Saturday, 1 May 2021

No 5G in Bangladesh until 4G Succeeds

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. However, economic constraints over the last few decades has resulted in under-investment in network infrastructure, with the result that the country has an under-developed fixed-line market, with the fixed-line penetration rate being the lowest in South Asia.

Bangladesh’s mobile market is also relatively under-developed, though it has experienced strong growth over the last six years. Operators have trialled 5G and the BTRC is expected to auction spectrum for 5G services before the end of 2021, aiming to provide national 5G coverage by 2026.

Slow to moderate mobile subscriber growth is predicted in coming years, with constraints to stronger growth coming from intense local competition and from additional taxes in the national budget which are expected to dampen consumer use of services.

Bangladesh has also seen a very rapid increase in mobile broadband penetration over the past five years, though it remains well below most other Asian countries. Growth is being driven by a rising number of mobile subscribers able to access faster download speeds on LTE networks. An unprecedented level of investment among operators during 2018 and 2019 extended the footprint of LTE infrastructure and laid the groundwork for operators to launch 5G services from 2021.

There are currently four mobile network operators in Bangladesh according to BTRC ( ). TeleTalk (state-owned - Under Ministry of Post & Telecommunication), Grameenphone (joint venture with Telenor), Banglalink (by VEON - a subsidiary of Telenor) and Robi (by Malaysian Axiata Group and Indian Bharti Enterprises Ltd)

The 3 biggest private operators GrameenPhone, Banglalink and Robi have more than 95% of all customers. State owned TeleTalk is now growing. Another provider called Citycell based on GSM-incompatible CDMA was shut down in 2016/7 for not paying its dues. Airtel Bangladesh merged into Robi.

With all operators 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz. 3G up to HSPA+ on 2100 MHz is still in the population centers mostly. In 2017 the regulator has made all licenses technology-neutral and will give out new spectrum in 2018. The three operators Grameenphone, Robi-Airtel and Banglalink have started 4G/LTE in February 2018.

Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd., brand name Teletalk (Bengali: টেলিটক) is a state-owned mobile phone company. It's the smallest operator of all mobile phone services in Bangladesh with a 2% market share caring for only 4 million out of 131 million mobile users. Teletalk provides internet & voice sevice at cheapest rate. It's service is not as good as others but trying to improve regularly. But those traveller's who want to visit Sundarban, Dublar Char Island, Katka Sea Beach, Jamtola Beach or Remote HillTrack area must carry a Teletalk SIM Card because in some area There are no network except Teletalk.

Teletalk Bangladesh limited was established keeping a specific role in mind. Teletalk has forged ahead and strengthened its path over the years and achieved some feats truly to be proud of, as the only Bangladeshi mobile operator and the only operator with 100% native technical and engineering human resource base, Teletalk thrives to become the true people’s phone – “Amader Phone”.61% of Its BTS is 4G.

Grameenphone (Bengali: গ্রামীণফোন) is also known as GP, a joint venture between Norway's Telenor and Grameen Telecom Corp. It's the largest operator in the country with a 46% market share in 2019 when it was declared dominant player by the regulator. 100% of Its BTS is 4G.

The operator announced back in Feb, the transition of 15,500 of its mobile towers across the country as 4G-enabled, to commemorate Bangladesh's 50th anniversary and reaffirming its commitment to unleash digital potential in every corner of the country.

With nationwide 4G coverage, new tower roll-out, and preparations to deploy an additional 10.4 MHz spectrum, the company is positioned to meet people’s growing need for high-speed internet and support digital services uptake in rural and urban areas for its 80 million customers and beyond.

Banglalink (Bengali: বাংলালিংক), managed by internatl. VEON is the 2nd provider in the country. It has more than 31 million customers and a 26% market share serving all 64 districts by 2G and since 2014 by 3G too. They started in Dhakar in 2013 with 3G and cover at least all towns by now. 4G/LTE started in 2018 in Chittagong and Khulna & Now available across the country. 78% of Its BTS is 4G

According to last years Open Signal report  Banglalink registered the strongest performance among the four operators. 

Robi Axiata Limited, second-ranked operator behind Grameenphone and in front of Banglalink in user number terms. Robi Axiata started 4G/LTE in 2018 in all 64 district capitals of the country. 98% of Its BTS is 4G.

