Friday 1 December 2023

5G Development Strategy & Plan of Turk Telekom

Founded in 2011, Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI) has been dedicated to constructing a robust ecosystem of TD-LTE, speeding up the commercialization of TD-LTE and promoting the convergence of LTE TDD and FDD. Today, GTI has become an influential cooperation platform with global presence with operators and key vendors, and has completed the GTI 1.0 mission by building an end-to-end TD-LTE ecosystem and achieving global commercialization of TD-LTE and converged LTE TDD/FDD.

As the newest member of GTI, Ahmet Fethi Ayhan, Network Director at Turk Telekom, had the opportunity to share Türk Telekom's 5G roadmap and network transformation with the world's leading industry representatives at the 38th workshop held in Istanbul.

His talk is embedded below:

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Monday 27 November 2023

Grenada is Slowly Progressing Towards High Speed 4G

Grenada is an island country consisting of Grenada itself and six smaller islands in the southeastern Caribbean. It's located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela, and southwest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. About 126,000 inhabitants live on 348.5 km2 area.

Like on many Caribbean Islands there are these two usual providers: Digicel Grenada and Flow (by Cable & Wireless). Flow is the incumbent provider and Digicel came to the Caribbean 2001-6 to end this monopoly and has since become market leader in Grenada by aggressive marketing.

2G is on European bands while 3G is on US bands. Both operators have 2G/GSM on 900 and 1800 MHz. For 3G Flow uses 850 MHz (CLR band 5) while Digicel employs 1900 MHz (PCS band 2). 

Digicel Grenada, launched commercial 700MHz LTE network services in December 2018.

Flow addressed widespread criticism over the quality of its fixed broadband services by announcing it has spent XCD15 million (USD5.6 million) to provide faster web browsing for its subscriber base. As a result, they have been able to increase speeds from 15Mbps to 50Mbps, putting the country ‘on par’ with many developing nations.

Recently Grenadians have become more and more dissatisfied with the services provided by FLOW and Digicel. Many customers have reported losing money due to various reasons, including sudden deactivation of their numbers despite having substantial account balances. This issue raises significant concerns regarding transparency and accountability within these companies. Additionally, the quality of telephone and internet services provided by both FLOW and Digicel has been deemed unacceptable by many customers, particularly in rural areas where Flow Landline and broadband services have experienced prolonged outages.

In light of these failings, it is imperative that the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in Grenada takes proactive measures to ensure that these companies meet accepted standards. If the NTRC fails to fulfill its responsibilities, it may be necessary for the government to intervene by considering potential changes in board membership.

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Jio 5G - Enabling India to go Digital

Jio, the incumbent Indian MNO, was in news recently for having rolled out 1 million 5G cells across India. An RCR Wireless article nicely summarised their announcement from the earning statement as follows:

Reliance Jio Infocomm has already deployed over 1 million 5G cells across India, the telco said in its earning statement.

Jio’s 5G network is currently providing coverage in nearly 8,000 towns and cities across India.

Jio also highlighted that it has contributed to 85% of the overall 5G capacity in the country. This has been powered by a 100% in-house 5G stack, designed, developed and manufactured in India, the telco added.

Reliance Jio Infocomm has been rapidly expanding its 5G network using Standalone (SA) architecture since October 2022. Reliance Jio had previously secured a mix of wireless spectrum for 5G across the 700 MHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands. Jio is the only Indian operator with the 700 MHz low-band spectrum.

Earlier this month, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited demonstrated what it claims to be India’s first satellite-based giga-fiber service, dubbed JioSpaceFiber, at India Mobile Congress 2023.

The telco said the new offering aims to provide high-speed broadband services to hard-to-reach geographies across the country.

At the recent Brooklyn 6G Summit, Shyam Mardikar gave a keynote on how Jio 5G is enabling India to go Digital. His bio states: "Shyam Prabhakar Mardikar is responsible for Reliance Jio’s mobile network and leads the network strategy, design, and transformation towards making Jio’s mobile network fully converged, programable and future ready. Over past one year, he has successfully led world’s fastest 5G network creation with nearly 1 Mn 5G cells live.

