Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd (Smile), which operates mobile 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband networks in Tanzania and two other countries in the Sub Saharan region, has recently announced that it has raised USD 365 million between debt and equity, to reach nationwide coverage by the end of 2015.
The fund raised as equity, is compounded by a USD 50 million stake obtained from the Public Investment Corporation on behalf of the South Africa’s Government Employees Pension Fund (PIC).
The debt part of the fund is a USD 315 million multi-jurisdictional debt facility led by the African Export-Import Bank and with the participation of foreign financial institutions from Europe and Africa.
According to Smile, the fund represents one of the largest capital ever raised by a telecommunications operator in Africa, and it helped the company to reach a total commitment of USD 600 million spread among the three Sub Saharan countries.
The new fund is meant to accelerate the national network roll-out in Tanzania. It includes equipment provided by Alcatel-Lucent, a French global telecommunications equipment company that helped Smile to establish the first 4G LTE network in the 800 MHz frequency band in Tanzania in 2012 according to Alcatel’s website.
And network roll-out services provided by Ericsson, a Swedish international provider of communication technology and services, which will also transform the existing Smile’s backhaul to upgrade and modernize it in order to meet the increasing demand in data traffic.
Smiles plans to use the remaining balance to establish a full Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network, as well as to cover operational expenditures and working capital.
Through this investments Smiles aim to overtake Tigo as the largest and fastest 4G LTE network in Tanzania.
According to Smile’s Deputy Chairman, Sheikh Mohammed Sharbatly, with the new investments Smile’s 4G LTE broadband network, will be as good as those used in United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.
Smile projects a 4G LTE market with a 300 million potential customers in the long term between the three countries where it has presence.
According to World Bank statistics, in Tanzania there are currently 2.53 million people using either 3G or 4G to access data traffic representing 4.9% of the total population against an average of 19.2% in the Sub Saharan region, and 40.7% in the world.