular operator-to-subscriber ratios in the world.

Extending network coverage easily at the network’s edge is necessary in most developing regions north of the Limpopo because housing density is too low and environmental risks too high to make construction of new base stations commercially viable.

Moreover, increasing the mobile network signal strength increases the mobile broadband throughput, the key to delivering enhanced Internet penetration which is increasingly demanded by business and private network subscribers across the continent.

While service providers are generally committed to meeting subscriber needs and improving reception, budget constraints often play key roles in delaying major projects of this nature. The most economical way to improve reception is thus through the installation of cellular repeaters or extenders, many of which could be provided free of charge to communities in terms of government-authorised upliftment schemes or foreign assistance programmes.

The freedom that exists in the African market has made it a target for some of the major cellular extender vendors, including Coiler, Nexitivity. While these brands are available through approved channels in SA, their availability in Africa is being encouraged by distributor Duxbury Networking along with responsible installation practices.

In Africa, as elsewhere in the world, the use of cellular repeaters demands care as the cellular spectrum that users will be extending or repeating is paid for by the cellular provider – the license holder - and should a device malfunction, it could interfere and degrade the signals on all provider networks.
It should also be noted that cellular extenders are often provider-specific. A repeater installed on one provider’s network will only work on that provider's frequency.

Because cellular extenders take a fairly high amount of power – around four amps – they are ideally suited to coupling with renewables such as solar or wind power. Again, this is an important consideration for the developing world, with its patchy electricity grids characterised by intermittent availability.

Duxbury Networking is an exhibitor at the upcoming AfricaCom communications Congress and Exhibition in Cape Town on 12-14 November and will have the latest offerings from vendors Coiler, Nexitivity and 2N on display, including third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) compliant GSM extenders designed to meet a wide range of application demands.  

Duxbury Networking will be exhibiting at AfricaCom 2013. Come and meet them at stand P21 by registering for your free ticket to AfricaCom Here