Robi Axiata has announced that it has deployed 4.5G technology across its entire network comprising 13,400 mobile sites. The company revealed that 4.5G services are currently operated in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, with plans to deploy 2,500 additional sites by the end of 2021. As of February 2021, 70% of Robi’s active subscriber base was using data services, while 4.5G handset penetration stood at 50.6%. Robi also disclosed that 4.5G service users are now consuming around 6GB of data per month.

The government aims to launch 5G technology in 2023 and make the network available in every district headquarters by 2026. None of the operators are enthusiastic about 5G at the moment. According to Dhaka Tribune:

Mobile operators said that at least 70 per cent of the country needs to be penetrated with 4G connectivity before making the big jump to 5G. Besides, less than 30 per cent of the country's registered handsets are 4G compatible, so gearing for 5G at this point needs to be discussed extensively, they said. Currently, 4G is only available in the divisional cities, with fluctuating network quality and internet speed. Thinking about transitioning to 5G now would not be wise, said telecom industry insiders.

One of the primary reasons why both 3G and 4G services failed to take off in a big way commercially was the low penetration of compatible handsets when those technologies were rolled out in Bangladesh.

And in case of 5G, the handset penetration at less than 0.1 per cent is worse than the other two technology when the mobile operators were gearing up to roll them out, meaning there is not much of a business case for them to undertake the massive investment needed for the service.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Bahrain has 100% 5G Coverage

The telecommunications sector in Bahrain is vibrant and progressive and it contributes about 4% a year to the Kingdom’s GDP. Bahrain attempted to drive further growth in the telecoms sector in 2020 by ensuring it is competitive and adaptable to market dynamics. It has the added pressure of coping with the impact from the global Covid-19 outbreak and ensuring provision of adequate Internet services and applications to home-based citizens.

The major telecoms operators include Batelco, STC Bahrain and Zain Bahrain. The industry is regulated by Telecommunications Regulator (TRA) which has been working hard to resolve any regulatory or spectrum hurdles in readiness for 5G. This government support, along with proactive operators, resulted in Batelco launching the first commercial 5G network in Bahrain in mid-2019.

Batelco also undertook a significant operational restructure in 2019 and launched Bahrain’s National Broadband Network operated by BNET. Bahrain’s telecommunications industry is guided by its Fourth National Telecommunications Plan which focuses on fibre-optic infrastructure deployment and establishing affordable prices for high-speed access.

Overall, the mobile broadband sector is poised for growth with 4G networks in place and a high mobile subscriber penetration paving the way for adoption.

The three mobile operators as mentioned are Batelco, Zain  and STC (formerly Viva). 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3) has started on all three operators. 4G/LTE is available on prepaid. All providers cover already 99% of the country by 4G/LTE in 2016 and give average download rates of more than 20 Mbps. The three competitors are very much neck on neck.

Zain based in Kuwait is the second carrier in Bahrain with a good coverage and similar prices. All prepaid data are on 4G/LTE too.

Zain Bahrain has selected Ericsson’s dual-band 4T4R AIR 4455, an antenna-integrated radio solution to boost its 4G and 5G coverage in Manama.

The deployment of Ericsson AIR 4455 enables 5G through Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. Increasing capacity and user data rates; as well as strengthening Zain Bahrain’s network operations with a tailored solution designed for street macro coverage in dense urban centers.

Ericsson's AIR 4455 solution offers Zain Bahrain the opportunity to seamlessly bring connectivity to urban centers. As part of Ericsson Radio System, the street macro deployment solution is an integrated part of the network, with feature parity and end-to-end performance.

Ultimately, Zain Bahrain will now serve dense, high foot-traffic areas in the country with improved 4G and 5G data rates, enhancing user experience. Additionally, Ericsson street macro solutions align with Bahrain Economic Vision 2030 to improve technology provisions and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority’s (TRA) objective to minimize the visual visibility of 4G and 5G sites in Bahrain.

STC formerly called Viva is the 3rd and newest carrier coming from Saudi Arabia. It has the reputation of having the best network (LTE-Advanced/4G+) and lowest rates in the Kingdom. In December 2019 it was rebranded to STC for Saudi Telecom Company with a new logo. 

