Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Mobile Users in Botswana have recently started enjoying 4G LTE-A

 

Botswana whose population is around 2.33 million, has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Africa, estimated at over 150 percent (or around 3.4 million), due to high levels of SIM ownership.

Despite one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Africa, though with this growth in the number of subscribers has slowed sharply in recent years. The popular use of multiple SIM cards from different operators has delayed the introduction of mobile number portability. Although the telecom regulator has not been convinced of the facility’s economic benefits the government insists that the facility will be made available. In a bid to generate new revenue streams and secure market share, the three MNOs – Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (backed by Orange Group) and BTC – have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector by adopting 3G, LTE and WiMAX technologies. In the fixed-line broadband market they compete with a large number of ISPs, some of which have rolled out their own wireless access infrastructure.

After a period of stagnation, the number of internet users has risen strongly in recent years, largely the result of lower prices following improvements in international connectivity. Historically, the landlocked country has depended on satellites for its international bandwidth, and on other countries for transit capacity to landing points of international submarine fibre optic cable systems. The landing of additional cables in the region in recent years has improved the competitive situation in this sector, while prices for connectivity have fallen dramatically. Paratus Teleco (a pan-African telecommunications operator) in mid-2020 announced plans to build a private network covering the entire country and linking to the company’s international cables.

The three main operators provide fairly good coverage and speeds for African standards. 2G is mainly on 900 and some 1800 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE has started on 1800 MHz (band 3) with all 3 providers.

Wide areas of the country are not covered by the mobile network, in towns and villages you can expect some coverage. The map for the two main providers is improving each year, but when deciding whether to get a local SIM card, remember that there’s simply no mobile coverage across large parts of the country (including much of the Kalahari and Okavango Delta). That said, the main highway system is generally covered.

Mascom Wireless, a private Botswanan mobile company controlled by Portugal Telecom is the market leader in the country. It has the best 3G coverage and in 2014 their 3G covered 70% of the population. In 2015 Mascom started with 4G/LTE in Gaborone.

Orange by French Télécom is the second operator in the country with a 27% market share. It has a lower coverage, but they were the first to start with 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz to be available in Gaborone and some other towns in 2015.

In June 2020 Orange Botswana announced the launch of LTE-A services, increasing data transfer rates on its 4G network. The upgrades are being branded 4G+ and have already rolled out in Greater Gaborone (which houses about 10 per cent of the country’s population) and Francistown, the country’s second-largest city

LTE-A services will eventually be available in most parts of the country – both urban and rural – according to Orange, allowing customers to experience better streaming, faster downloads and quicker browsing as well as quicker sending and receiving of big files.

BTC Mobile (rebranded from be Mobile) is the brand name of the state-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), that combines the operations of fixed line operator BTCL and wireless operator be Mobile. It's the third operator with 16% market share. 4G/LTE has started in 2016 in Gaborone, is rolled out in the country and it claims the best 4G coverage right now. 

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