Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Lithuania is Relaxed about 5G Rollout

 

Lithuania was once a powerful empire that dominated much of eastern Europe in the 14th–16th centuries before becoming part of the Polish-Lithuanian confederation for the next two centuries. It is one of the few countries that celebrates two independence days. Statehood Restoration Day on February 16 1918 from Russian Empire and German Empire and Independence Restoration Day on March 11 1990 from Soviet Union (a.k.a. USSR). It was admitted in EU and NATO in 2004.

Lithuania has three mobile network operators, each of which operates prepaid services under a different brand name: Telia - prepaid brands: Ežys and Extra, Tele2 - prepaid brand: Pildyk and Bitė - prepaid brand: Labas

SIM card penetration is relatively high for the region, and while the prepaid sector accounts for most subscribers, the proportion of higher-ARPU postpaid subscribers is increasing. Network operators continue to market mobile broadband services, made possible from investment in LTE technology. LTE services are available nationally, and although there have been some initial trials of 5G commercial services are not expected to be launched until late 2021. The regulator has consulted on the release of spectrum for 5G in a range of bands, though 700MHz spectrum will not be available until the second half of 2022.

A spectrum refarming exercise has enabled MNOs to have greater continuous spectrum bands to improve data service offerings. Since mid-2018 Telia Lithuania has repurposed some of its 3G spectrum holdings for LTE use.

All three major networks cover the country in 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz. 3G is covered by Tele2 (~98±1% on -95 dBm RSSI), by Telia (~96±1% on -95 dBm RSSI) and by Bitė (~96±1% on -95 dBm RSSI) on 2100 MHz and 900 MHz (in rural areas), -95 dBm RSSI is moderate strength connection for 3G. 4G LTE has started on Tele2 and Telia on 800 (B20), 1800 (B3) and 2600 (B7) MHz and covers around 99% of population in 2018. Bitė covers 97%  of population on the same frequencies in 2018. 4G is covered by Tele2 (~77.5±2.5% on -105 dBm RSRP), by Telia (~72.5±2.5% on -105 dBm RSRP) and by Bitė (~67.5±2.5% on -105 dBm RSRP). 4G coverage data is up to Febuary 1, 2018. -105 dBm RSRP is moderate strength connection for 4G.

According to OpenSignal report of 2018, 4G LTE availability (proportion of time OpenSignal app users have access to 4G network) in Lithuania is 88.40%. Average download speed on 4G LTE network is 30.78 Mbps (February, 2018). According to speedtest.net, average mobile internet download speed in Lithuania is 40.02 Mbps and 13.75 Mbps upload.

Generally, there is a very good 3G/4G coverage across the country. 

Telia Lithuania, formerly Omnitel, owned by the Swedish-Finnish Telia Group. It has the one of the best overall coverage together with Tele2. 4G/LTE already covers 99% of the population in 2018 and it is available to prepaid users without any surcharge. They offer two very similar prepaid brands called Extra and Ežys (hedgehog in English) that only work in Lithuania for data, not abroad.

Telia plans to refarm most of its 2100 MHz frequencies from its 3G network to increase the speed and capacity of its LTE mobile services by the end of 2020. This move will pave the way for the shutdown of its 3G network by the end of 2022. Telia states that 3G-only devices will still be able to connect to the 2G network, adding that around 97% of all mobile data traffic is currently carried over LTE network.

Telia have launched a trial 5G mobile network, after securing temporary frequency authorisation from the Communications Regulatory Authority (Rysiu Reguliavimo Tarnyba, RRT). The trial network could achieve real down/upload speeds of 1.9Gbps/200Mbps, with latency of ten milliseconds. Telia is planning to commence the provision of commercial 5G services in Lithuania after the RRT’s 5G frequency auction, which is expected to take place in 2021.

Telia have also partnered up with Ericsson in a five-year network deal to modernize their 4G network and introduce ultra-fast high-capacity 5G which will enhance digital experiences for Telia’s subscriber and business customers in Lithuania. About 2,000 mobile sites will be modernized over the coming three years. Telia Lithuania’s 4G network modernization and deployment of Ericsson’s 5G radio access network (RAN) technology will comprise Ericsson Radio System products and solutions. This includes Ericsson Spectrum Sharing, which will enable Telia to dynamically share 4G and 5G traffic and enable a smooth, fast, and cost-effective migration to 5G. Ericsson is also supplying its 5G Carrier Aggregation solutions for better coverage, increased capacity and higher data speeds. Roll-out and support services are also part of the deal.

