Thursday 21 March 2024

5G in Liechtenstein Gains Ground

The Principality of Liechtenstein (Fürstentum Liechtenstein) is one of Europe’s smaller countries nestled between Switzerland and Austria. It’s a German-speaking, 25km-long principality, known for its medieval castles, alpine landscapes and villages linked by a network of trails. It only measures 160 square kilometres. But it’s in a very special position. It's part of the EEA, so EU laws apply, but it's attached to networks of Switzerland too, where they don't.

Liechtenstein has 3 network operators: Telecom Liechtenstein (FL1, formerly Mobilkom Liechtenstein), Swisscom and 7acht (by Salt Mobile SA of Switzerland, formerly Orange CH).

It has an excellent coverage on 2G and 4G. Telecom Liechtenstein TLI) is the market leader in this country, but has no prepaid product so far. 4G/LTE has started with all three operators. Frequency bands 800, 900, 1800, 2100 und 2600 MHz (Bands 1, 3, 7, 8 and 20) were allocated. 3G on 7acht (Salt), Swisscom and Telecom Liechtenstein have been shut down by 31 Dec 2023, so for data service, you will need a 4G/LTE or 5G/NR capable device. For prepaid offers you need to turn to Swiss providers or roam with another EEA SIM card.

The Liechtenstein mobile phone system is attached to Switzerland. This means that customers of all three providers can roam in Switzerland on Swiss networks without additional fees. This applies to data too.

Telecom Liechtenstein (FL1) uses its partner network Salt for free roaming in Switzerland, while 7acht (Salt) and Swisscom are linked to their respective Swiss home networks.

Telecom Liechtenstein received approval to expand its 5G network the Principality of Liechtenstein in January 2023 by acquiring the rights to use frequencies through reallocation. TLI will expand its 4G/LTE network capacity and introduce 5G, the most powerful mobile communications standard currently available, to FL1 customers by mid-2023. The expansion will require FL1 customers to have an FL1 LIFE subscription and a 5G-capable smartphone. After the successful roll-out of the fiber optic core network in Liechtenstein, Telecom Liechtenstein and Nokia have also signed the contract to expand their 5G network.

Swisscom “Liechtenstein” is the largest mobile operator in Switzerland and also in Liechtenstein.
Hence, it is also the largest mobile operator in Liechtenstein. It is a mostly state-owned company (51%) with the best overall performance in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Salt Mobile “Liechtenstein”, just Salt Mobile or 7acht, is the smallest mobile operator in Switzerland. Hence, it is also the smallest mobile operator in Liechtenstein.

Thursday 7 March 2024

Kosovo Getting Ready to Launch 5G Mid-2024

Kosovo is Europe‘s youngest nation after gaining independence from Serbia in 2008. They have benefited from financial and regulatory assistance as part of the EU pre-accession process. The EU remains Kosovo’s main trading partner and its main source of foreign direct investment. The economy is significantly driven by trade with Germany and Switzerland, where most expatriates live and work. Remittances from such workers form an important part of household incomes.

The telecom sector has been liberalised, and legislation has aligned the sector with the EU’s revised regulatory framework. Measures have also been adopted relating to competition and to facilitating the market entry of new players. Nevertheless, poor telecom infrastructure has meant that fixed-line penetration remains low by European standards.

The mobile sector accounts for most telecom lines for voice services, as well as the greater part of telecom revenue. Kosovo has two mobile operators: Vala (Kosovo Telecom) and IPKO.

Kosovo’s state telecom operator Telecom of Kosovo, a business unit of Post and Telecom of Kosovo trading as Vala, is the largest mobile operator in Kosovo. It is also the fastest mobile operator in the country.  

Vala uses the following frequencies: 2G: 900 & 1800 MHz, 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz,4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3). Vala started with 3G coverage on 2100 MHz in Pristina in 2014. Vala’s 3G network covers Pristina and the surrounding area, including Pristina International Airport, Vushtrri, Mitrovicë, Ferizaj and Gjilan, whilst launches are also planned in Prizren, Gjakova and Suva Reka. Vala also has 4G/LTE coverage on 1800 MHz (Band 3), which works in many areas of Kosovo.

