VNL teams up with Gilat for Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) in Benin 5 May, 2014

Kaobagou, North Benin

Team VNL is proud to be associated with Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) for the launch of their commercial service in Benin. The very first AMN base station site at Kaobagou in northern Benin went live on January 24, 2014. The BTS and BSC are from VNL, working in collaboration with Gilat, who provided the satellite backhaul solution and funding. With the beginning of commercial services a community of some 5,000 people is now able to enjoy for the very first time voice and data communications services which are taken for granted in most of the world. The site is integrated with the core network of Bell Benin Communications (BBCom). Located deep in rural Benin some 750 km north of Cotonou, the base station is connected directly via satellite link to the AMN Teleport in Cotonou and from there via a direct microwave radio link to the operator’s switching network.

The only way: This bumpy trail branches off the main highway some 75 km before Kaobagou

AMN is on a mission to build mobile network base stations serving rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa which have no existing service, providing mobile network operators with a capex-free route to add new subscribers and new revenues.

Work on to install the Gilat VSAT dish at the AMN site

The AMN base station in Benin utilises a solar-based electrical power system and a satellite-based backhaul communication link to make the base station completely autonomous with no reliance on any local infrastructure. It has a 45m (150 ft) mast with a 2TRx capacity VNL WorldGSM™ BTS and a pair of high-gain, omni-directional antennas to deliver service to a range of up to 7 km from the base station, and covering approximately 150 The rural cell with VSAT backhaul is another joint initiative of VNL and Gilat, after a successful collaboration for a similar solution in the Entel Bolivia network recently.

Solar panels cover the racks that house Gilat’s satellite modem and the power supply to the VNL BTS at the AMN Benin site.

The base station is already carrying significant levels of communications traffic. The operator sold over 500 SIMs more than one week before the launch of the service, and the local retailers of SIMs and airtime credit in the village were doing brisk trade both before and after the launch. AMN generates its revenue from a revenue-share agreement with the operator.

More views of the first AMN site at Kaobagou,Benin. Leadcom managed the civil works and supplied the tower.
(Picture Courtesy: AMN)

According to AMN, ”The base station in Benin is currently processing approximately 4,000 voice-minutes of traffic each day, equating to around 120,000 minutes per month. We expect these levels to nearly double over the next 6-7 months through the adoption period in which new subscribers start to use the service, and also as the subscribers use the network more and more.”

Curious onlookers: Kapil Singh of VNL surrounded by children from the local school in Kaobagou watching the erection of the tower in their village.

Team AMN (L to R): Jules Degila – VP Business Development, Michael Darcy – CEO, and Emmanuel Pobee – VP Engineering at the launch of commercial service at the AMN Mobile Network Base Station at Kaobagou, north Benin. (Picture Courtesy: AMN)

AMN Benin is currently in the process of building out a network of mobile base stations in Benin. When complete, the Benin network will comprise some 200 base stations, serving 1.5 million people and 725,000 mobile subscribers. In September 2013, AMN announced that they would invest $550 million building 5,000 mobile base stations for operators across more than 12 countries in Africa.

Way to go AMN!

Kapil Singh -VNL’s Senior Tech Lead, busy at work integrating VNL’s BSS with the BBCom MSC.
Picture Courtesy: AMN


For more on the launch click the link below:


Connecting villages in Bhutan for B-Mobile 25 Apr, 2014


In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan the breathtaking beauty of its mountains is also its biggest challenge when it comes to creating infrastructure for telecom. Bhutan Telecom Limited (BTL) is the leading provider of telecommunications and internet services in Bhutan. Besides fixed line telephony, BTL provides GSM mobile services under the flagship brand B-Mobile.

VNL partnered B-Mobile to bring GSM connectivity to a cluster of villages around 60 kms from the capital Thimpu, using WorldGSM™ – a sustainable GSM and broadband solution.


Solar powered VNL WorldGSM™ BTS Site in Bhutan with 7 day autonomy – Ideal for cloudy weather conditions.

There are several locations in Bhutan with difficult terrain and hardly any road access where deployment of a traditional GSM network is a challenge. There is no room for the large footprint and civil works of a traditional mobile tower and RF planning is extremely difficult in the mountains and valleys.

