Blu Telecommunications, a 100% Ghanaian-owned 4G LTE network is set to go live but it is currently on test run in selected communities in Accra and Tema, prior to commercial launch any time between now and November this year.
The test run, dubbed “The Founders Campaign” includes 100 carefully selected Ghanaians from areas where Blu has coverage. They have each been given free Blu data devices and unlimited data access to try the network for 30 days and give feedback.
The areas under coverage right now are Tema, Spintex Road, parts of East Legon, and parts of Dzorwulu.
Chief Executive Office of Blu Telecoms, Emmanuel K. Collison told a select group of journalists that “the Blu network is set to go live today” but now but due to the high value it placed on customers, the company decided to embark on the Founders’ Campaign to allow the customer make an input into the final readiness of the network before the launch.
“We will take feedback from the Founders and give them to the industry regulator, National Communication Authority (NCA) and then inform them about the commercial launch date,” he said.
Blu would be the second 4G LTE network to have gone commercial and met the 18-month deadline for all three Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licensees to go live in the country. The other two are Surlfine Communications, and Goldkey Telecoms.
Surfline launched two weeks ago on the back of 220 cell sites, which it said provides coverage for the whole of Accra and Tema.
But Blu comes in with coverage for what it calls “areas that have not been well served with data even though the existing telcos and some ISPs have coverage there.”
They also included areas where data service from other networks is relatively great, so that customers would have the chance to compare between the great service on the 3G networks and the experience on the Blu 4G LTE network.
Out of many of such areas in Accra and Tema, the company selected four and are planning to roll out in many more of such areas as part of its expansion plan going forward.
Emmanuel Collison said Blu has deployed a complete telecom network including the core network, adequate number of cell sites for the test, a billing system, and a data center at Sakumono and other commercial and technology support functions for the network.
They also have three devices; dongles, Mi-fi and Routers fitted with Blu SIM cards ready to roll out any day from now. Like the devices from Surfline, Blu’s dongles connects one device, the Mi-fi connects 11 devices and the Router connects 32 devices at the same time.
“I am proud to say that Blu Telecoms was built from scratch by Ghanaians with finance, law, telecoms, technology, Human Resource, Marketing and branding and other backgrounds, with 100% local funds. We raised millions of dollars right here in Ghana and use local expertise to build this network,” he said.
The powerhouse behind Blu: From right: Tara Squire (CCO), Emmanuel Collison (CEO), Prosper Harrison Addo, Head of Legal and Corporate Affairs and Tony Burkson, Head of Brands
Collison believes Blu is evidence that Ghana still remains an attractive investment destination but very often it is the foreign investors who see the opportunities and the conducive environment in Ghana and take advantage of it while locals sat by and watched.
He said contrary to the several commentaries about how the Ghanaian economy is dipping, several reports that guide foreign investors in deciding to come to Ghana indicate that Ghana’s GDP and per capita income are going up and the political environment provides security for investment.
“Our own fundraising effort proved to us that investors have confidence in Ghana and the prospects in Ghana are good for every investor,” he said.
Collison is particularly happy about the fact that 100% of the money invested into Blu was raised in Ghana because “it gives us value in case we have to bring in a foreign investor at some point.”
The Blu Telecom CEO said it is not a good thing to have invested millions of dollars only for the cedi to deep heavily against the dollar just when they are about to go commercial. But he is confident that since the BWA license is for 10 years, in the long-term the investment would be recouped.
The Chief Commercial Officer of Blu Telecom, Tara Squire said the company will drive a strong consumer advocacy program when it goes commercial by ensuring it is at the forefront of the conversation on what suits the consumer at the most affordable price possible.
He said, as part of leading the conversion on the customers need, every one of the 100 founders selected for the initial test run will be maintained to test and give feedback on every new service and product Blu decides to launch in the future
“At Blu we believe there is more to life and indeed more to data service than just a great internet experience. We intend to lead the way in delivering optimum network reliability plus more for the customer,” he said.
Tara Squire noted that the customer response to the launch of Surfline was an indication that there is hunger for better quality data service and so Blu is not perturbed by the existence the many players in the market because the customer would also look for the network with great value “and we believe we have taken our time to build a network that offer more to the life of the customer.”
He believes to the extent that Blu would like to make services as affordable as possible, there is need to encourage local manufacture of some telecom implements locally to enable telcos cut the import bills and save money so they can drive down prices.
Blu is likely to launch Ghana’s second 4G LTE network next month. But while the November 2014 deadline for the BWA licensees to launch draws close, Goldkey Telecoms remains totally silent on when it will launch the third 4G LTE network in the country.
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