Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Malta gets a Taste of 5G!

Malta’s small telecom sector is among the most advanced in Europe. This has been helped by the topography, which has made it relatively easy for operators to expand the reach of their fibre infrastructure. With high mobile and broadband penetration rates, the government and regulator have effective strategies in place to capitalise on these infrastructure developments to ensure that the population has among the fastest data rates in Europe, and so is well positioned to take advantage of emerging e-commerce opportunities.

The sector has also been stimulated by regulatory measures designed to reduce consumer prices. Melita having been sold to EQT in late 2019 and Vodafone Malta having been sold to Monaco Telecom, and rebranded as Epic. The incumbent telco GO is investing in a subsea cable to connect the islands to France and Egypt. Expected to be ready for service in 2022, the cable will further enhance Malta’s internet bandwidth and lead to reduced prices for end-users.

As mentioned Malta and Gozo have three network operators: epic (former Vodafone), GO and Melita.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on Vodafone's and Go's 1800 (B3) and 2600 (B7) MHz frequencies and 800 (B20) MHz was added later and Melita started with LTE too in 2018.

epic is in the lead with 44% market share in 2015, followed by GO with 39% and Melita with 15% only. Redtouch Fone was the first MVNO in Malta. They stopped providing services in 2018 and moved all customers to Melita.

In 2017 Vodafone and Melita agreed to a merger, but they were not able to satisfy the competition authorities as this new company would control about 62% of Malta's mobile market. That's why the merger was called off later.

epic is market leader with the best coverage on Malta and Gozo.

It started 4G/LTE in 2013 on 1800 and 2600 MHz and covered already 99% of population at the end of 2015 opened on most prepaid products.

Epic begun the rollout of a new fibre-optic network which will offer download speeds of up to 2Gbps. Until now, the firm has been utilising fibre infrastructure of rival operator GO under a wholesale agreement signed in 2018, but it is now deploying its own networks, beginning in the city of Mosta. Epic had just 1,162 fibre broadband subscribers at the end of 2020 according to figures from the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), as well as 8,245 fixed-wireless customers and almost 240,000 cellular subscribers.

Epic have selected Ericsson as their exclusive 5G radio access network (RAN) provider, bringing the wide-reaching benefits of 5G to Malta. As part of the new partnership, Epic will use Ericsson’s technology leadership to fully modernize their existing network.

RAN products and solutions from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio, including Ericsson Spectrum Sharing and Ericsson Antenna System will be deployed in Epic’s network as part of a smooth, fast, and cost-effective shift to 5G that will accelerate the digital transformation of Maltese society.

Ericsson RAN portfolio also includes Massive MIMO technology, which enables communication service providers to capitalize on mid-band 5G spectrum. And with a unique approach to energy optimization, Ericsson's radios and basebands will also improve the carbon footprint of Epic’s current network, contributing to significant energy savings.

GO Mobile is the big rival of Vodafone on the island giving good coverage and speeds too. 4G/LTE started in 2015 and covers most of the islands. At the moment it's expanding its fibre-optic 4G network.

GO has recently revamped its full mobile portfolio, allowing its customers to do so much more with their mobile bundle while on the move, thanks to unlimited data plans, at full speeds.

“Our unlimited data plans will allow our customers to really enjoy the best of Malta’s best rated network, with total peace of mind. They can connect to who and what matters to them, whether it’s accessing social networks, talking to family and friends overseas, entertaining their children, listening to their favourite tunes or watching their favourite TV programme with absolute peace of mind,” GO’s senior marketing manager, Alison Mercieca, said.

With more businesses shifting their operations online and more people working remotely, GO also enhanced its mobile plans for the business community so that everyone can really get to enjoy the benefits of these new plans.

Melita is Malta's smallest provider, but it controls half of the broadband market. Its 3G is on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE has started in May 2018 in Valletta.

The 4G network is continually rolled out across the country. In 2018 it already covered 85% to reach nationwide coverage by the end of the year. Prepaid customers have access to 4G/LTE since September 2018.

Melita has launched what it says is a ‘nationwide’ 5G service, beating rivals Epic and GO to the country’s first commercial 5G offering. Melita claims that download speeds of up to 1Gbps will be available on its Ericsson-built network, although real-world speeds will be somewhat lower. Any customer with a 5G device can access the service, Melita CEO Harald Roesch told Times of Malta. He added: ‘Malta is one of the very few countries in the world with 5G nationwide coverage, and is now unparalleled in the EU. This investment benefits our economy in general.’ Melita is using existing spectrum for its 5G service ahead of an auction of 5G-capable licences in the 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands later this year.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Telstra Conducts 50 Tests on 5G mmWave and Small Cells to Measure EME

The Aussie MNO Telstra has been very active since dispelling the myths since the early days of 5G. They have a detailed page looking at mobile phones and health related issues as well as a YouTube playlist answering many of the questions.