In one such location, 60 kms south of the capital Thimpu, is a cluster of six sparsely populated villages- Jangsyena, Gurgaon, Lobnekha, Phudun, Rashigang and Tsephu.

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A Slippery Track: Last 100 mts to the WorldGSM™ VBTS Site  in Lobnekha (background) WorldGSM™ VBTS Site Deployed in Rashigang

BTL chose VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution for this cluster. The simple, cost effective and highly energy efficient solution was installed rapidly using local manpower resources. The network connects B-Mobile subscribers in the village and on the roads that lead  to the main city.

Location VNL Site Configuration
Chapcha (BT Site) E1/Ethernet Convertor +TDN
Jangsyena RBTS
Gurgaon RBTS
Rashigang VBTS
Codec RBTS
Lobnekha VBTS
Pepchu (BT Site) E1/Ethernet Convertor +TDN
Phudun RBTS
Chunzom (BT Site) E1/Ethernet Convertor +TDN
Tsephu Repeater TDN
Table 1. VNL WorldGSM™ Site Configurations

Table 1 (Right) shows the site configurations that VNL deployed for BTL. Based on  VNL’s Cascading Star Architecture, the deployments are a mix of VNL WorldGSM™ Rural Sites for coverage, WorldGSM™ Village Sites for capacity in the village and Repeater sites from Shyam to overcome terrain challenges.

The entire network was up in record time because of the ease of transport of material even where the last stretch was along slippery dirt tracks and involved a steep climb.Some of the deployments were in places that were created by clearing out a tiny space on a mountain edge – barely enough to accommodate even the small footprint of a VNL WorldGSM™ Rural or Village Site.


VNL WorldGSM™ Sites (RBTS and VBTS) Shown on Google Maps View

It’s impossible to stand and photograph the site up close from most angles.VNL deployed each site in a matter of days using unskilled local manpower who followed simple instructions and required very little supervision.

There were no requirements of skilled technical resources travelling to remote sites and then camping in the village for a lengthy period – something that’s hard to avoid in the case of traditional deployments.

The network has completed over 2 years of successful operation.

WorldGSM™ : helping villages in Ghana go mobile 23 Apr, 2014


Base of VNL WorldGSM™ 2TRX Rural Site for MTN at Dakpiemyli.The solar panels provide 3 day power autonomy. The mast is 30m high.

VNL has successfully completed trials of its solar powered WorldGSM™ rural GSM solution for MTN Ghana at two remote village locations, Zinido and Dakpiemyli in the Tamale region of Northern Ghana in June 2013. Zinido (population: just over 2000 with 320 mud hut dwellings) is slightly larger than Dakpiemyli (population:around 1500 with 230 dwellings -most of them farmers). Both villages lack modern infrastructure like roads and power supply.

VNL provides autonomy of 3 days at the 2-2 TRX remote site with 12 solar panels in a compact array.

Before the trials, village residents were forced to leave their homes and walk up to 5 kms in search of a GSM signal to operate their mobile phone. (See the “talking tree picture”).MTN found the VNL WorldGSM™ solution to be tailormade for this kind of problem.  One of the guiding principles for the clean sheet design of the WorldGSM™ rural solution is to provide good signal quality in the village, inside homes. No compromises.

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View of the VNL WorldGSM™ Rural BTS and omni antennas atop the 30m mast in Dakpiemyli The top of the VNL WorldGSM™  2-2 TRX Rural site for MTN in Zinido village, northern Ghana, showing the WorldGSM™ Rural BTS and antennas. The solar powered site works independent of the power grid and requires no diesel generator backup, air-conditioning, shelter or external cooling. It provides GSM and GPRS connectivity to the village and adjoining areas.

The MTN Zinido site is a 2-2 TRX configuration site and the Dakpiemyli site is a 2TRX configuration. Both have 3 days autonomy in a region with heavy rains throughout the year.The existing MTN transmission at Tampion and Banvim has been  extended to  Zinido and Dakpimyli respectively, using VNL’s own IP transmission solution.

Another view of VNL WorldGSM™ 2TRX Rural Site for MTN at Dakpiemyli. Notice the protective perimeter fencing. In some deployments across the globe VNL has successfully deployed video surveillance, video analytics and public address systems as part of a complete security requirement against acts of vandalism and theft.

