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05 May

VNL teams up with Gilat for Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) in Benin

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May 05, 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 sq.km. 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)

Way to go AMN!

Facts & Figures

“Mobile Network viability in developing markets is threatened by +50% rise in electricity generation costs by 2014”

- Juniper Research