This week they announced that they have now conducted more than 50 tests on 5G mmWave and small cells to measure the electromagnetic energy (or EME) levels in many different real-world settings. In some of the most extensive testing undertaken on 5G technology in Australia, they’ve found levels of mmWave electromagnetic energy to be similar to existing technologies like 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.

Their article written by Mike Wood, Principal, EME Strategy, Governance and Risk Management at Telstra says:

I’ve been testing EME levels for decades, and this is some of the most extensive testing I’ve taken part in – we’ve really put mmWave and small cells through their paces. This round of testing was different, though, in that we also sought help from the graduates and young engineers in our business who really embrace the latest tech.

No matter how much we upped the ante – and we really threw everything we had at our testing to max out the small cells – we found that our 5G technology produces electromagnetic energy levels not just slightly below, but actually around 1000 times below the safety limits in most cases.

Importantly, we did our testing on Telstra’s live network. This wasn’t just a bunch of boffins testing EME in the lab – our 50 tests of 5G were real-world tests, in places like apartments, pubs, cafes, transport hubs, homes and businesses – and even a dentist’s office. We also used devices that are commercially available. This is where our grads and young engineers really put their mark on this project, seeking out the best real-world situations to put 5G to the test and gather valuable real-world data.

In a local café, one of my favourite places to work, our Telstra graduates arranged a coffee and 5G mmWave test where their challenge was to max out the hardware we had available – to all connect to the mmWave hotspots and run video streaming, jump on social media and their everyday online work from the café, really putting the 5G to the test with real-word scenarios while we measured the EME.

As we expected, the EME measured was very low whilst the grads enjoyed a seamless connection, learned how the testing was conducted, and helped us evaluate more real-world settings.

Encouraging our young engineers and providing these learning opportunities really helps us to ensure the Telstra networks are world class, all while we’re helping to develop Australia’s best technical talent. These are Australia’s future technology leaders!

You can read the complete article here. There is also an accompanying presentation showing pictures and providing a lot more detailed insights available here.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2021

MTN is hoping their 5G will trump Orange's 4.75G in Cameroon


Cameroon for many years was one of the few countries in Africa with only two competing mobile operators. After some delays, Viettel Cameroon launched a third network and has since grown its subscriber base rapidly. Camtel became the fourth mobile operator in early 2020 after securing three licences. The investment programs among operators over the next few years will considerably boost mobile broadband services in rural areas of the country, many of which are underserved by fixed-line infrastructure.

The ICT sector in Cameroon is making steady progress, enabling the country to make better use of the digital economy. About 95% of all electronic transactions are carried through the m-money services operated by MTN Cameroon and Orange Cameroon. The government has also been supportive, having launched its ‘Cameroon Digital 2020’ program, aimed at improving connectivity nationally. A large number of small ICT projects form part of the overall program. Improved submarine and terrestrial cable connectivity has substantially increased international bandwidth, in turn leading to reductions in access prices for consumers.

The four present operators are MTN Cameroon, Orange Cameroon (previously Airtel), Nexttel (by Viettel) and Camtel (Cameroon Telecommunications - CDMA and LTE)

Nexttel (majority-owned by Viettel)was launched as a 3rd network in 2014, including the country’s first 3G mobile service. The operator has grown swiftly, signing up 2 million subscribers and gaining market share. Competition in 3G followed in early 2015 when both MTN and Orange launched services. Mobile broadband based on 4G/LTE was established at the end of 2015 and this has been the catalyst for a fast-developing mobile broadband sector. The investment programs among operators over the next few years will boost mobile broadband services in rural areas of the country. At the tail end of this ranking is the historical operator, Camtel, sole landline phone operator of the country, which has shrunk to 1.4% of the phone market, but launched a new 4G/LTE network.

MTN Cameroon is the country's biggest operator with a 37 per cent market share at the end of June 2021 (says Omdia research). Orange Cameroon has 35.5 per cent and Nexttel 25.5 per cent. Camtel Cameroon has less than two per cent of the nation’s subscribers. 

MTN is still the market leader in the country with over 10 million mobile subscribers. According to the 2019 report by Rohde & Schwarz, which audited the performance of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile networks, concluded the MTN network as the best in Cameroon for data and voice quality.