IPKO is owned by Telekom Slovenije (Si Mobitel) from Slovenia, hence IPKO's mobile phone number calling prefix was +386 (for Slovenia) before fully migrated to the new Kosovo code +383. Telekom Slovenije has stopped the sale of its 100% stake in Kosovo-based operator IPKO in 2020 and IPKO will remain part of Telekom Slovenije Group.

IPKO has 2G on 900 MHz and 3G coverage on 2100 MHz. Its population coverage on 3G is 90% and on 4G/LTE is 84% in 2017. It claims to have the largest 3G and 4G coverage and WiFi network in the country in 2021.

Regarding the development of 5G: Telecom Kosovo has been awarded a 2×10MHz block in the 800MHz band (811MHz-821MHz/852MHz-862MHz) alongside a 1×100MHz block in the 3.6GHz band (3,510MHz-3,610MHz).

IPKO has picked up spectrum in the 2×10MHz in the 800MHz band, (791MHz-801MHz/832MHz-842MHz) plus a 1×100MHz block of the spectrum at 3,410MHz-3,510MHz. Both licenses are valid for 20 years and are technology-neutral.

According to the regulator, an additional 90MHz block of 5G spectrum in the 3,710MHz-3,800MHz range has been awarded to the Next Generation Networks Institute, with the goal of supporting the deployment of local private 5G networks.

IPKO revealed it completed 5G testing in July 2023, where it was able to achieve speeds of more than 1.2Gbps. However, the operator didn't disclose the vendor it worked with.

Telekom Kosovo signed a deal with Ericsson Nikola Tesla, a Croatian subsidiary of Ericsson, to modernize the operator's mobile network, including 5G broadband, noted Broadband TV News in December of last year. As per the latest news, Vala will start delivering 5G services from mid-2024.

Friday 16 February 2024

Samoa is Content with 4G/LTE, no Plans for 5G

Samoa, officially the Independent State of Samoa and until 1997 known as Western Samoa, is a Polynesian island country consisting of two main islands (Savai'i and Upolu); two smaller, inhabited islands (Manono and Apolima); and several smaller, uninhabited islands, including the Aleipata Islands (Nu'utele, Nu'ulua, Fanuatapu and Namua).

Samoa was one of the first Pacific Island countries to establish a regulatory infrastructure and to liberalise its telecom market. In 2006, it became the first country in the region to see the market entrance of Digicel, which has since launched services in other Pacific nations. The advent of competition in the mobile market saw prices fall by around 50% and network coverage increase to more than 90% of the population. Samoa also boasts one of the highest rates of mobile phone coverage in the Pacific region.

LTE is developing on the back of an initial launch of the technology in 2016 by Digicel Samoa, followed by BlueSky Samoa (now Vodafone Samoa) in 2017. Digicel Samoa completed its LTE network in September 2020. 

Digicel Samoa’s financially troubled parent company, Digicel Pacific, had been on the lookout for a potential buyer for several months as it struggled financially. After various Chinese firms registered interest in taking a stake, the Australian government sought to block further Chinese investment in the region by providing financial support for a local buyer. In October 2021, Telstra agreed to acquire Digicel Group’s Pacific operations for around $1.6 billion, with a financial input from the Australian government of around $1.33 billion.

Both operators have 2G/GSM on 900 MHz and 3G/UMTS/HSPA+ on 900 MHz/2100 MHz. 3G/HSPA+ was marketed as a "4G" network, but real 4G/LTE started in 2016 on Digicel using 1800 MHz (B3) band. 

Vodafone Samoa is Samoa’s leading mobile operator and their existing mobile network covers 98.5% of where Samoans live, work and play.

Digicel Samoa as well as Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu markets have all emerged as the winner of the Speedtest Award™ for mobile network speed in the respective countries for the first and second quarters of 2023.

The Speedtest Award™ is a highly esteemed acknowledgement in the telecommunications industry, benchmarking and celebrating the providers who excel in delivering the fastest data speeds and reliable network performance.

Ookla® is a global leader in mobile and broadband network intelligence, testing applications, and technologies. It utilises user-initiated tests completed on Speedtest® to substantiate the award.

