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Business News of Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Source: Oluniyi David Ajao

Areeba's Trump Card in the Mobile Internet Arena

As early as April 2004, Areeba (then known as Spacefon) announced it was rolling-out Africa's first-ever EDGE-capable cellular network. This was however not to be implemented until later October 2006 when it was commercially launched though it had hitherto been available over-the-air, way before then.

The essence of this article is to highlight the advantage Areeba has over all its competitors in Ghana, in providing mobile internet access to subscribers in the West African nation of about 20 million people.

To understand the context of this article, I need to point out the other competitors and their circumstances, relative to Areeba. There are presently 3 GSM cellular networks in Ghana – Areeba (owned by Investcom), Tigo (owned by Millicom Gh Ltd) and Onetouch (a subsidiary of Ghana Telecom). The only cellular network utilizing CDMA technology is Kasapa, run be Kasapa Telecom. All the GSM operators have upgraded their cellular networks to support GPRS with the latest entrant being Onetouch. It is also important to point out that Areeba went a step further by upgrading its network to support EDGE while Onetouch has EDGE activated on 15 cell sites in Ghana's capital city, Accra.

Kasapa, wanting to focus on national coverage and low call tariffs, sub-let the data capability of its CDMA2000 1x network to Africanus who are now offering a broadband mobile internet access over Kasapa's network, using the brand “Mobile2i”.

Providing mobile internet access has not been limited to the traditional cellular networks. Other companies, especially Internet Service Providers, continue to join. Infinite Stream (branded iBurst) and Africa Online (branded Infinite) both offer mobile broadband internet access in some suburbs of Accra using iBurst™ technology.

Areeba's usage of EDGE technology does not allow it to offer internet access speeds comparable to iBurst or even Mobile2i's CDMA2000 1x. Areeba's trump card is however its nationwide coverage and “huge” subscriber base. Being able to offer (close-to-broadband) mobile internet access at theoretical speeds of 170kb/s in by far many parts of Ghana than any other contender, is an advantage indeed. This would ultimately result in more revenue for Areeba, and the convenience of being able to work from anywhere, for its subscribers.

iBurst's theoretical 1Mb/s speed does not extend beyond some suburbs of Accra (for now) nor does Mobile2i's coverage match those of the GSM operators. Of what use is iBurst's 1Mb/s if I can't use it outside Accra?


Though Areeba's subscriber base of over 2 million bears a toll on its services at peak times, it's wide coverage and sufficient speed is a winner, for some time to come.

The author, Oluniyi David Ajao is a Web Developer with Web4Africa. He runs a self-named blog at