His talk is embedded below:

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Friday 20 October 2023

Rwanda got 4G, Satellite Connectivity and Possibly Stratospheric 5G

Rwanda, officially the Republic of Rwanda, is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, where the African Great Lakes region and Southeast Africa converge. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rwanda was slow to liberalise the mobile sector, allowing MTN a monopoly until 2006 when the fixed-line incumbent, Rwandatel (since acquired by Liquid Intelligence Technologies) became the second mobile operator. There was effective competition among three operators after Tigo launched services in 2009. However, the acquisition of Tigo by Airtel saw a significant consolidation in the market, and the cancellation of Rwandatel’s licence in 2011 resulted in the market becoming a duopoly between the dominant operator MTN and Airtel. However there is a third operator now: kt Rwanda (KTRN for Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks), which is on 4G/LTE only.

The fixed broadband sector has suffered from limited fixed-line infrastructure and high prices. Nevertheless, operators are rolling out national backbone networks which also allow them to connect to the international submarine cables on Africa’s east coast. These cables gave the entire region greater internet bandwidth and ended the dependency on satellites. Liquid Technologies has continued to expand its FttP services across Kigali and a number of other towns, while the country also has a new cable link with Tanzania, and via Tanzania’s national broadband backbone it has gained connectivity to the networks of several other countries in the region.

The number of subscribers on LTE infrastructure has increased sharply, helped by national LTE coverage achieved in mid-2018. Mobile remains the dominant platform for voice and data services. The regulator noted that the number of mobile subscribers increased 2.7% in 2021, year-on-year. However, there was a slight fall in the beginning of 2022, though this decline was entirely from Airtel.

MTN based in South Africa is the leading operator in the country with the best coverage. They claim to have a 95% coverage in the country. But this refers to 2G only. 3G is only available in the centers. It used to have a market share of 100% back in 1998, but now faces stiff competition from 2 new players in the market.

Both Airtel and MTN have launched their own 4G LTE networks, having had their operating licences amended to enable them to roll out 4G technology. The two firms were previously only able to offer LTE-based services using the infrastructure of wholesale provider KT Rwanda Networks (KTRN), but the government announced earlier this year that KTRN would lose its exclusivity in the 4G market.

MTN claims to have so far upgraded 80% of its network sites to support 4G technology, while Airtel has not given an update on its coverage. Both firms say they are offering 4G at the same price as their 3G tariffs.

Tigo changed the game when it entered the market in Rwanda in 2008. Their coverage is was as good as MTN's, but they offered quite lower rates.

Airtel bought Tigo in 2017 and Tigo was merged with Airtel. In the intermediate time it was called Airtel-Tigo. In 2020 Airtel-Tigo has rebranded as Airtel Rwanda. The firm has also been issued with a new twelve-year unified operating licence under its new moniker. Airtel claims around 46% of Rwanda’s mobile subscriber total, with the remainder accounted for by market leader MTN.

Airtel launched its own 4G network in July of this year.

In 2013 the Government of Rwanda and KT entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with a Korean group to install a high-speed broadband network and expand the nation's online services capacity. KT Rwanda Networks was established to deliver universal broadband access based on 4G/LTE technology upon Rwanda’s national Fiber optic infrastructure and to manage the fixed-mobile converged infrastructure as the wholesale provider of high-speed mobile broadband, covering 95% of the population within 4 years. 

Airtel and MTN both offered services via KTRN’s 4G wholesale infrastructure, in which Korea Telecom is thought to have invested $140 million. However this monopoly has now ended as both have launched their own networks. 

