Helios Towers invests in DR Congo mobile infrastructure
Global telecom tower infrastructure company Helios Towers has invested in upgrading and building backbone sites covering 1,800km in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to improve mobile infrastructure and connectivity to an estimated 6 million citizens in the country.
This investment in the double-digit millions will support the continued improvement and expansion of the network by local MNOs and follows the recent award of inaugural 4G licenses from the Government to major mobile operators in the country, including Vodacom, Orange and Africell.
The backbone network runs through multiple areas of DRC, including the Equatorial rainforest and Kasaï-Central province. It provides the infrastructure to connect major towns and cities in DRC to voice and data technologies, transmitting signals through microwave from tower to tower up to 40km apart.
The project is due for completion by December 2018, with the backbone network adding significant capacity to replace the existing satellite connectivity in the area and providing the infrastructure for increased 3G capacity and launch 4G in Kisangani, DRC’s third largest city, and launch 3G in Northern Kasai.
“DRC has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world, with only around 25% of its 85 million population having a phone today, but it is growing incredibly fast” said Kash Pandya, CEO of Helios Towers. “Following the upgrade and construction of our backbone towers through some of the most remote areas in the country, last mile communications can eventually be created to connect towns and cities with increased reliability and speed, fit for the growing Congolese economy. The continuing investment in mobile infrastructure by mobile operators and Helios Towers is helping to connect and create economic prosperity for DRC’s growing and young population.”
DRC is the 11th largest country in the world in terms of land mass with a population of approximately 85m citizens. By 2020, unique mobile penetration is expected to increase to 33% from 26% in 2016, according to Hardiman.
Alongside this, mobile subscriptions are expecting to grow at 14% CAGR, with a three-fold increase in smartphone usage, according to GSMA Intelligence. Annual GDP growth in DRC was 6% for the period 2011 to 2017 and is forecast to continue to 2022 at 4% per year, driving disposable income and consumer spending.
Combined with a young and increasing urban population, it is expected that this will lead to increased demand for connectivity and mobile services.
Helios Towers entered the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011 with a 521 tower portfolio acquisition from Millicom.
Since then the company has grown in presence to become the leading independent tower company in DRC with 1,819 towers and a market share of 63%. To date, the Company has invested several hundred million dollars to develop the county’s telecoms infrastructure.