VNL’s WorldGSM™ solutions are deployed in Ghana in partnership with local companySubah Infosolutions Ghana Limited (link: who are committed to bringing the most innovative technology solutions to Ghana  to address the unique challenges of clients such as MTN.VNL’s sustainable solar powered rural GSM and broadband solution is ideal for remote locations where affordable services are badly required but can only be offered if operating costs are within limits to give a viable business case.

Mud huts in Zinido village seen through the perimeter fencing at the VNL site.

The two sites are now commercial revenue generating sites within the MTN Ghana network and provide GSM and GPRS service to over 3000 subscribers generating roughly 200 erlang of voice traffic daily. The mobile network is used primarily by people in the village to speak to their children who are employed in other towns or to connect to someone travelling outside the village area.

ITU–VNL partnership project in TashiCell Bhutan network at Chamgang 16 Apr, 2014

Top of the VNL Rural site at Chamgang peeps out from the thick foliage of trees.

Bhutan’s first private mobile company Tashi InfoComm Limited (TICL) – popularly known as TashiCell – has selected  VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution to connect remote communities in the Himalayan Kingdom. After successful trials in Chamgang in 2012, VNL  deployed WorldGSM™ equipment in Tshangkha, Thrimshingla and Gayzore.

Two views of the VNL WorldGSM™ Rural BTS site for Tashicell at Chamgang. Originally deployed as part of the ITU-VNL partnership project for the ITU “Connect a School, Connect a Community” program, the site is now integrated into the TashiCell Bhutan network.

“This is a smart initiative which sets a milestone in driving energy efficient affordable ICT access to rural and remote areas and benefits to communities where they live,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau . “Such an innovative public-private-peoples’ partnership, which promotes mobile,GPRS and broadband access to rural and remote communities, represents an attractive, affordable, inclusive, scalable and sustainable step forward in providing digital opportunities for the people of Bhutan.”

Sweeping view of the valley from the base of the Chamgang site overlooking Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.

The project is a result of the partnership between the Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Vihaan Networks Limited (VNL), announced at the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference in March 2010. The goal is to make WorldGSM™ solar powered solutions available to village schools and communities, as part of the ITU Connect a School, Connect a Community programme. A Cooperation Agreement between ITU & VNL was signed in December 2010 and a solar power based mobile transmitter was installed in Chamgang, Bhutan, in collaboration with Ministry of Information & Communications and TashiCell.

View from the top of the VNL Rural site-VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution emphasizes the role of compact modular design and small footprint, making it ideal for deployment in any tough terrain. This site is on a mountain slope with thick vegetation where there is hardly any place for the elaborate structures that are typical of traditional GSM solutions.

With a subscriber base of 115,000 and growing, TashiCell is present in all 20 Dzongkhags (administrative and judicial disctricts) of Bhutan, and is expanding operations to cover subscribers in more remote locations. VNL’s WorldGSM™ is a key part of their rollout strategy.

All sites are on mountain slopes usually accessible by a dirt track. That’s where VNL’s compact and lightweight modular equipment comes in handy- conveniently packed into boxes that allow easy handling in tough terrain conditions. Extremes of weather- rain, wind and snow-are another challenge that VNL has overcome in Bhutan. Temperatures at some locations can dip as low as -14 degrees Celsius.

WorldGSM™ for Myanmar: Connecting the New Highway 15 Apr, 2014

The gleaming Yangon – Naypyidaw-Mandalay highway is a powerful symbol of Myanmar’s new dynamism and economic transformation. The challenge before state operator Myanma Post and Telecommunications (MPT) was to provide seamless mobile coverage on the highway that passes through some of the remotest parts of the country. VNL provided a seamless GSM network along almost 480 kms of the highway using the solar-powered WorldGSM™ solution.

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WorldGSM™ for Micronesia GSM network in the West Pacific Ocean 3 Mar, 2014

Another long journey for VNL – over 8000 kilometers east of India – took us to the middle of the western Pacific Ocean to the Federated States of Micronesia where local operator FSMTC (Federated States of Micronesia Telecommunications Corporation) has selected VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution for GSM connectivity at locations on the islands of Pohnpei and Yap.