Back in February, Starlink, the satellite broadband service from SpaceX, was issued a licence to enable it to operate in Rwanda, following on from its recent commercial launch in Nigeria which marked its entry to the African market. A report from New Times said that 500 Rwandan schools were set to receive connectivity from Starlink under a pilot scheme by the end of the month, with full commercial availability before the end of March. The Rwandan government is aiming to connect a further 3,000 schools to the internet by end-2024.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change non-profit organization has announced that it worked with the Republic of Rwanda government to provide SpaceX Starlink internet to 50 schools situated in rural communities.

A survey from Ookla, for the second quarter of 2023, said that the Starlink satellite service was faster than all fixed broadband providers in Nigeria and Rwanda. In Rwanda, median download speeds were a little closer with Starlink recording a median download speed at 63.10 Mbps in Q2 2023 compared to the aggregate of all fixed broadband providers combined at 34.55 Mbps.

This week, the Government of Rwanda and SoftBank Corp. announced that on September 24, 2023, they successfully tested SoftBank's proprietary 5G communications payload in the stratosphere installed on a solar-powered High Altitude Platform Station (HAPS) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) prototype.

The demonstration, conducted for HAPS research purposes in Rwandan airspace by SoftBank and the Government of Rwanda, marked the world's first publicly announced delivery of 5G connectivity from a HAPS UAV in the stratosphere*1. The successful 5G connectivity demonstration follows a stratospheric flight test conducted in Rwanda in June 2023, during which the HAPS UAV prototype carried a mockup of the payload with a similar weight and dimensions.

SoftBank's stratosphere-ready communications payload continuously delivered 5G connectivity for approximately 73 minutes in the stratosphere at a maximum altitude of 16.9km and performed as expected in demanding atmospheric conditions.

During the test, the stratosphere-ready 5G communications payload enabled a 5G-based Zoom video call between a smartphone at the test site in Rwanda and SoftBank team members in Japan. Since the radio waves transmitted and received from the 5G communications payload installed on the HAPS UAV prototype in the stratosphere operated on the same frequencies as existing smartphones and devices, a regular 5G smartphone was used in the test.

Friday 29 September 2023

No Plans for 5G in Barbados with Plenty of Scope for LTE Improvement

Barbados is a sovereign island country in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean. It's covering an area of 432 km2 and is situated about 168 km east of the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Almost 300,000 people live on the island.

Like on many Caribbean islands there are these two usual providers: Digicel Barbados and Flow (by Cable & Wireless)

Flow is the incumbent provider and Digicel came to the Caribbean 2001-6 to end this monopoly. A third provider called Sunbeach on CDMA was closed in 2013. Digicel has become market leader and commercially launched its 4G/LTE mobile network in the capital Bridgetown in 2016, Flow in 2017.

Flow is on US frequencies of 1900 MHz for 2G and 850 MHz and 1900 MHz for 3G, while Digicel uses European bands of 900 MHz and 1800 MHz for 2G and 2100 MHz for 3G. Digicel's 4G/LTE has started on 700 MHz and 1900 MHz (bands 17 and 2) while FLOW's 4G/LTE is on bands 1900 MHz and 850 MHz (bands 2 and 5).

Digicel started in 2004 to challenge the monopoly of Lime (now known as Flow). They have been very successful in Barbados and had a 57% market share in 2015. In 2016 they were the first operator to launch 4G/LTE in Bridgetown and have extensive coverage over the island. 

Flow (previously called Lime), is operated by Cable & Wireless. In recent years they have fallen back against Digicel, but lowered rates in 2017. They offer a good 2G and 3G coverage, and launched 4G/LTE in 2017.

Barbados has issued a third telecoms licence, as it seeks to break up the long-standing Digicel-Flow duopoly. Clifford Bostic, Director of Digital Infrastructure at the Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology (MIST), told Barbados Today:

‘We have a third service provider in Barbados that has been licensed, and that is KW Telecommunications Ltd, and they are also preparing for number portability, as well as preparing to launch their services in Barbados.’