Tele2 by the Swedish Tele2 group has one of the best coverage in the country together with Telia. 4G/LTE covers 99% of the population in 2018 and is also available for prepaid customers. It is the most popular mobile network in Lithuania. Their prepaid brand is called Pildyk (top up/fill up in English).

Tele2 has entered into a partnership with the operator Bite to create a network sharing joint venture in Latvia and Lithuania.

According to Tele2, it includes sharing of infrastructure in current networks, spectrum sharing as well as future build-out of 5G.The two operators’ current radio and transmission networks will be merged, forming a joint shared network in each country. The aim will be to improve network capacity and coverage for Latvian and Lithuanian customers, while reducing each party’s operational costs and energy consumption. The partnership also aims to roll out joint 5G networks faster and at a significantly lower cost than Tele2 and Bite would have been able to do on a stand-alone basis.

Bitė (The bee in English) has the lowest coverage on 3G/4G in Lithuania, but it is still comparable to other two major mobile network operators.They started 4G/LTE in 2015 on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz. 4G is available for 97% of the population in 2018. The prepaid line is called Labas (Hello/Hi in English).

Bite Lithuania has published a timeframe for phasing out 3G and 2G mobile network technology. Bite estimates it will switch off the 3G network in 2024-2025, while 2G will shut down in 2026-2028. According to Bite 3G technology is mainly used to provide high quality voice services, currently carrying about 78% of voice traffic compared to 2G (lower quality) with the remaining 22%. Once 3G voice traffic can be moved to the 4G LTE network (via VoLTE technology), the 3G network will be largely redundant, as approximately 96% of all Bite’s mobile data traffic is already carried via LTE. Importantly though, Bite adds that a ‘large part’ of the Lithuanian population still uses non-4G devices, and if the 3G connection was switched off these devices would connect solely to the 2G network, reducing the quality of voice calls, hence the cautious shutdown target date range. An additional reason for the delay in 2G closure is the technology’s enduring popularity in connecting M2M/telemetry devices requiring only basic low data-rate connectivity.

There is a fourth operator: state-owned Lithuanian Radio and Television Centre (LRTC), also known as Telecentras provides telecoms services under the Mezon brand. It commercially launched of 4G/LTE services in the towns and cities of Klaipėda, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena, Alytus and Anykščiai in 2015 and Vilnius and another 200 cites (list) in 2017 on 2300 MHz (TDD LTE band 40) covering around 70% of population. However in April of 2020 Bitė has agreed to purchase Mezon from LRTC.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

O2 UK Enabling a 5G Future

David Owens, Head of Technical Trials, Telefonica/O2 spoke recently on Enabling a “5G” Future in What Next for Wireless Infrastructure summit. O2 was the last of the operators in UK to rollout 5G and has also less spectrum than other UK operators. It was good to hear that O2 is thinking seriously about how 5G will change everything. The talk is embedded below. 

As Christmas is just round the corner, here is an advert from O2 promoting not their technology but 12-months of free Disney+

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Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Turkey Plans 5G Rollouts in 2021 with Demand Expected from 2022 Onwards

 

It's been 3 years since we last wrote about Turkey. Turkey’s telecoms sector continues to make great strides with its 5G implementation. The operators have conducted significant trials, largely supported by Ericsson and Huawei. LTE networks are already well established across the country, providing population coverage of over 93%. Many base stations have been upgraded to LTE-A.

Deployment of fibre-based broadband networks are also well underway in Turkey and while DSL services are still the leading fixed broadband access method - it will eventually lose its dominance due to the rapid growth in fibre subscriptions.

Turkey’s fixed and mobile infrastructure will help to underpin its Smart City initiatives, which have become a key area of focus for the future. Turkey recently released its National Smart Cities Strategy and Action Plan which will run for 3 years, between 2020-2023

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

There are three network operators in Turkey: Turkcell, Vodafone and. Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea).

Like in Europe, 2G GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. Nationwide Turkcell has the best coverage, followed by Vodafone and Avea. If you stick mainly to the cities, it does not make any difference which of the three providers to choose.