Batelco is the national provider and the only landline/ADSL provider in the country. As in most cases, it has 2nd best coverage and is the most expensive at the same time.  Batelco has informed customers that its 2G network will be phased out by 31 December 2019.  

Batelco has announced in October 2020 that it has successfully activated 5G coverage across Bahrain.

The 5G coverage is available in all four governorates covering 95 percent of the nation’s population. This, says Batelco, makes it the first operator to have national 5G coverage in Bahrain – and positions Batelco among the leading operators in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although Bahrain is not big (it covers an area estimated at  765.3 square kilometres) the rollout does seems to have happened quite quickly. It was in March last year that Batelco signed a partnership agreement with Ericsson to build a national 5G mobile network over a period of two years.

In June 2019, Batelco announced that it was the first operator in Bahrain and among the first in the region to deliver commercial 5G network services for its customers.

In January this year, Mobile Magazine reported that according to Bahrain’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications, two of the country’s three mobile operators now have full coverage, prompting a new wave of opportunities for streaming, gaming and supply chain technologies. 

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Thursday, 8 April 2021

Jamaica has good 4G coverage but no certainty on 5G

The Caribbean island of Jamaica currently has two mobile network operators: Digicel Jamaica and
Flow (by Cable & Wireless).

Jamaica is home to over 3 million mobile users, with Digicel claiming around 2.2 million and Flow having around one million.

In 2016 Jamaica's cabinet approved the award of a third licence to Symbiote Investments that has paid US$ 20.8 million to roll out a 4G LTE service under the Caricel brand. They started in 2017 but face a regulatory investigation into the circumstances of their licensing and in 2019 their licence was revoked and the provider shut down.

Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has instructed Digicel and Flow to improve what it describes as ‘persistent quality of service (QoS) issues’ such as data and voice service interruption, dropped calls and calls not being initiated. Both companies admitted that the steep and rapid rise in the demand and use of data had hampered their service delivery. For its part, Digicel blamed the QoS lapses on its modernization program, while Flow claimed that the incidents were isolated and not related to a general failure of its telecoms infrastructure. Flow also cited vandalism and ongoing road works as mitigating factors.

Jamaica was the first market where Digicel started in 2001 in the Caribbean. It's considered as their home base and they soon became market leader on the island with a major share of the customers.

They run a dual CDMA and GSM network. CDMA is on BC1 and only for inbound roaming. Their GSM 2G is on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G is on 850 MHz up to DC-HSPA+. They started 4G/LTE on 700 MHz or Band 17 in 2016 in Kingston, St Andrew and around the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, with hopes of it reaching other parts of the island soon. Recently, they've expanded coverage to Montego Bay, Falmouth and a few other places on the North Coast and South Coast. On their 2G/3G networks they claim to cover 99% of Jamaicans, on 4G/LTE 65% are covered at the end of 2018..

Digicel has deployed LTE on Band 4 with a bandwidth of 20 MHz aggregated with Band 17. Digicel was the first carrier to offer HD Voice in Jamaica, available on its 3G network for AMR-WB or VoLTE capable devices like iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices.

FLOW, previously called LIME is the incumbent provider in Jamaica. It's operated by Cable & Wireless Communications which is owned by Liberty Global.

FLOW's 2G network is only on 850 MHz. FLOW's 3G network resides on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. Both their 2G & 3G networks are available island wide. FLOW recently disabled DC-HSDPA and GSM on 1900 MHz, opting to use the spectrum for LTE and a small allocation for 3G, instead. The company is also intending to shutter its legacy technology (presumably 2G) "soon" but timelines were not provided.

FLOW started its 4G/LTE rollout in the Kingston Metropolitan Area in 2016 and expanded it to Montego Bay (and its environs) and the resort town of Ocho Rios as well as the towns of Spanish Town, Portmore in St. Catherine and Mandeville in Manchester in 2017 (see coverage map). FLOW's primary LTE Band, Band 4 (1700 MHz), has less in-building penetration. As a result, it doesn't propagate as far as lower frequencies like 700 MHz on Digicel. Band 4 offers more speed and network capacity than its competition because it sits on a 20 MHz bandwidth. FLOW also began deploying LTE Band 2 (1900 MHz) in places like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Kingston and a good portion of rural areas with aggregation. They recently also began adding Band 12 (700 MHz) as the 3rd LTE band that will become the layer on which the carrier deploys VoLTE. The network has already begun deployment of its full spectrum in some rural areas like Portland, St. Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas and other like areas. FLOW, as of early 2020, claims its LTE network now covers 95% of the Jamaican population.