While little is known about KW Telecommunications, or its backers, the newcomer appears set to fill the void left when the previous third operator, debt-wracked Ozone Wireless shut down in August 2019, barely two years after its launch.

Monday 18 September 2023

Lack of 4G Coverage, Low Data Rates and High-Costs is Impacting Equatorial Guinea Web Experience

Equatorial Guinea is located on the West coast of Africa with about 1.7 million inhabitants. It is a different country to Guinea (aka Guinea-Conakry) or Guinea-Bissau.

Two GSM-based networks are operating in Equatorial Guinea :Getesa (formerly: Orange, Getesa-Orange) and Muni.

There is also a CDMA-based provider that is not compatible with usual GSM-devices called Gecomsa.

Mobile phone adaption was rather slow in this country, but they now have more than 800,000 mobile connections. 2G and 3G are available on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. 

Equatorial Guinea is next to the ocean, which means it is connected to several submarine cables. This is essential to know because most landlocked African countries have slow speeds and bad connections because the country has to rely on neighbouring countries for fibre bandwidth.

The issue is that there is massive inequality in terms of internet access in Equatorial Guinea. Although internet services are widespread throughout the country, the quality of service is lacking due to the lack of proper broadband infrastructure. A country can have access to multiple submarine cables. However, if the domestic internet infrastructure is lacking, then the locals cannot take advantage of the connection.

According to a study done by, the mean download speed in Equatorial Guinea is less than 1 Mbps. In other words, it would take more than 22 hours to download a 5 GB file. This study focused on broadband speeds. Mobile speeds are often slower than broadband speeds, so one should not expect fast speeds in Equatorial Guinea.

The Getesa network was called Orange until 2018. The French operator left the country in a long legal dispute 2014-18.

Equatorial Guinea’s government lost a Paris Court of Appeal case against a fine imposed in 2014 by the International Court of Arbitration for reneging on a 2011 agreement to buy Orange’s Getesa 40% stake in the event of a new entrant launching (a clause it failed to honour after the 2012 launch of majority state-owned cellco Gecomsa). In October 2016 the government finally agreed to pay a total amount of EUR 150 million including interest to Orange.

Orange was soon rebranded first to Getesa-Orange and in 2018 to Getesa, that is now fully state-owned. It's still considered the best operator in the country.

Getesa switched on its 4G LTE smartphone network in January 2021. The operator encouraged users to ‘Use your 4G to stay connected with your family, friends, clients and with the whole world’, following its initial post announcing 4G’s availability on 24 December 2020, which stated: ‘4G arrives at Getesa’ alongside a picture of a smartphone user. 4G coverage or other details were not provided.

 TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Getesa had previously claimed that it would be able to launch 4G in main cities by end-2019 supported by fibre backhaul/backbone availability, having held a demo of LTE technology in May that year, but a launch took a further year to materialise, whilst in the meantime Getesa repeatedly claimed in its marketing that its 3G network offered faster data speeds than some 4G operators.

Muni is the only private competitor to the state-owned networks. It's no.2 behind Getesa with a lower coverage/speed. Muni launched 4G LTE services in Equatorial Guinea in June 2019, although initially aimed at home internet modem users rather than mobile phone subscribers.

Gecomsa is another state-owned provider however its CDMA-only which is not compatible with usual GSM devices and hence not suitable for travellers. It started in 2012 as joint venture between the Guinea government and the state-owned ZTE manufacturer from China. Gecomsa also introduced LTE technology in December 2020 but strictly for fixed residential/office broadband services (initially covering Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo and adjacent districts.

The Equatorial Guinea government and operators signed an agreement to slash telecom tariff prices by 50% on May 1 2022, as the government looks to permanently reduce sky-high prices in the country. 

Equatorial Guinea is widely known for having the highest prices for connectivity globally. The 2021 study from also found that 1GB of data in Equatorial Guinea cost around US$46.97.

The nation’s vice president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue stressed the discount is temporary and will continue as a permanent structure to pricing is agreed upon, reported Ecofin Agency. 