MTN Cameroon have applied for permission to deploy and operate a trial 5G network. The operator has submitted a request to the Telecommunications Regulatory Board (Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications, ART) for a relevant licence to test 5G services in the country. MTN said the move is aimed at ‘giving Cameroonians access to more modern uses of information and communication technologies’.

At the end of December 2020, Orange Cameroon’s subscriber base was 9.26 million, against 7.87 million at the end of 2019 and 6.9 million subscribers at the end of 2018. 

Orange Cameroon claims to be the leader of the 4G technology, ahead of MTN Cameroon, Nexttel, and Camtel. It also believes to have covered 79% of the Cameroonian population with 3G.

They have increased the speed and capacity of its LTE-A network in certain parts of the country. In order to use the new service, which is described by the operator as ‘4.75G’, customers require a compatible handset or device. Nokia and Orange embarked on a major 4G LTE regional rollout in 2018, which saw the Finnish vendor upgrade the cellco’s radio access network to enhance mobile broadband services. In January 2020 Orange launched LTE-A (referred to by the company as ‘4.5G’) in a number of towns and cities, including Douala, Yaounde, Mbankomo, Sangmelima, Mbalmayo, Ngaoundere, Bafia, Garoua-Boulai, Bandjoun, Bangangte, Ferme-Suisse, Mbanga, Yop and Mengbwa.

Nexttel (owned by Viettel) started in 2014 in Cameroon. Two years later it had already 2.5 million subscribers, presently it has approx. 5 million. It has the most aggressive pricing.

Nexttel General Manager Benoit Yaoussou announced recently that they will roll out their own mobile money service called Nexttel Possa before the end of 2021.Yaoussou said the company will also prioritise the extension and stabilisation of its network. Nexttel already covers over 75%mof the national territory, particularly rural areas.

Camtel is Cameroon’s fixed line monopoly operator which has a limited network based on CDMA/EVDO called Fako that is migrating to GSM. In 2016 they rolled out their 4G/LTE network called "X-TremNet" on 1800 MHz (band 3).

Their Fako network is quite unreliable, based on CDMA, not compatible to GSM devices and can't be recommeded. However, their 4G/LTE XTremNet network can be a cheap option, if you have coverage. Douala and Yaoundé are covered only so far: 4G coverage list. Because of the limited coverage, it can't be an option for travelling, but may be an option for stationary use in Douala and Yaoundé. Speeds of around 50 Mbps have been reported. Have in mind, that there is no fallback or roaming on 2G/3G networks.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

stc Saudi Arabia's Robotic Hajj 2021

The Hajj pilgrimage despite being greatly impacted and reduced in term of pilgrims due to the pandemic these last two years is being transformed by innovative technologies and advances in mobile networks especially with the rollout of 4G and 5G. 

For example stc Group have launched a series of smart robot technologies aimed at increasing the efficiency of the Hajj pilgrimage and developing a reference experience for the coming Hajj Seasons through shortening the effort and time and providing safety for the pilgrims. 

stc envisage two types of robots to be used in Mecca. The first robot is featured as a personal robot, while the other is a security robot. The personal robot works using 3D technology and is equipped with a screen, camera and microphone, as it can move among and talk to pilgrims, answer their inquiries and provide guidance and advice. It further enhances communication among individuals under the circumstances of remote work and social distancing imposed by Covid-19 pandemic.

The security robot is dedicated to follow up and monitor the compliance with the precautionary and preventive measures that the pilgrims must follow as per the applicable health protocols. It can measure the human temperature and monitor the mask wearing through its AI technologies. Further, it undertakes site sanitization on a continuous basis, where it can be controlled and operated remotely through the Monitoring and Control Platform.

Furthermore, stc enhanced “Augmented Reality” technology (AR) together with its efforts to expand and deploy (5G) technology across Holy Sites. Such AR technology is an interactive experience based on the latest technologies where the user can deal with the information and objects that reside in the virtual world and see the surrounding world through mobile devices such as smartphone or through wearable devices such glasses and contact. Such technology contributes to the enhancement of Hajj and Umrah experience and provides virtual guide for circumambulation (“Tawaf”), information about the directions to the main sites and first-hand information about the Holy Mosque.

Moreover stc Group has significantly raised its network operational plan, and its network availability rate with the latest technology in 5G and 4G in recent times. Regarding the Hajj pilgrimage 5G coverage in Mecca and the Holy Sites has increased by 48% comparing to last year. Data Traffic on stc network has increased 40% compared with the last year. With the number of international voice channels increased by 33% distributed over 8 international exchanges, the company. Concerning the internal coverage solutions, sites in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque have been allocated and upgraded to 5G technology, in parallel with the company’s goal to create an innovative Hajj experience for pilgrims during this season.