In 2015 the regulator auctioned off licenses on 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz bands for 4G/LTE (Bands 3, 8, 1 and 20) . All three providers launched 4G/LTE in 2016. It has been marketed from the start as "4.5G", otherwise known as LTE+ or LTE Advanced, accelerated by carrier aggregation where available in major cities in all 81 provinces from the start. Coverage is generally quite good: Turkcell has the best, followed by Vodafone and Türk Telecom with the least.

According to the recent report by Open Signal, Turkcell was to be the dominant operator across the majority of their network experience metrics. Turkcell managed to win in four out of their seven award categories — 4G Coverage Experience, Video Experience, Download and Upload Speed Experience — and each one of them by a large margin. The operator also came close to challenging its peers in the remaining three, but failed to beat Türk Telekom on Voice App and Games Experience, as well as Vodafone on 4G Availability.


Turkcell is the biggest operator in the country with 34 million mobile subscribers and 46.8 percent of the market share. 2G is on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2015 Turkcell’s population coverage was at 99.8% in 2G and 95% in 3G. Turkcell launched their "4.5G" LTE in 2016 using tri-band aggregation of 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz frequency bands. 4G/LTE is free to prepaid. Turkcell is known to have the best coverage in the countryside.

Turkcell has transformed its LTE and 5G voice network into 100% virtual infrastructures using Mavenir’s cloud-native, NFV-based IMS solution. Mavenir’s Virtualized IMS (vIMS) solution is designed to support LTE use cases and evolve into a fully web-scale platform that can meet growing requirements.

Vodafone is the 2nd operator in terms of coverage. 2G on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It has a good coverage in the country, slightly worse than Turkcell, but better than Türk Telekom.

Vodafone has conducted extensive trials on Open RAN technology with the OpenRAN leader Parallel Wireless. These trials resulted in the creation of a Playbook with the help of Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN group.

This playbook is developed by teams from Vodafone and Parallel Wireless to capture the learnings from this trial deployment where brownfield sites in Turkey were swapped with OpenRAN solutions for 2G/3G/4G, evaluating the technical and operational KPIs in the process. The playbook helps the OpenRAN community members, RAN solution providers, network operators, and system integrators take an informed approach to the selection of technology and the planning of OpenRAN deployments. It's available here.

In 2016 Türk Telekom rebranded its mobile network from Avea, but you see their old sign still sometimes. It's the smallest provider in Turkey in terms of coverage, but they have still good speeds in the cities and a fair coverage in the countryside. 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It still has the lowest coverage in the countryside, but is strong in cities.

A recent GSMA report, Roadmaps for awarding 5G spectrum in the MENA region, October 2020, mentioned that BTK, the Turkish regulator, has outlined its 2019-2023 strategic objectives under nine main themes in a 105-page long document. These objectives include detailed discussions on support for research and development activities to establish ‘5G and beyond’ national technologies; expanding fibre optic infrastructure to support fixed, mobile and cable broadband technologies; support for emerging technologies, e.g. IoT/M2M; and development of national cyber security capabilities.

The New Generation Mobile Communications Technologies Turkey Forum (5GTR Forum) was established in 2016 to coordinate activities of industry and academia relating to the development of 5G technology in Turkey. The forum produced a 338-page long ‘white book’ titled ‘5G and Beyond’. The report provides a set of recommendations for the development of physical layer, core network and terminals as well as how individual verticals could benefit from the use of 5G technology.

In terms of spectrum allocations, the report notes that the bands 470-694 MHz, 694-790 MHz, 1427-1518 MHz, 2300-2400 MHz, 2500-2690 MHz140, 3400-3800 MHz, 24.25-27.5 GHz, 40-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz are planned for mobile broadband systems in the short (before 2023), medium (2023-2028) and long (beyond 2028) term.

5G trials are being conducted, including:

  • Turk Telekom live trials for 3.5 GHz band; and
  • Turkcell field trials for 26/28 GHz and 3.5 GHz.
  • Vodafone has planned its 5G trials but is yet to operationalise them.