Operators that do not comply with the slashing of prices will lose their telecom licenses, warned Mangue.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Belize Mobile Operators Have Many Challenges and No Plans for 5G

One of the smaller countries in Central America, Belize in many respects has closer ties to English speaking countries of the Caribbean than with its immediate neighbours. Prior to independence, Belize had been a British colony since 1862, only changing its name to Belize from British Honduras in 1973.

In Belize, the telecommunications market is predominantly served by two major mobile operators: Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) is a government-owned telecommunications company that provides mobile, landline, and internet services and operates as Digi (formerly DigiCell). It has a significant market share and has invested in expanding its infrastructure and services. The second operator is SpeedNet Communications operating under the brand "Smart," is the primary competitor to BTL. It offers mobile and internet services, providing consumers with choices in the market.

GSM users don't have much choice as the only GSM-based operator in the country used to be Digi (DigiCell). 2G/EDGE is on 1900 MHz and 3G/HSPA which is still marketed as "4G" is on 850 MHz. Real 4G/LTE started in 2016 on Digi and Smart! on the 700 (B13) and 1900 (B2) MHz bands. Smart! has become an alternative soon as it's moved from CDMA to 3G on 850 MHz.

Belize’s fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration remain lower than average for the region, a legacy of insufficient market competition and underinvestment in telecoms services, exacerbated by lax managerial standards within the incumbent operator Digi. 

However, Digi has recently adopted a reforming strategy, partly expressed by its rebranding in August 2018 as it aims to transform itself at all levels into an effectively competitive operator more commercially minded and focussed on cheaper pricing and customer retention. The company has undertaken significant investment in infrastructure, launching an LTE-A service at the end of 2016 and in mid-2017 completing a submarine cable to Ambergris Caye, enabling it to launch an FttP service in San Pedro. Loans secured since 2017 enabled the company to migrate its infrastructure from legacy copper to fibre. BTL invested BZ$93 million dollars to provide high speed broadband to 80% of residences across Belize.

Digi has provided fresh details regarding its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rollout in its published 2021-22 Annual Report

The FTTH infrastructure now passes 90% of Belizean homes, after being extended to an additional 1,200 homes in Corozal Free Zone, Central Farm, Consejo Shores, Spanish Lookout, San Pedro South and Caye Caulker North. In terms of mobile upgrades, new 4G cell sites were deployed on Coco Plum Island and Manta Island in Southern Belize and the telco now operates ‘over 150 mobile sites’.

As of 31 March 2022 BTL claimed 204,000 mobile subscriptions (up from 194,000 year-on-year), 31,000 fixed broadband subscriptions (unchanged y-o-y) and 13,500 fixed voice lines (down from 15,700).

Smart launched the first LTE network in Belize in December 2015 over the B13 (700 MHz) band. Recognising the eventual deprecation of CDMA based networks and after years of delays, the company launched its 3G UMTS network in June 2017 over the B5 (850 MHz) band. 4G/LTE is on Band 13 / 700 MHz.

Smart now claims to operate the largest, fastest network in Belize, providing mobile, home and Internet service to over 100,000 customers.

The operators in Belize face several challenges for example: limited infrastructure, Belize's geography, with dense forests and low population density, poses challenges for building and maintaining a robust telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural areas. Also the cost of service, Belizean consumers often grapple with high mobile service costs, including data charges. Balancing affordability with quality service remains a challenge for mobile operators.

A modern 5G network does not yet exist in Belize. The penetration rate of 4G, i.e., mobile communications with at least LTE speed, was recently 70 percent. In other words, 121,581.60 people in the country had to make do with a maximum Internet speed of the outdated UMTS standard (or even less).

A great deal more investment, collaboration, and a focus on meeting the evolving needs of consumers, However, with investment, collaboration, and a focus on meeting the evolving needs of consumers by Belize's mobile operators is needed to further improve and develop the mobile landscape.