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Smile Telecom launches VoLTE

Africa , 23 Nov 2015

Smile Telecom launches VoLTE

Pan-African telecoms operator Smile Telecom has continued to ramp up its African operations with the launch of the first voice over LTE (VoLTE) service in East Africa, in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, offering high-definition voice and video calling services.

The two companies have a long-term partnership in the region, having launched LTE services together there. The new VoLTE service uses Smile's IMS technology, while Alcatel-Lucent has undertaken network integration, project management and testing activities to prepare the network for launch.

Smile owns and operates mobile wireless 4G LTE broadband networks in Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, and announced in September it had raised US$365 million in debt and equity financing to extend broadband services.

The money was raised through a US$50 million equity sale to the South African state-owned Public Investment Corporation, while the rest was raised in debt from investors including Egypt's African Export-Import Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Smile is already in the process of utilising the funding as it looks to increase its number of African broadband customers to one million by 2017, and recently announced it plans to launch commercial LTE services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) early next year.

Smile's VoLTE service will be available throughout East Africa, with the company saying this will allow it to meet the growing data demands of enterprises. It has launched initially in the Ugandan capital Kampala, as well as in Entebbe and Mukono, and will later be rolled out in in Jinja, Mbale, Soroti, Tororo, Lira, Gulu, Masindi, Kasese, Fort Portal, Kabale, Mbarara and Masaka.

Further expansion will follow, with Smile saying it aims to offer high-definition voice in each of the countries in which it operates. The launch of VoLTE services allows the company to deliver high-quality voice and data services over its LTE network.

"Smile chooses to associate with technology partners that are not only known for delivering world class networks but whom are masters at the game and deployment that we want to do at a certain time and place. Alcatel-Lucent has proven themselves to be such a technology partner. I am happy to say that they have been a key part of our success in East Africa and with the VoLTE rollout," said Tom Allen, chief operating officer (COO) of Smile.

Daniel Jaeger, vice-president of Alcatel-Lucent in Africa, said network transformation to ultra-broadband was continuing apace in Africa.

"Universal access is vital to promote ICT and reduce the digital divide. Alcatel-Lucent is supporting the integration of Smile's own IMS to ensure a converged network architecture that delivers new subscriber features in a cost-effective way," he said.

"Smile aims to provide the best customer experience and with VoLTE it can do this, offering affordable high-speed high-quality voice and data services."

Smile believes it is actively tackling the digital divide by expanding the delivery of super-fast high-quality ultra-broadband services across Africa.

Funded to the tune of US$600 million in total, the company expects total capital expenditure this year to reach approximately US$100 million, doubling network coverage in Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

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