FLOW was awarded a Speedtest Award from Ookla for Q2-Q3 2018, with average download speeds of 22.66 Mbit/s and average upload speeds of 9.62 Mbit/s. They intended to cover all Jamaicans by 2020.

The Jamaican government is currently considering a proposal from US firm Rivada Networks, which would see the vendor deploy a 5G network free of charge, in exchange for a share of the eventual revenues. According to the Jamaica Observer, which quotes remarks by Donald Tapia, the US Ambassador to Jamaica, the proposal has been on the table for some time, but the authorities remain undecided.

Monday, 5 April 2021

8.05 Billion Mobile Subscribers with 5.22 Billion Unique by End of 2020

Telegeography reported that the number of mobile subscribers reached 8.05 billion at the end of 2020. The article reported

Figures from TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database show that the global wireless subscriber total has passed 8 billion. User numbers were up 1% in 2020, ending the year at 8.05 billion.

The cellular market showed year-on-year growth despite the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to downturns in user take-up in a number of countries.

Of the end-2020 wireless user total, 55% were located in Asia; China and India alone accounted for 34% of the global base.

Asia saw year-on-year growth of 1%, with Pakistan registering the biggest jump in percentage terms. Customer numbers increased 6% in 2020 to 177 million. And there’s still room for expansion in Pakistan. The country’s wireless population penetration was around 80% at the end of 2020, compared to a regional average of 104%.

As for other regions, the U.S. & Canada also saw a 1% increase in customers, while overall user numbers in the Middle East and Latin America remained virtually static during 2020.

In Latin America’s largest market by subscribers, Brazil, the year finally saw an end to a long-running decline in user numbers. The customer total had fallen from over 280 million in 2014 to below 200 million as of June 2020. But the second half of 2020 brought a turnaround as the country ended the year with 205 million cellular subscribers. However, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay all experienced annual decreases of 5% or more in 2020.

The fastest-growing region was Africa, which saw a 6% increase in subscribers during 2020 to 1.16 billion. This annual growth is on a par with the previous year’s figure.

Of the top 40 fastest growing markets globally in 2020, Africa was home to 29. It was led by South Sudan, which recorded an annual subscriber increase of more than 23%, while larger markets such as Kenya and Nigeria also recorded double-digit growth (up 13% and 12% respectively).

At the other end of the scale, the number of wireless subscribers in Europe has been in decline for the last six years. Of the 41 countries in Europe with a population above 200,000, 27 witnessed a drop in their wireless subscriber bases between December 2019 and December 2020.

Eastern and southeastern Europe saw some of the region’s biggest customer losses, with countries such as Moldova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece all registering annual declines of more than 5%.

You can read the complete article here.

Hootsuite / We are social also publish annual numbers on Data Reportal. The embedded deck below provides numbers for 2020.

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Thursday, 1 April 2021

South Sudan is getting 3G Upgrades and 4G

Following the referendum in 2011, oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Having been deprived of investment for decades, it inherited one of the least developed telecommunications and internet markets in the world, while other infrastructure is also lacking. Although this potentially can create investment opportunities for infrastructure and service providers, such developments largely depend on a negotiated end to the protracted civil war which erupted in December 2013, and which has caused considerable mayhem and bloodshed, particularly in the oil-producing areas. With the civic struggle exacerbated by large-scale famine, investors in all economic sectors have been discouraged.

There was once investment activity among mobile network operators who sought to expand their networks in some areas of the country, but by late 2016 both Zain South Sudan and MTN South Sudan had cut back their workforces in a bid to save on operating costs, while their falling subscriber bases have strained revenue. Zain South Sudan in particular recorded considerable financial losses in 2015 and 2016. Operators in the telecom sector, as in other markets, have placed themselves in survival mode and are hoping for a political settlement and a return to some degree of social stability. Although MTN and Zain reported a significant fall in the number of mobile subscribers in 2017, with a consequent severe decline in revenue, both saw subscriber bases increase in 2018 as they absorbed customers which had migrated from VivaCell after that company was closed down for failing to pay back taxes.

