Airtel will deploy Ruckus Wireless Wi-Fi carrier-grade access points in 17 African countries to bring high-speed mobile services quickly to a region still mainly reliant on 2G, a person close to the deal told GigaOM. Airtel Africa plans to roll out tens of thousands of access points in high-traffic areas and has already begun building the network in Niger. The equipment will serve as a lower-cost replacement for 3G/4G in places such as hotels, airports and busy shopping districts.
One source said the operator plans to extend it to its other African markets quickly and could expand it to over 100,000 nodes if the rollout is successful. Alcatel-Lucent reportedly will act as systems integrator and provide its service and aggregation router. Alcatel-Lucent confirmed that it is building a backhaul and backbone data transport network for Airtel, but would not comment on any Wi-Fi plans. Ruckus told GigaOM it had no comment. Airtel did not respond.
The operator is present in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.