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Angola to get LTE network

Angola is set to become Africa's first country to have a commercial next-generation long-term evolution (LTE) mobile network. Chinese makers of telecoms equipment Huawei and ZTE have worked with Angolan telecommunications firm Movicel to develop an LTE network in Luanda, a key crude oil province.

Huawei officials say the network is to come online by the end of May, and it could potentially bring Internet download speeds of up to 100Mbps in that region to those with LTE-enabled devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Mobile operator MTN has been testing LTE services in SA, but Angola's Movicel would be the first telco in Africa to offer the next-generation network as a commercial service.

Angola is Africa's second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria, and it is also the second-largest crude supplier to China after Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, Angola is China's largest trading partner in Africa, with business between the two nations having exceeded $18.6 billion in 2011, said the Forum on China Africa Co-operation in a report.

The partnership between the two countries, which has resulted in Angola soon having the continent's first LTE network, is another sign of how Asia's economic giant is helping African countries develop sectors such as telecommunications in exchange for natural resources, says an expert.

“I think the Chinese are pretty active in Angola in general and, if you know what they do in all African countries, is they provide tight financing and things like that in exchange for rights to resources,” said Brian Neilson, a research director at BMI-TechKnowledge.

Angola has a booming mobile telecommunications market too, as a Frost & Sullivan report last year said mobile telecommunications revenue in the country is forecast to almost double from $8.8 billion in 2010, to $15.2 billion in 2015. Frost & Sullivan also said mobile phone usage rates are at 57% of the country's population.

However, demand for LTE-enabled mobile phones or devices in Angola might not initially be high, says Neilson. Most people in the country are probably more likely to own a basic handset rather than the more expensive next-generation phones, as more than half of the country's population lives under the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

Nevertheless, all telecommunications companies in Africa are still looking to next-generation services such as LTE to boost their revenues, says Dobek Pater, a telecoms expert for Africa Analysis.

“Most operators in Africa, especially larger operators in Africa... have been looking at LTE as a technology growth path, because it offers a lot more, especially in terms of its ability to deliver quality of service,” said Pater.

Huawei, in particular, has a strong position in the wireless communication technology sector in Africa.

It has an estimated share of 29% of the GPRS base transceiver stations market in Africa, second to Ericsson's 38%, according to Informa Telecom research. The research further says that ZTE is the fifth largest player in this market in Africa, behind Nokia Siemens and Alcatel-Lucent, with a market share of 13%,

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