This week, mobile phone operators, Orange Botswana and Mascom Wireless hosted the media at two different events, one at the Mascom Innovation Centre in Phakalane and the other at Liban restaurant in the Central Business District. Although the events were separated by 24 hours, the talk was much centered on the latest network technology, the “Fourth generation” or simply known as 4G.
Orange Botswana Chief Executive Officer, Dr Patrick Benon, said Friday that his company’s 4G network is currently live and functional in Gaborone, which is the first city to be covered with 4G. Palapye, Maun and Francistown will be covered by end of this month.
“With Orange 4G, you will be able to have high quality video conferences. It is going to change the way you are interacting with the digital world,” said Dr Benon.
On the other hand, his Mascom counterpart, Jose Couciero, on Thursday also announced that as part of Mascom’s 17th anniversary celebrations, “We will be launching LTE 4G very soon”.
While Orange Botswana board member, Joshua Galeforolwe is confident his company has been consistent on provision of innovative services, Chief Marketing Officer at Mascom Dzene Seboni says the evolution at her company is a testament to a commitment to provide world Class mobile broadband services in the country.
“Orange Botswana also strives to be the best in class in customer experience. In this regard, you will be seeing a noticeable shift in our position on this matter in the coming months,┬á┬áGalefolwe said Friday.
“Having successfully trialled 4G/LTE we are now taking the next logical step. Our evolution is a testament to our commitment to provide world Class mobile broadband services,” Seboni told journalist on Thursday.
Whilst Orange Botswana maintains that 80 percent of the country is currently connected to its 2G network, Mascom wireless maintains that it has covered 70 percent of the population with 3G network.
“We were the first to introduce 3G in 2008 at 7.2 Megabits and 21 Megabits per second. By March 2015 we are targeting another 38 villages to be covered by 3G. To date any village or city with more than 5000 people is covered by 3G,” Mascom Chief Executive Couciero added.
“Our plan is therefore to significantly increase our 3G coverage in 2014 so that we can have over 60 percent of the population covered with high speed internet,” said Philippe Baudin, who left Orange Botswana as Chief Executive Officer in 2014. The two companies also offer similar services such as “Mascom MyZaka” and “Orange Money” as well as “Nzamela” and “Mpharanyetsa” respectively.
Meanwhile despite the excitement by the two companies and its customers, some experts believe that the 4G network rollout will only happen after the Botswana Fibre Networks Ltd (BoFiNet) puts the necessary infrastructure in place.
Established in 2012, BoFiNet is mandated “to provide and operate a world class telecommunications backbone network infrastructure which will drive connectivity and economic growth.” Part of the latter includes acquiring a stake in the EASSy and WACS submarine cables which will make it possible to use 4G technology in Botswana. BOFiNET’s main clients are retail organisations like Orange Botswana and Mascom Wireless.