Smile launches Uganda’s 1st true 4G LTE mobile network

Smile Communications Uganda Limited (“Smile”) today launched the first true 4G (“fourth generation”) LTE broadband network in Uganda.

June 10, 2013

Smile Communications Uganda Limited (“Smile”) today launched the first true 4G (“fourth generation”) LTE broadband network in Uganda. Smile has had commercial customers using its 4G LTE services for the past six months and, with the launch, Smile becomes the only operator in Uganda to operate a full true 4G LTE service.

4G LTE or ‘Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution’ technology is set to become the global standard in the delivery of mobile data and voice services for at least the next decade, and possibly beyond. The benefits of 4G LTE lie in the radically improved user experience which enables ultra-high-speed internet access, stimulating digital innovation and accelerating broadband penetration. Smile’s network utilises true 4G LTE as its core technology, allowing it to deliver services with unparalleled speed, reliability, quality and ease-of-use, whilst maintaining competitive pricing. Smile’s all-LTE network transcends many of the inherent technical limitations of existing 3G and 3G+ networks, allowing it to maintain consistent, high-quality services even with high subscriber and usage volumes.

According to Smile Group CEO Irene Charnley, “True 4G LTE was chosen since it is the only standard which evolves continuously to meet the fast-expanding information, communication and entertainment needs of the people of Uganda.”

According to Fiona McGloin, Country Manager of Smile Uganda, “Based on feedback and usage data from our commercial customers, there is clearly an increase in demand for broadband access and services. In the past month alone, we’ve seen significant growth in our customer numbers and data usage. Smile is poised to capitalise on this demand and to raise customer expectations by delivering a better, faster, easier, and more reliable internet experience.”

Daniel Jaeger, Vice-President of Alcatel-Lucent in Africa said: “We are very pleased to accompany Smile to extend their 4G LTE services in Africa. After the recent launch in Tanzania, and now in Uganda, high speed wireless broadband becomes a reality, it will allow consumers to benefit from true high added-value services of 4G LTE technology.” He added: “Alcatel-Lucent has deep and global expertise to meet service providers’ challenges, and the introduction of the Alcatel-Lucent LTE solution by Smile in Uganda will make a significant contribution to the country’s economy in all sectors”.

Smile recently announced the extension of its agreement with Alcatel-Lucent to serve as Smile’s sole LTE network provider in three of its East and Central African markets.

Alcatel-Lucent is providing comprehensive Design, Build, Operate and Managed services for Smile’s national LTE networks in Tanzania, Uganda as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Uganda has seen breathtaking growth in mobile subscriptions and internet use, but overall internet and broadband penetration rates remain relatively low. “This,” says Charnley, “presents us with a huge opportunity for growth. As the internet becomes more ubiquitous and more accessible, people in Uganda have become accustomed to high quality and consistent service. True 4G LTE is the only way to meet these expectations.”

Smile launched Africa’s first true 4G LTE network in Tanzania less than a month ago, and is the only Ugandan operator currently to utilise the 800 MHz frequency band (as opposed to the 2.6 GHz range used by other operators). Operating within the 800 MHz band provides Smile customers with more efficient indoor coverage, which means a much more consistent and faster internet experience.
In contrast to ADSL (which provides average data speeds of 1 Mbps) and existing 3G networks (with average speeds of 3 Mbps), Smile’s true 4G LTE technology allows customers to experience data download speeds of 6 Mbps on average.

In simple terms, a Smile customer is able to do more with Smile 4G LTE broadband without any buffering or latency.

  • Download a movie in less time than it takes to make popcorn
  • Download a book in less time than it takes to read a page
  • Download a full album in the time it takes to listen to a song
  • Share super-sized files in the time it takes to make a cup of tea
  • Stream and watch live TV or listen to radio via the internet
  • Enjoy crystal-clear HD video calling and video conferencing
  • Experience rich, continuous social media interaction
  • Access vastly improved mobile education, healthcare, banking and government services.

Starting in June 2013, Smile will introduce 4G LTE MiFi to the Ugandan market. MiFi (which stands for “My Wi-Fi”) allows up to 10 users with any Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, tablet, Kindle or laptop to connect to the internet through a single MiFi device and experience the full benefits of 4G LTE. Smile’s MiFi devices will come equipped with rechargeable batteries, providing 4G speed and quality irrespective of electricity supply.
Charnley points out that the introduction of 4G LTE broadband in Uganda represents a considerable investment, reflecting Smile’s confidence in – and commitment to – the Uganda market. “From today, Uganda officially joins the ranks of the most advanced countries in the world which are at the forefront of the digital revolution. Years from now, I believe the introduction of 4G LTE networks will be seen as one of the turning points in the development of East Africa and the continent as a whole. In barely an instant, our governments, businesses and communities will be able to reach out to one another easily and inexpensively, using the best, fastest and most reliable technology available anywhere in the world.”

Today’s launch comes in the broader context of Smile’s strategic vision, which is to provide affordable, high-quality and easy-to-use broadband internet access and communication services to everyone across Africa, using low cost and innovative business models and the latest technologies. The company has a presence in five countries across Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania, the DRC and Nigeria.

Smile’s true 4G LTE broadband networks is currently available throughout Kampala, with a national roll-out plan to include all regions within 5 years. The network is also configured to handle HD voice services, which will be rolled out as affordable voice-capable LTE handsets become available.