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Sunday, 22 November 2020

Vodafone Accelerates Open RAN Innovation, Evangelizes Benefits to Other Operators

Vodafone has taken a lead in Open RAN trials and deployments. It has been very active in the Telecom Infra Project for the last 3 years but it has become more vocal and active recently. In addition to all the announcements, it has also released an eBook available here


Back in August, Vodafone become the first UK mobile operator to switch on a live Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN) 4G site enabling the introduction of more suppliers for mobile networks. The first site is connecting Vodafone customers around the Royal Welsh Showground in Powys, Wales. This was using the kit from Mavenir. Mavenir Open RAN Demo from TIP Summit 2019 is available here

Earlier this month, Vodafone reiterated again that it will deploy the open interface, disaggregated radio access network technology at a minimum of 2,600 sites in the UK by 2027, the year by which UK operators must have rid themselves of Huawei gear. A Vodafone spokesperson fleshed out the strategy in a call with TelecomTV

The 2,600 sites is a minimum commitment: That number of sites, which have already been identified and which are in rural areas of the UK (in the south-west), will be built out with Open RAN technology. Vodafone has started its vendor evaluation process, expects to select its suppliers in 2021, and will begin deployments in 2022. 

It is not sharing any details about the capex it has set aside for Open RAN or which companies are at the front of the queue to be selected, though the likes of US vendor Mavenir and UK startup Lime Micro, which have been working with Vodafone UK on Open RAN trials in Wales, will clearly be hoping to be involved. But there will be plenty of competition from other specialists, such as Altiostar, Parallel Wireless and Comba Telecom, as well as bigger names such as Fujitsu and NEC (which, with Altiostar, is working on Open RAN trials with Vodafone Netherlands).

This week, Vodafone Ireland announced partnership with Parallel Wireless on Ireland’s first Open Radio Access Network (OpenRAN), bringing 4G coverage to 30 new locations. The sites are being built on an O-RAN architecture with a Remote Radio Unit (RRU) provided by Comba Telecom, Parallel Wireless Distributed Unit (DU) and Central Unit (CU) software running on a vBBU (virtual Baseband Unit) provided by Supermicro and deployed on site. The DU/CU software connects to Parallel Wireless' Near Real-time Intelligent Controller (RIC), located in a Dublin data center on HP hardware using VMWare ESXi v6.7 virtualized environment. Parallel Wireless Open RAN Demo from TIP Summit 2019 is available here.

Johan Wibergh, Group Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone said in a LinkedIn post, "OpenRAN continues to gain traction. Vodafone will be the first company in Ireland to use this exciting new technology to deliver 4G coverage more quickly to 30 locations in remote parts of the country. This is a major boost to rural communities in need of a digital lifeline. Well done to the team. The news follows hot on the heels of the OpenRAN UK plans unveiled recently and underlines our commitment to helping new, smaller suppliers enter the market. With the OpenRAN ecosystem still in its infancy, it needs continued industry and government support across Europe."

At the Open RAN summit 2020, Yago Tenorio, the current Chairman of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) and Head of Group Network Architecture at Vodafone, outlined the international operator’s Open RAN developments and plans, highlighted the importance of open networking for the future of communications service providers, and identified the key areas of development that need to be addressed if Open RAN technology is to play a major role in carrier networks of the future and help deliver 5G’s potential. Thanks to Telecom TV for making all the talks available here. His talk is embedded below.



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Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Competition and Customer Expectations are Heating up with 5G Launches in Italy

Italy has a large and vibrant mobile market with one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Europe which has benefitted from progressive government programs aimed at developing the fibre broadband sector.  However the number of subscribers has fallen in recent years as customers respond to attractive off-net pricing which has reduced the financial benefit of having SIM cards from different providers. 

The market underwent considerable changes following the merger of Wind and 3 Italia (becoming Wind Tre), which resulted in a new entrant in the form of Iliad. In mid-2019 Fastweb was recognised as an MNO in its own right, having been an MVNO for some 11 years. The company has secured spectrum in the 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands and has a ten-year deal with Wind Tre providing it with national roaming as well as a partner with which to develop a 5G network.

Italian network operators were among the first in Europe to trial services based on 5G. Recent spectrum auctions raised €6.55 billion, a cost which has encouraged operators to looking at cost-saving options including network build cooperation and the sale of base station portfolios.

There are four network providers currently operating in Italy, with one merger and one new entrant: TIM, Vodafone, W3 (WINDTRE) (merger of Wind and 3) and Iliad (launched in 2018). 

2G is still operational up to EDGE on 900, 1800 MHz spectrum is being reused for LTE 3G: up to DC-HSPA+ is on 900 (Band 8) and 2100 MHz (Band 1). 4G/LTE : 800 MHz (band 20), 1800 MHz (band 3), 2600 MHz (band 7). Additionally TIM is using the unusual 1500 MHz (band 32) in metro areas and Tre is testing TD-LTE on 2600 MHz (band 38). Vodafone has started to deploy LTE also on 2100 MHz (band 1) in large cities.