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Thursday 8 February 2024

6 Mobile Operators in the Global 100 Ranking of the World’s Most Sustainable Companies

The Global 100 is an annual assessment by Corporate Knights Inc. The 100 most responsible companies in the world were selected based on an assessment of 6,733 international listed companies against 25 metrics for environmental responsibility, social responsibility and good governance.

Their official press release says: 

Since 2005, the Global 100 has been one of the world’s most valued and transparent rules-based sustainability ratings that emphasizes the impact of a company’s core products and services. It is the best-performing global sustainability index (ticker: CKG100), with more than 10 years of history. All publicly traded companies with more than US$1 billion in revenue are assessed across 25 key performance indicators that cover resource management, employee management, financial management, sustainable revenue and sustainable investment, and supplier performance. Companies engaging in “red flag” activities such as blocking climate policy and contributing to deforestation are disqualified.

Telecom TV's morning headlines newsletter produced a nice summary reproduced below:

Seven telecom operators have ended up in the Global 100 ranking of the world’s most sustainable companies, compiled by Canadian sustainable economy magazine Corporate Knights. Bell Canada scored the highest among its telco peers, ranking 51st globally (down from 42nd in 2023). Next of the telecom providers is Finnish operator Elisa (59th), Singaporean telco Singtel (62nd), North American hybrid fibre coaxial cable operator Cogeco Communications (73rd), Brazilian telco Telefônica Brasil (75th), Singaporean operator StarHub (80th, down from 34th last year) and Canadian telco Telus (85th, down from position 37st last year). On the vendor side, Ericsson is recognised as one of the most sustainable companies worldwide, climbing from position 65 in 2023 to 15 this year. Cisco is also present, ranking 64th. Tech giant Apple has climbed a mere two spots to 71st place globally. Corporate Knights explained that the rankings included all public companies with more than US$1bn in revenue, with assessments made across 25 key indicators, including percentage of “sustainable revenue” and “sustainable investment” into green solutions, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, taxes paid, carbon productivity, and racial and gender diversity.

It's great to see MNOs taking initiatives for a sustainable future.

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Thursday 18 January 2024

Türkiye is Still Waiting for 5G but 4.5G (LTE-Advanced) is Working Great

Couple of years back, Turkey officially changed its name to Türkiye and as such we will refer to them by their new name. 

Türkiye continues to develop its capabilities within its telecom sector, becoming one of the relatively few countries able to build and develop its own communications satellites. With the successful launch of the Turksat 5A and 5B satellites in 2021, the country has vastly increased its bandwidth capacity. These satellites will be joined by the Turksat 6A in early 2023.

In addition to these technological breakthroughs, the country’s operators have invested in fibre infrastructure, with Vodafone Türkiye having trialled a 1Tb/s service in late 2021 to support its 5G network backhaul and improve the quality of its fixed infrastructure.

Deployment of fibre-based broadband networks are well established, with fibre accounting for 26.7% of all fixed broadband connections as of early 2022. The DSL sector still dominates, accounting for about 63% of connections, but its share is steadily declining, year-on-year, while the number of fibre connections has grown strongly.

Improved fixed and mobile infrastructure is underpinning the country’s initiatives relating to Smart City concepts, which have become a key area of focus for the emerging digital economy and the transformation to a knowledge-based economy. Türkiye's National Smart Cities Strategy and Action Plan runs through to 2023.

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

In 2015 the Turkish 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.

The Turkish Government sought to be an early adopter of 5G, but plans have stalled and 5G spectrum has not even been auctioned at the time of writing this blog. European Commission's Türkiye 2023 Report notes that there was no progress reported in the procurement of 5G. Türkiye still needs to allocate additional frequencies for the development and predictability of the sector. In 2022, 94.1% of households had access to the internet, increasing from 92% the previous year.

In Opensignal's latest Türkiye Mobile Network Experience report, Turkcell wins five awards outright out of eight recognitions available, it retains both speed awards and Video Experience, while it also claims two newly introduced awards Live Video Experience and Coverage Experience. Türk Telekom turns two joint wins for Games Experience and Availability into outright victories, as Turkcell slips off the podium for both of these metrics. On top of these two wins, Türk Telekom is the sole recipient of Consistent Quality. For the third time in a row, Vodafone wins no awards, either outright or jointly.