The island nation of The Federated States of Micronesia consists of four states Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae spread across the Western Pacific Ocean. Together they comprise around 607 islands with a combined area of They lie northeast of New Guinea, south of Guam and the Marianas, west of Nauru and the Marshall Islands, east of Palau and the Philippines, about 2,900 km north of eastern Australia and some 4,000 km southwest of the main islands of Hawaii.

The Federated States of Micronesia Telecommunications  Corporation (FSMTC) Headquarters in Pohnpei. The sole telecom operator in Micronesia (population 1,40,000) , FSMTC has 20,000 mobile subscribers.

Scenes from Pohnpei (population 35,000).

FSMTC COO Fredy S. Perman ( 4th from left in white shirt) and Technical Head Joseph Johnny – Manager Plant and Engg.(second row in gray T shirt) and other members of the FSMTC team with VNL’s Vikas Tyagi (centre in yellow t-shirt)

A view of the sea close to the Joe Site, in the south east part of Pohnpei.

Dirt track on the approach to Joe Site.

Joe Site, Pohnpei – VNL’s first ever installation in Micronesia. The 2 TRX VNL WorldGSMTM Rural BTS with 2 omni antennas sits atop a 55 meter high tower. FSMTC has 48 BTS sites across 4 islands.

Joe Site,Pohnpei : VNL WorldGSM TMbattery bank and CCU at the base of the site. It rains 4 days a week in Pohnpei so a tin sheet cover is a must.

View of the FSMTC NOC in Pohnpei.

VNL BSC in Pohnpei

Mission accomplished: Vikas Tyagi of VNL enjoys the local flavor of Unicorn fish after the Joe Site and South East Remote site go live.

Entel brings VNL WorldGSM™ to Bolivia 28 Feb, 2014

 Breathtaking panorama of Maca Maca from the base of VNL WorldGSM™ Rural BTS site for Entel -300 meters above the settlements in the picture. Notice the winding road that leads to the site (right hand bottom corner).

Rollouts are underway for deploying 86 GSM sites for  Entel S.A.,Bolivia’s state-run telecom operator under the Cobertura Movil Rural (Rural Mobile Coverage – CMR) project. VNL’s solar powered WorldGSM™ telecommunications infrastructure solution will help Entel deliver sustainable mobile services to people in rural and remote locations across several provinces in Bolivia.

The VNL WorldGSM™ RBTS site overlooks Maca Maca

Entel’s multi-million dollar investment in VNL’s sustainable rural telecommunications solutions reflects Bolivia’s commitment to economic and social development of its people through telecommunications. Located at the highest altitudes of South America, Bolivia is a land locked country, rich in natural resources. However penetration of mobile and internet services is a concern with huge gaps in coverage in sub-urban areas, rural areas and mining and production centers that are vital for the economy.

A picturesque municipality – Maca Maca,Bolivia

As Entel embarks on a nationwide expansion program, integration of unconnected rural areas into the development mainstream and empowerment of disadvantaged sections of society is top priority .It’s efforts to expand its footprint are guided by the Political Constitution of the State which recognizes telecommunications as a basic right and emphasizes access and universal service obligations.

VNL’s Bolivia journey began in 2011 with successful trials for the Bolivian Government in two remote locations, Rio Seco and Yatarenda, falling under the city of Santa Cruz.

Base of the VNL WorldGSM™ Rural Site with solar panels and battery bank in view

One of the VNL WorldGSM™ Rural Sites deployed for Entel is located in the mountains overlooking the picturesque Municipality of Maca Maca, in Loayza Province Of La Paz Department, Bolivia. The site can only be accessed by a tough, winding road that climbs to the base of the tower perched on a slope 300 meters above the community (see pictures). The site brings Entel’s GSM network within reach of the 200 inhabitants of Maca Maca and 50 inhabitants in the small village of Caracato close by.

Maca Maca has just 200 inhabitants. The Entel site deployed by VNL is located in the mountains in the background

People in Maca Maca now have a choice after having shared a single phone booth that worked on the old DECT technology, all these years. Residents of Caracato are even more delighted because the village has never had any telecom service till now. Entel’s GSM network is a first for them, and a big step to empowerment in their daily lives.


Watch this space for more on Entel Bolivia deployments in the coming weeks.