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:



VNL WorldGSM™ in Safaricom Kenya Network 18 Dec, 2012

Hon. Danson Mwazo, Tourism Minister of Kenya cutting the ribbon and inaugurating the VNL WorldGSM™ Village Site for Safaricom at Jora Village. Also seen: Ms. Sylvia Mulinge – GM Enterprise Business Unit, Safaricom.

Moving ahead in its ambitious plans to expand network coverage and reach subscribers in remote uncovered locations of Kenya, leading mobile operator Safaricom has deployed VNL’s solar powered WorldGSM™ base stations in Bungule and Jora in Taita Taveta County of Kenya.

The inauguration of the first solar powered VNL Rural site was held on August 17, 2012 at Bungule followed by the inauguration of a VNL Village Site at village Jora close by.

VNL WorldGSM™ Village Site in village Jora, Kenya. Top view (L) and solar panels (R).

The ceremonial ribbon cutting was done by Hon. Danson Mwazo, Tourism Minister of Kenya, who is also the Member of Parliament for the area. A local custom (akin to knighthood) of conferring the status of Taita Elder on the Hon. Minister was attended by hundreds of village folk including over 150 students of the school.

The ribbon cutting was accompanied by a Cultural Show of dance and music and speeches at the Jora Primary School. This school is located in Jora Village about 3kms off the road leading  to Tanzania through Tsavo West National Park.

Children from the village school watching the event.

Senior team members from Safaricom were present as the solar powered GSM site was dedicated to the people of Bungule. They included Ms. Sylvia Mulinge - GM Enterprise Business Unit, Mr. Robert Mutai - Network Engineering Head, and Mr.Nick Mruttu – Head of Consumer Sales.

Mr.Mutai, commenting on  VNL’s WorldGSM™ solution said that it was the first of its kind  solar /battery hybrid powered  GSM solution  with  such a  high level of integration in a village site.

Preparing for dance and music for the event.

Located in Kenya’s coastal region nearly 360 kms from the capital Nairobi, Bungule is sparsely populated and not very developed. It falls under Voi constituency of Taita Taveta County, and lies on the edge of the Tsavo National Park. In the past, subscribers of Safaricom in Bungule and Jora had to go quite a distance from their homes –up to the highway in many cases – in search of a signal for their phone. Often they ran into wild animals that posed grave danger to their lives. Faced with these challenges quite a few users became dormant. Now connecting to family, friends and the outside world is convenient - thanks to VNL’s solar powered WorldGSM™ base station that Safaricom chose for this location. Today there are close to 500 active subscribers.

Bungule and Jora have a harsh terrain.

So far VNL has deployed 1 Rural RBTS site (2/2/2 TRX) and 1 Village VBTS (2TRX) in Bungule. Both these sites work independent of the power grid and require no diesel generator backup. These completely solar powered base stations provide GSM services with an autonomy of 3 days. The VNL NOC in Nairobi reports that the VNL VBTS is picking 70-85 Erlang traffic and the  overall traffic (RBTS +VBTS) which is around 160-180 Erlang per day. The sites are Broadband ready and in the next phase Safaricom will plan Wi-Fi access in the local area.

Similar sites deployed by VNL elsewhere in Africa have yielded savings of around US $24,000 per site each year.

Rajiv Mehrotra Chairman & CEO VNL said,” VNL is delighted to partner Safaricom and bring the benefits of its Zero Opex WorldGSM solution to the network and empower the lives of the people of Bungule.”

VNL at East Africa Com, Nairobi, Kenya: April 27 & 28, 2010 6 Apr, 2010

Mobile operators in East Africa now have a way to provide mobile voice and data services to rural communities and still turn a profit.

VNL is proud to announce its participation at East Africa Com 2010. This conference and exhibition will be held at the Kenyatta Convention Center in Nairobi, Kenya from April 27th through 28th, 2010.

VNL’s participation will update mobile network operators on the progress in deploying their award-winning WorldGSM™ system in Africa - the solar powered GSM system specifically made for rural areas with ARPUs of less than $2. WorldGSM™ is the first commercially viable GSM system that is independent of the power grid. It runs exclusively on solar power and requires no diesel generator backup. It is also designed for simple delivery and deployment by local, untrained workers – all resulting in zero OPEX, dramatically lower CAPEX, and near zero maintenance.

The next billion subscribers will be coming from rural populations, away from saturated urban markets. If you’re planning on visiting East Africa Com 2010, stop by VNL’s booth and see the future of rural wireless telephony. VNL is changing the DNA of rural telecom by providing commercially viable new building blocks that will transform the way you build your networks in the future.

Visit us in Booth #31 to learn more.

  • Click here to see the map.
  • Click here to arrange an appointment to visit us in the booth and receive a free solar mobile phone charger.*

Also Visit VNL at:

  • November 10-11, 2010: Africa Com in Cape Town, South Africa – booth # B01-B06