South Sudan has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in Africa. Growth in the sector in coming years is premised on a resolution to the political crisis and a recovery of the country’s economy. The virtually untapped internet and broadband market also depends to a large extent on the country gaining access to international fibre optic cables and on a national backbone network being in place. Sophisticated infrastructure solutions are needed to reach the 80% of the population that live outside of the main urban centres. With a negligible rate of bank account ownership, mobile payment and banking solutions also have a strong potential once a reliable mobile infrastructure is built.

Currently there are only two mobile operators in South Sudan. They are South African giant MTN and Kuwait-based Zain. The government will provide security to all mobile operators to ensure improved internet service in the country. 

MTN has the largest number of subscribers in South Sudan.  They have invested US$30-million (R430-million) in revitalising and expanding operations since the end of the five-year civil war, reviving transmission sites, upgrading to 3G and adding new coverage.

Zain has also made huge investments and developed  the telecommunications infrastructure of South Sudan.  

They have over 300 third generation (3G) voice and data enabled network sites. The technology being deployed nationwide can easily be upgraded to super-fast 4G LTE.  Zain’s local unit in South Sudan has launched a commercial 4G offering in the capital city Juba. 

According to TeleGeography, as of end-2020 Zain South Sudan had 1.05 million subscribers, putting it in second place behind its sole competitor MTN South Sudan, which has 1.70 million customers. 

Sunday, 28 March 2021

World's Largest Mobile Networks by Data Traffic - March 2021

The analysis firm Tefficient, posted this chart in one of their Tweets. As you can see that China Mobile is the leader, followed by Reliance Jio and then China Unicom, China Telecom, Airtel and Vi (Vodafone Idea). 

As you can see, Bharti Airtel, India and China Telecom are also enjoying huge traffic growth.

Last year, Tefficient had also reported the absolute number up to 1H 2020. Vodafone Group (excluding vi) is the next highest carrier of the data traffic followed by Telkomsel Indonesia, Telenor group, MTS Russia, AIS Thailand, 3 Group Europe, Zain Group, XL Indonesia, Indosat and 3 Indonesia.

Of course not everyone agrees with all the numbers

We will provide updated ranking when it is available. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Good 3G/4G coverage has established a foundation for 5G in Jordan


Jordan is very much focused on high-speed, reliable, and comprehensive telecoms infrastructure to achieve its digital economy goals. The country already has a highly developed mobile sector, led by three major regional players, and has an extensive LTE network infrastructure.

The launch of LTE services quickly led to substantial growth in data revenue for the MNOs, which continue to expand their data offerings as a key focus area moving forward. The industry is also preparing itself for the next wave of developments relating to 5G and IoT/M2M.

The Kingdom of Jordan has three network providers: Zain, Umniah and Orange. 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz on Zain and Umniah and 1800 MHz on Orange, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz on all three operators. 4G/LTE has started on all providers in 2015 on 1800 MHz mainly in Amman, added by 2600 MHz. Many locals own more than only one SIM card.

Zain (a Kuwaiti company) is the market leader in Jordan and the best coverage and speeds in the country. 4G/LTE is has started in 2015 on 1800 Zain Jordan's number of subscribers reached 3.5 million by 31 December 2020  its parent company announced.

Umniah is owned by Bahrain-based Batelco. It's the second provider in the country giving a good coverage.

Umniah has announced that it will shut down its second-generation (2G) network in the near future in order to upgrade and invest in its existing 3G and 4G networks, following the example of a number of international telecommunications companies. This move, which is a first by a telecom in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is directly in line with the company’s strategy to invest innovation in order to enrich and advance the experiences of its customers.

According to Umniah, its 3G and 4G networks are well equipped to provide all its subscribers, those with new smartphones as well as older versions, with the many advantages provided by these technologies, including better quality calls, faster data, smoother transmission between voice and data, better coverage and greater stability of the network in general.

Orange, affiliated to French Télécom, has the smallest network in the Kingdom.

Orange has said their 3G coverage has now reached 98.6% of the population, whilst it 4g footprint stood at 97.4%. The operator did not disclose coverage details for its 4G+ network but claimed that the system was capable of providing download speeds of up to 250Mbps.