5G was started in 2019 on the major networks on 3500 MHz (n78) in a few cities, but only TIM and Vodafone are selling it so far, and only Vodafone sells it without requiring a link to an Italian bank account or credit card. For 5G there will be two physical networks: one built by TIM and Vodafone and a second one built by FastWeb and WindTre.

TIM and Vodafone used to have the best coverage. This has changed in 2020 when the newly consolidated network WindTre was unveiled and seems to be now on par with the other carriers what coverage and speeds are concerned. The new 4th operator Iliad has deployed some own 3G/4G infrastructure and relies on a 10 year- RAN-sharing and roaming contract with WindTre giving it a reasonable nationwide coverage at the start.

The recent Open Signal report observes that regarding speed it was something of a two-horse race between TIM and Vodafone, which were the only Italian operators to win any of their national awards since November 2016. But now the newly merged WindTre has joined the race and is overshadowing the former leader TIM. Vodafone jumped to the lead winning three awards and tying for a further one; WindTre gained two first prizes and drew for two additional awards; TIM drew with WindTre in Video Experience to jointly win one award this time.

Vodafone and TIM are not resting idly and have been given conditional approval by the European Commission to create Europe's biggest mobile towers company as part of a strategy to speed up the rollout of 5G services.

Also according to Open Signal the COVID-19 pandemic showed an impact on Italy's mobile network experience similarly to many other countries around the world. But the good news is that, regardless of the incremental challenges due to managing increased load on the networks, Italian smartphone users generally saw their mobile experience improve across all metrics except for Download Speed Experience compared to six months ago. In fact, users on TIM and Vodafone’s networks saw their average download speeds decline. But this is not breaking news because six months ago they observed a similar decline with both TIM and Vodafone seeing speeds fall compared to May 2019. Despite a few drops in download speeds, Italian operators have so far shown a resilient mobile experience in this unprecedented situation, improving most of their scores across the Open Signal metrics.

In this report, data has been gathered and analysed in the 90 days from the start of February 2020 to compare the mobile network experience of Italy's four national operators: Iliad, TIM, Vodafone and the newly-merged WindTre that originated from the former Wind and 3 Italia. Along with the national-level awards and analysis, they have also looked at the performance of all four operators in 21 of Italy's biggest cities to see how they compare.

TIM owned by Telecom Italia is still the biggest operator in the country. All of the country is covered by 2G, 97% of the population is covered by 3G and 4G/LTE is available in 6,300 municipalities covering 94% of the population: TIM 4G coverage. From 2017 the rather unusual band 32 on 1500 MHz was added for LTE aggregation in Turin, Milan, Rome, Naples, Palermo, Taormina and Giardini-Naxos.

Telecom Italia (TIM) had previously announced that it expects to provide 5G technology in at least 120 cities and 200 tourist destinations across Italy by 2021. By that time TIM also plans to provide 5G coverage for 245 industrial districts and 200 specific projects for big businesses.

The carrier initially launched 5G services in parts of Turin, Rome and Naples in July 2019. TIM’s 5G offering was also expected to cover Milan, Bologna, Verona, Florence, Matera and Bari by the end of 2019. The telco also announced plans to cover 30 tourist destinations throughout Italy, 50 industrial districts and complete 30 dedicated 5G projects for large companies by December 2019.

The operator said that the speed of the 5G service will be increasing progressively up to 10 Gbps by 2021. TIM previously said that its 5G services will be offered through spectrum in the 700 MHz, 3.6-3.8 GHz and 26.5-27.5 GHz bands.

In this initial phase TIM is deploying Ericsson’s 3GPP standards-based Non-Standalone 5G portfolio from Ericsson Radio System, supported through a software upgrade of their existing 5G Core network.

Vodafone is Italy's 2nd network and according to tests it has surpassed TIM both in 4G/5G speeds and coverage. 4G/LTE covers 98% of the population in 2019 and is included in most of their prepaid plans: Vodafone 4G map.

Vodafone was the first operator to offer commercial 5G services in Italy. The operator launched the technology in five cities across the country in June 2019.nInitially, the 5G service was available in Milan, Turin, Bologna, Rome and Naples. The company used equipment from Nokia and Huawei for the deployment of commercial 5G.

