Helios Towers announces 1,800km new backbone network for DRC

Helios Towers has announced it will upgrade and construct backbone sites covering 1,800km in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The project, described by the company as a "double-digit investment", is scheduled to be completed in December 2018 and will connect the Equatorial rainforest and Kasaï-Central province.

It will also provide voice and data technologies, transmitting signals through microwave between towers of up to 40km apart.

According to Helios Towers, once completed, the backbone network could replace the existing satellite connectivity in the area and provide the infrastructure for increased 3G capacity. It could also facilitate the launch of 4G in Kisangani, DRC's third largest city, as well as 3G rollout in Northern Kasai.

Kash Pandya, CEO of Helios Towers Africa noted that while DRC has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world "with only around 25% of its 85 million population having a phone", mobile penetration in the country is growing "incredibly fast".

"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," said Pandya.

The company envisages that its infrastructure will also enable local operators to expand their respective networks and deliver an improved service – particularly after the government of the DRC awarded inaugural 4G licences to operators including Vodacom, Orange and Africell.

Helios Towers has been operating in DRC since 2011 when it debuted with a 521 tower portfolio acquisition from Millicom. It now has 1,819 towers in the country, controlling and a market share of 63%.