Nigeria: QOS - Airtel Invests N93 Billion in Capacity Expansion


Determined to boost network quality, Airtel has said it had invested over $600 million- that is, N93 billion, in the past one year to expand network capacity and enhance quality of service (QoS) on its network. Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Airtel, Deepak Srivastava, who disclosed this during a visit to company's newly commissioned Green-Site at the weekend in Lekki, Lagos, said the Green-Site harboured its latest base stations that are powered by solar energy.

According to him, Airtel will roll out 250 solar energy base stations across the country in the first phase, from November 2011 to February 2012, with plans to roll out its second phase after February 2012. Srivastava explained that the new solar energy base stations, replaced the traditional base stations that are powered by generators.

He stated the new solar energy base station could accommodate 1,200 subscribers, receiving and making calls at the same time, thus reducing network congestion and enhancing network quality.

The new base stations come with batteries and solar panels. During the day, the solar panels absorb heat energy from sunlight, convert it to useable energy and store it in the battery. At night, the base station is powered from the stored energy in the battery in the absence of electricity.

It reduces carbon dioxide emission into the environment and cut off completely, the use of diesel and petrol. Briefing journalists after the media tour, Srivastava recalled that Airtel recently announced a landmark deal with Ericsson to upgrade 250 diesel powered stations in Nigeria to Green-sites, an initiative designed to enable the company harness solar energy to operate its base stations.

Srivastava explained that non-availability of regular grid power supply to sites across the country was responsible for over 70 percent of down time resulting in poor quality of service, adding that the Green-Site would go a long way in addressing the critical challenge. He hinted that the company was exploring other options including a partnership with the World Bank to address the issue of power supply especially to the remote communities.

He lamented that in some other countries, operators were concerned with managing customer experience rather than keeping the sites up as is the case in Nigeria, where power outages, fibre cut and community issues had combined to undermine the integrity of the network quality.

Srivastava, who was accompanied by Chief Technical Officer, Awadhesh Kumar Kalia; Regulatory Director, Osondu Nwokoro and Corporate Communications and CSR Director, Emeka Oparah, disclosed that Airtel had in the last one year, continued to make significant capital expenditure (CAPEX) investment towards improving network quality and has embarked on specific initiatives to expand its network coverage.

According to him, "Airtel has invested heavily on site rollout, power improvement projects, fibre roll-out, microwave replacement, technical engineering, network capacity enhancement and adaptive multiple rate". He added that Airtel had built over 500 additional sites in the last six months and intends to complete an additional 1000 sites by March 2012.

Commenting on the company's fibre rollout initiative, the Chief Operating Officer hinted that Airtel had commenced a drive to aggressively grow its existing 4500km of fibre by 1800km, giving a total of 6,300km by March 2012 to provide alternate and multipath redundancy and additional trunk capacity, hinting that it will reduce the impact of fibre cuts on network availability.

On microwave replacement, network capacity and technical engineering, Srivastava revealed that Airtel had embarked on several improvement initiatives and was replacing old microwave radio links with modern high capacity equipment and a total of 150 hubs are to be replaced by March 2012.