At the time of the launch, Vodafone Italy said it expects to add around 45 to 50 cities to 5G coverage during 2020. Aldo Bisio, Vodafone Italy’s CEO said that the telco’s 5G technology will reach more than 100 Italian cities by 2021.

In 2017 WindTre was born. This newly merged company has 27 million mobile customers. In 2018 Hutchison (former owner of Tre) took over the rest of the company and bought out Veon (former owner of Wind). For the time being both brands were sold separately.

Meanwhile the newly combined network scored many points in network tests and seems to be on par with TIM and Vodafone now. Both Umlaut and OpenSignal found out in 2020 that W3 4G coverage is equal to the other two networks and average speeds are even slightly higher at 28.6 Mbit/s.

Finally, as of 16 March 2020 the new brand and logo W3 (called: WindTre) was introduced and both brands have now merged commercially.

In June 2019 Wind Tre and Fastweb announced a strategic agreement leveraging on the operators’ respective assets in order to accelerate the rollout of a nationwide 5G network.​ The agreement will lead to the rapid deployment of a shared 5G radio access and back-hauling network in Italy that will support the delivery of next-generation mobile services for Fastweb and Wind Tre customers.

The shared 5G network will include Wind Tre and Fastweb macro and small cells, connected through dark fiber from Fastweb, to be deployed nationwide, with a targeted coverage of 90% of the population by 2026. Under the terms of the deal, Wind Tre will manage the 5G network, while both operators will remain independent in the commercial and operational use of the shared infrastructure.

Iliad by the French operator that offers 'Free mobile' in France has acquired the 4th licence as network operator in Italy after the merger of Tre and Wind. They employ national roaming and RAN-sharing in 2G/3G and 4G/LTE with WindTre after sealing a contract for 10 years (In non merged areas only WindTre network is used).

The new network was commercially launched in 2018. Because of the agreement with WinTre coverage is nationwide and equal to Wind or Tre and their signal might be shown as '222-50'. It's expected that the highly competitive market in Italy will be again heated up by their low-cost model.

Their introductory offer in May 2018 shook the industry. Like in France they don't offer regular prepaid plans, but only rolling contracts, that can be terminated at the end of each month. In summer 2018 they signed two million users within three months alone targeting a 10% share of the Italian market later.

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Sunday, 15 November 2020

South Korea's Ministry promotes Wi-Fi 6, says WiFi is like 5G

While many of us are talking about Wi-Fi 7Wi-Fi 6 has yet to gain popularity. The latest Google Pixel phones for example don't support Wi-Fi 6 but all the latest iPhones do.  

This is not stopping the Ministry of Science and Technology Information and Communication in South Korea from promoting Wi-Fi 6, in 6GHz (a.k.a. Wi-Fi 6E)

As you can see from the press release, 1200 MHz of spectrum is available for this new Wi-Fi. This video shows that they are serious in promoting Wi-Fi everywhere. In fact they compare it with 5G and even show Wi-Fi 6E as a winner. 

Back in June, Wi-Fi NOW had already predicted that South Korea could become Asia’s first 6 GHz Wi-Fi nation. You can read about it here.

In a press release this week, Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), the worldwide industry body dedicated to improving Wi-Fi services and standards, announced the conclusion of five trial deployments of Wi-Fi 6 across diverse markets. WBA members including network providers, infrastructure vendors and device vendors set up the trial environments and executed the test cases in end-to-end real-life networks. One of these trials was by SK Telecom in retail, the COEX Shopping mall, which is the biggest complex shopping mall in Korea with about 250,000 visitors per day in average.


The detail from the case study is available in the report here.

SK Telecom deployed Wi-Fi 6 to improve connectivity for consumers, increase quality of experience (QoE) for densely populated areas and provide high throughput for immersive media services. Wi-Fi 6 reduced latency by 80 percent, reduced throughput fluctuation, and improved service reliability to customers anywhere, anytime, throughout the mall.

I am hoping to start seeing many more of these kinds of deployments in the next year.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Ghana gets 4G, 4G+, Open RAN but no 5G

 
The mobile market of Ghana is one of the most vibrant in Africa, with competing operators including the regional heavyweights MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana and AirtelTigo, formed from the merger of Airtel Ghana and Tigo Ghana. Although subscriber growth has remained strong in recent years, with the exception of a dip in 2017 resulting from a redefinition of active subscribers from one of the operators, competition has resulted in lower Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and pressure on revenue. The country ranks high in BuddeComm’s Telecom Maturity Index, a testament to ongoing developments in network upgrades among operators as well as efforts by the government and regulator to expand services to underserved rural areas.