The Digital Operations Control Center, which was recently launched at stc complex in Riyadh as the largest control and monitoring center in the region, has monitored the difference in the movement of services in parallel with the strategy of delivering more services through the latest networks. In fact, the voice traffic recorded more than 737% growth compared to last year, with more than 65% delivered through the 4G network to enhance customer experience in voice services, while the 4G and 5G networks have carried more than 96% of the internet traffic in Mina.

While data traffic increased on The Day of Arafat by 220% compared to last year, while the volume of voice traffic increased by 350%. Around 97% of this increase was transmitted through 5G and 4G networks. The data also showed a 330% increase in the number of stc customers on the Holy Mount Arafat.

This quantitative and qualitative increase in state-of-the-art voice traffic delivery and data traffic technologies comes in conjunction with the development of the 5G and 4G networks this year in order to increase the qualitative efficiency of customer experience across all stc services.

On the other hand, the critical communication network solutions provided by “specialized by stc” to government and private entities involved in the Hajj season recorded an availability rate of 99%, thus ensuring continuity of communication with field teams and immediate communication of critical and emergency situations. 

Another interesting innovation is the deployment of the 'smart card' this is linked with all services being provided to the pilgrims; such as their entry to hotels in Makkah and tents in the holy sites as well as their using of means of transportation.

Indeed King Salman of Saudi Arabia has affirmed that the digital Hajj system aims to reduce human cadres in managing crowds and organizing Hajj to ensure the safety of pilgrims and those serving them.

Deputy Minister Hajj Amr Al-Maddah said that the launch of the card establishes a digital phase ahead in which all transactions will be managed in a smart and contactless manner. He pointed out that it will also serve as an electronic financial wallet in the future; thus eliminating the need for pilgrims to carry cash.

The smart card can be used in payments through points of sale as well as to guide lost pilgrims on to their camps; governing access to camps and timing of grouping and transportation. It aims to facilitate the movement of pilgrims to and from Makkah and markedly reduce the waiting time for buses that transport them between Makkah and the Holy Sites. The card also enabled pilgrims to bring down the human contact to the minimum.

Also this year, instead of communal water dispensers, an army of robots was deployed to distribute sacred water to the faithful.

“Bottled zamzam water is much better. There are fewer people and there's no need to queue,” Pakistani-American Aneela, 37, told AFP.

Egyptian pilgrim Siam said the new technologies meant the Haj was “keeping up with the times”.


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Tuesday, 31 August 2021

People in Mauritania are finally able to enjoy 4G

Mauritania’s small population and low economic output has limited the country’s ability to develop sustained growth. There are also practical challenges relating to transparency and tax burdens which have hindered foreign investment.

The telecom sector similarly faces difficulties, though efforts continue to be made to address them with financial support from the government as well as the World Bank and European Investment Bank. These efforts have been focussed on implementing appropriate regulatory measures and promoting the further penetration of fixed-line broadband services by improving the national backbone network, ensuring connectivity to international telecom cables, and facilitating operator access to infrastructure. Much progress has been made to improve internet bandwidth capacity, including the completion of a cable link at the border with Algeria, while by early 2021 the country will also be connected to the EllaLink submarine cable.

Mauritel maintains a virtual monopoly in the fixed-line sector, and there is little stimulus for new market entrants. Penetration of fixed telephony and broadband penetration is very low and is expected to remain so in coming years, though growth is anticipated following improvements to backbone infrastructure and the reduction in access pricing.

Most voice and data services are carried over the mobile networks maintained by Mauritel, Mattel and Chinguitel though all three have repeatedly fallen short in their quality of service, despite fines being imposed (twice in 2020 alone). This represents a significant challenge, given the importance of mobile networks for basic telecom services.

Population penetration of 3G is relatively high, though developments in LTE have been stalled repeatedly following a succession of failed licence auctions. The regulator continues to pursue it plans, issuing a renewed tender in August 2020. In the meantime, mobile broadband access speeds are low, placing a brake on the potential for mobile commerce and related applications.

The three operators Mauritel, Chinguitel, by Sudatel and Mattel, by Mauritano-Tunisienne des Télécommunications have rolled all out 2G and 3G networks, but speeds higher than around 1 Mbps cannot be expected. The operators are said to cover most population centres, but users face severe quality of service (QoS) problems. 

