K-NET Lowers Cost For Mobile Operators To Serve Rural Africa


Telecom provider leverages small cell technology and iDirect's X1 remote to reduce TCO by up 65%, bringing mobile voice and data to Ghana for first time

Herndon has announced that K-NET, an international telecom provider, has developed a satellite backhaul network by combining iDirect's satellite platform and Altobridge small cell technology to bring mobile voice and broadband connectivity for the first-time ever to rural communities in Ghana. The network, developed for mobile operator Tigo, is now live across 10 sites in Ghana and has proven to lower the total cost of ownership by up to 65% compared to a conventional backhaul solution. Plans now call for K-NET to expand to 300 additional sites with private sector funding. iDirect is a world leader in satellite-based IP communications technology.

The low cost solution developed by K-NET includes satellite communications equipment from iDirect, 2G and 3G Base Station Subsystems (BSS) from Altobridge and solar power technology from Ameresco Solar. The combined solution enables mobile operators like Tigo to profitably serve rural communities with population densities of less than 1,500 people. The 10 communication towers implemented to date have experienced substantial levels of traffic and very strong growth of more than 25% since the last one was completed at the end of July 2012. Several of the towers are now carrying more than 250,000 minutes of voice traffic each month, and more than 15,000 SMS messages.

K-NET selected the iDirect Platform to backhaul its small cell deployment because iDirect technology integrates seamlessly with small cell architectures for a cost-effective and easy to deploy solution. Traditionally, mobile operators have deployed large macro cells to cover remote areas, but this is often an expensive and logistically difficult proposition and has limited expansion of rural service. Local network service is delivered through iDirect's Evolution X1 outdoor remote, which features an IP67 enclosure, an extended temperature range and the ability to run entirely on solar power. Advanced BSS equipment from Altobridge optimizes capacity and reduces power consumption to less than 5% of a conventional implementation. This enables the use of a highly efficient solar-based power system from Ameresco Solar to be used, which offers substantially lower running costs than a conventional power system with diesel generator backup.

The network received initial funding from the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC). Cost savings of 65% has prompted K-NET to plan 300 additional sites in an effort to expand service to the 20% of Ghana's population that is currently without mobile coverage. Local government authorities expect the service to attract investors and open up more business opportunities and enhance teaching and learning in local schools.