Somaliland's Somcable is deploying FTTA access offering download speeds of up to 100MBps

In a bid to provide high speed broadband access to a million people in the regional market of Somaliland, Somcable has struck a deal worth over $3m to offer high speed access to subscribers, using fibre-through-the-air (FTTA) technology.

Somcable, traditionally a wholesale backbone operator deploying fibre across Africa, has moved into the market of providing network access to consumers as a result of the deal. The firm is using a multi-gigabit wireless solutions provider Bluwan’s FTTA technology for the last mile of connectivity, providing download speeds of up to 100Mbps. It is using LTE technology to provide upload speeds of up to 20Mbps.

“Previously in Somaliland, internet speeds were very slow. Most people in the country could only use the internet during the daytime, quite often at peak times the whole system would just shut down,” explained Michael Cothill, Somcable CEO.

“There was around 400Mbits throughput and providing this to a sizeable population was a challenge; the average person was experiencing speeds of around 64Kbps.”

To provide broadband services to the market, fibre-optic cables are laid from the Northern region of Africa to nearby Djibouti. Deploying fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) access to customers in Somaliland from there presented a real struggle, as roads in the region are not constructed in a way that allows infrastructure providers to deploy a full fibre grid. Therefore Somcable had to look at an alternative technology to provide access speeds that made the most of fibre technology.

The Bluwan FTTA Access solution uses line of sight technology in the 12GHz spectrum. It is comprised of small outdoor antennas that receive wireless broadband transmissions from a central transmission hub. The solution will be delivered and integrated by Globecomm Systems, a global provider of managed network communication solutions.

The solution beams microwaves from the transmission hub wirelessly to antennae on the rooftops of premises, and then uses a cable connection from the antenna into the home through a Bluwan box. The Bluwan box delivers wifi and LAN connectivity within the home and also carries and native satellite TV signals, which can also be redirected to a satellite TV set top box

Each transmission hub is able to provide up to 8Gbps throughput in a 360-degree 5km radius, delivering average constant speeds of 2Mbps, peaking at speeds of 100Mbps to thousands of consumers. This allows consumers to experience advanced broadband applications such as HDTV. Business users will also benefit from the broadband services by being able to work from home, use cloud applications, and exploit ecommerce and video conferencing opportunities, Somcable said.

“We have set a target to provide one million subscribers with access to high-speed broadband by 2015, to help move Somaliland into the knowledge-based economy,” said Cothill. “The lack of high-capacity backbone networks in the Horn of Africa means that wireless technologies are an important part of our strategy.”

The delivery of next generation broadband in Somaliland will mean that the market surpasses many other countries and regions in Africa and many places in the world, added Shayan Sanyal, chief commercial officer at Bluwan.

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