African telecommunications infrastructure company IHS has invested $8 million (about R63 million) to upgrade to its Network Operations Centre (NOC) in Lagos, Nigeria.
The Nigeria Stock Exchange-listed company builds and rents out phone towers to mobile operators. It says the upgrade will allow IHS to offer hi-tech infrastructure management and professional services and site monitoring systems, initially to operators in Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger, and later to other neighbouring countries in West Africa.
According to IHS CEO Issam Darwish, 25% of the investment money (about R15.8 million) went towards the upgrade of the NOC itself, while the remaining R47 million will be used for on site monitoring systems.
Darwish says the investment marks a new chapter for IHS, which recently affirmed its commitment to the continent through investment in African networks. “[The investment in the NOC] will allow us to implement our regional growth plan by expanding our reach and providing the additional higher value services that regional operators are currently seeking. It will also let us deliver more value for our customers by creating significant cost synergies.”
He adds that the “eventual evolution of 4G in Africa” and the surge in mobile traffic mean operators will be looking to differentiate their services. Tower management, says Darwish, will play an important behind-the-scenes role in this. “Our investment in NOC underscores that IHS is well positioned for the imminent arrival of 4G.”
IHS says the NOC will provide a range of comprehensive tower management services to network operators, including a holistic approach to tower utilisation with the aim of turning every base station and tower into its own profit and loss centre; green power management; preventative and corrective maintenance of all devices and procedures on site; minimising site down time closer to zero; and a new approach to customer service management.
The NOC development has an initial capacity for 5 000 sites. IHS group CTO William Saad says this gives the company the ability to monitor networks in real-time and respond accordingly. “Many operators achieve on average 98% uptime on their own sites, which results in estimated annual revenue losses of $7 000 to $10 000 per site. The current 1 000 sites managed by the NOC have an availability of over 99.9%, vastly reducing operators’ revenue loss by minimising their downtime.”