Turkcell is the biggest operator in the country with the best coverage nationwide. 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.  

According to Statista, as of the second quarter of 2022, Turkcell’s mobile business had a market share of 41.3%, ahead of Vodafone at 30.4 %, and Turk Telecom at 28.3%. According to the company’s own figures, it had 42 million subscribers across fixed and mobile in Q2 2023; the mobile subscriber base reached 37.6 million in the same quarter.

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.  

Türk Telekom serves more than 15 million broadband and 25.6 million mobile subscribers. As the company plays a critical role in leading Turkey's digital transformation, they sought to modernize their infrastructure supporting business-critical systems, including core billing and charging applications and databases.

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.

The number of Vodafone Turkiye's mobile subscribers reached 25.4 million, by November 2023, the total number of mobile subscribers including M2M (Machine Inter-Machine Communication) reached 29.3 million . The company increased the number of postpaid subscribers to 19.1 million. While having 1.4 million fixed broadband subscribers.

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Tuesday 26 December 2023

Top 5 Posts for 2023

Here are the top 5 most viewed posts from 2023. These posts were not necessarily posted this year, so I have added the month and year it was posted.

If you had a favourite post, let us know in the comments below.

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Monday 11 December 2023

AT&T's Plans on Open RAN and 6G

AT&T was in news recently for their announcement about acceleration of Open and Interoperable Radio Access Networks (RAN) in the United States. According to their press release

This industry-leading move, in collaboration with Ericsson, will further the telecommunications industry efforts and help build a more robust ecosystem of network infrastructure providers and suppliers. AT&T’s spend could approach roughly $14 billion over the 5-year term of the contract with Ericsson. 

AT&T’s Open RAN plan is for 70% of its wireless network traffic to flow across open-capable platforms by late 2026. The company expects to have fully integrated open RAN sites operating in coordination with Ericsson and Fujitsu, starting in 2024. This move away from closed proprietary interfaces will enable rapid scaling and management of mixed supplier hardware at each cell site.  Beginning in 2025, the company will scale this Open RAN environment throughout its wireless network in coordination with multiple suppliers such as Corning Incorporated, Dell Technologies, Ericsson, Fujitsu, and Intel.

At the Brooklyn 6G Summit (B6GS), Chris Sambar, who leads AT&T’s Network organization and teams responsible for designing, engineering, building, and operating AT&T’s next generation mobile and fiber networks, gave a keynote on "Network: The Innovation Platform". The narrative of the talk says: 

Today’s 5G build is the foundation of 6G. Flexible and open architecture being developed and fine-tuned with 5G will be central to 6G, and maintaining a customer-centric, forward-looking mindset will be critical as we scale and deploy technologies such as Stand Alone core, edge computing, AI, and NTN integration. Implementing the lessons learned in the 5G era and ensuring we have end-to-end alignment across the 6 pillars of our architecture will be vital to making 6G a success.

RCR Wireless provides a concise summary of the talk here:

AT&T has spent $40 billion on spectrum in the last few years; Verizon has spent more than $50 billion; and T-Mobile US had to acquire another major operator to get its spectrum holdings. With 5G not even at its midway point and the industry already trying to figure out what they might have to spend on 6G, “it can’t be a bottomless-pit industry,” he said.

That said, Sambar did also discuss the promise of 6G for extended and virtual-reality immersive experience for training public safety and military members, and the potential of better network-focused AI and ML to save network operators “hundreds of millions or billions of dollars” if things like self-optimization of networks can be done better and faster. That in itself represents a major challenge. Sambar says that he has thousands of employees in network operations, between AT&T’s wireline and wireless networks and “hundreds” of algorithms that do very simple if-then work and essentially send tickets to humans when a scenario comes up that fits its if-then criteria. If one of those algorithms breaks, he said, “we have to go figure out where it is, what server it’s sitting on, what’s wrong with it and how do we fix it. I would love a machine to manage that for me”—or even better, to stitch the capabilities of multiple algorithms together for more efficient and effective AI/ML applicability to network operations.

The video of the talk is embedded below, thanks to IEEE TV:

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