There remains enormous potential in mobile broadband services, both in terms of subscriber additions and in mobile data ARPU. Mobile internet connections already account for the vast majority of all internet accesses in the country. The launch of LTE services by MTN Ghana in mid-2016 and by Vodafone Ghana in March 2019 has added to the vibrancy of this sector. The regulator has encouraged other operators to refarm 2G spectrum for 3G use in a bid to improve internet access in rural and remote areas.

Overall there are four national operators competing for customers in Ghana: MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, AirtelTigo (merged Airtel and Tigo) and Glo Ghana.

National networks are on 2G/GSM 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G/UMTS 2100 MHz plus 900 MHz from 2017. Coverage and speeds are fairly good compared with regional standards and Ookla speedtests show an average of 9 Mbps for the country. 4G/LTE has been started by MTN and Vodafone on 800 MHz (Band 20).


MTN Ghana from South Africa is the market leader in Ghana with a 48% share and the best coverage and speeds since it took over Arreeba Ghana (Scancom) in 2007.

It's the only major network so far that has rolled out 4G/LTE from mid-2016, now available in every regional capital and some larger towns. For LTE they use spectrum on 800 MHz (B20). In March 2019 they activated its ‘4G+’ service based on LTE-A carrier aggregation technology, disclosing that it currently operated 1,226 4G LTE sites of which 625 were LTE-A enabled.

With 23.9 million voice subscriptions, MTN Ghana controls 57% of the subscriber market share in Ghana, far ahead of Vodafone, AirtelTigo, and Glo at 21.97%, 20.3%, and 1.75% respectively.

Despite the presence of 52 Internet service providers and 3 other operators, MTN enjoys 67% of the country’s data market and currently leads the country’s fast-growing mobile money sector.


Vodafone Ghana used to be the second placed rival, but will be overtaken by the merger of Tigo and Airtel. It was formerly called Ghana Telecom and was the national telecommunications company of Ghana. In 2008 Vodafone agreed to acquire 70% of Ghana Telecom from the Ghanaian government while the Ghanaian government retained a 30% stake.

Vodafone has started with 4G/LTE in a partnership with Surfline Communications to offer 4G services to its own customers in the cities of Accra, Tema and Takoradi. In 2019 Vodafone received spectrum on the 800 MHz (band 20) for LTE services, that have been launched in the springtime.


In 2017 Bharti Airtel has merged with Millicom’s Tigo in Ghana to become the country’s 2nd largest mobile operator called AirtelTigo with a 26% market share.

The regulator granted conditional approval for the merger in 2017. In the following months the two networks were integrated. In December 2018 AirtelTigo has announced that it has completed the network integration it has been carrying out for the past year. The new network is shown as Tigo on most phones.

Bharti Airtel has announced that it plans to end its Ghana operations by selling all of its 100% stake in its Ghana division, AirtelTigo. Airtel owns a 49.95% non-controlling stake.

The government of Ghana is reportedly set to acquire 100% shares of AirtelTigo, its customers and agreed liabilities. The government is expected to temporarily operate the assets and help protect the jobs of employees and the Interests of customers and stakeholders.


GLO for Globacom from Nigeria entered the Ghanaian market some years ago. It's the new 4th ranked operator with a meagre 4% share. Due to its lower coverage, it can't be recommended for travelling through the country.

Glo’s entry into Ghana in 2011, and the merger between Airtel and Tigo in 2017, could not provide sufficient competition for MTN in the telecom market.

Consequently, Ghana’s telecom market is gradually edging fully towards consolidation instead of a competitive one.

The Ghanaian government is working with Huawei Technologies to deploy more than 2,000 Rural Star sites in rural areas of the country. The network project, which is scheduled for completion by September 2021, is expected to provide voice and data services to over 3.4 million people in underserved and unserved communities, thereby extending national mobile coverage from 83% to 95%.

Back in April, the All G Open RAN vendor Parallel Wireless had announced that they have been selected by Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) to provide mobile telephony connectivity to underserved and unserved communities in Ghana. GIFEC is a special Fund set up by the Government of Ghana under the Electronic Communications Act 2008 (Act 775), designed to provide telecommunications and ICT services to unserved, underserved and deprived groups and communities in the country.