In October 2020 the government of Mauritania has finally awarded three provisional 4G licences following several failed attempts to offload concessions going back to 2018.  Mauritel, Chinguitel and Mattel have agreed to acquire nationwide licences, with Mattel offering MRU501 million (USD13.2 million) plus 2.5% annual 4G turnover and its two rivals submitting bids of MRU500 million plus 2.5% of annual 4G turnover. 

Mauritel is partially owned by Maroc Telecom and the largest operator in Mauritania. The network broadcasts 2G and 3G on 900 MHz and is available in the list of cities provided by Mauritel.

Chinguitel, owned by Sudanese Sudatel, is the youngest operator in Mauritania and operates 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz bands. The company also operates a CDMA network which is incompatible to most GSM devices.

Chinguitel has launched its first LTE-based services after being awarded a 4G licence last year. The operator has implemented networks in the capital city Nouakchott, as well as six regional centres: Nouadhibou, Zouerate, Atar, Akjoujt, Rosso and Kaedi. Chinguitel’s rival cellcos Moov Mauritel and Mattel launched 4G services in December 2020 and January 2021, respectively.

Mattel, owned by Mauritano-Tunisienne des Télécommunications, is the oldest network in Mauritania, commercialising their offfer under the name Mattel. The company was set up in 2000 in co-operation with Tunisie Télécom who has been trying to sell its shares since 2012.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Somalia to get 100% 4G Coverage by 2023

Somalia’s telecom market has been sustained despite infinite difficulties. The country’s economy has made it difficult to sustain investment in infrastructure, and the Al Shabaab Islamic militant group has on occasion forced the closure of internet services in many areas of the country. 

However despite the anarchy which continues to disrupt the country, the telecoms market, dominated by the competitive mobile sector where several operators compete for customers, has flourished. 

Mobile telecommunications have had a positive impact on the economy of Somalia, despite the lack of regulation. Private and unlicensed mobile companies using satellites for international communications have emerged to serve the high demand for communications. Fixed lines and mobile phones are being offered by many telecommunication operators such as: Golis Telecom Somalia, Hormuud, NationLink Telecom, Somali Telecom Group, Galkom, Global Internet Company, Telcom, Netco, Somafone, Telcom Puntland, and Telenet International. Starting in 2012, many mobile operators began launching 3G services in Somaliland and soon expanded to other regions. A number of telecommunication operators are offering LTE services in the region, including Somtel International and Telesom, both of which are based in Somaliland, while Globalsom and Sahal Telecom have launched time division duplex LTE (TD-LTE) networks in Mogadishu. In 2015, global satellite service provider O3b Networks signed satellite connectivity contracts with three Somalia telecommunication operators. 

Hormuud Telecom is Somalia's largest operator with over 4 million subscribers. They recently announced ambitious plans to increase their 4G telecom coverage to 100% by 2023.

Currently 4G access is primarily limited to major cities, and Somalis in rural areas often do not enjoy the same level of network access. As such, 30% of Hormuud’s 3.6 million customers still rely on its 2G network - the majority of which live in rural areas.

Hormuud began expanding its 4G network capacity in 2015 in partnership with the Somalia ministry of telecommunications, which estimates that across the country, over 11.25 million Somalis, some 70 percent of Somalia’s 15 million population, now have access to 4G internet. 

Their expansion of the 4G network access across the country, will give millions of rural Somalis, who still rely on 2G, access to fast internet for the first time.

Hormuud’s aim for total 4G expansion in two years is in line with current government commitments: the government’s National ICT Policy pledges to reach total 4G coverage between 2024 and 2025.

Extending 4G also aims to support Somalia's goal of becoming a cashless economy. Mobile money plays a critical role in the Somali economy, with two-thirds of all payments made on mobile money platforms.

With a national 4G coverage, Hormuud Telecom is not only targeting better access to the digital world for Somali populations but also reserves a larger subscriber base that will generate new financial revenues in a market it competes with Golis Telecom, Telesom, SomNet, Somtel, SomLink, and Nationlink.

It may come as a surprise, but the cheapest data prices in Africa are in Somalia, which falls into the top ten countries with the cheapest rates globally. This is according to a 2020 study from which ranked Somalia as the seventh cheapest globally with 1GB of data costing on average just $0.50.

The amazing thing is the massive jump that Somalia made from the 2019 report where it ranked 133rd with an average price of $6.19 per 1GB.

Also considering the strong culture of using mobile money. A 2018 World Bank report found that almost three-quarters of the Somali population aged 16 and older use mobile money.

In urban areas, mobile money penetration is at around 83% and at about 72% in camps for internally displaced people. Even in rural areas, 55% of the population uses mobile money and it has "become an essential and widespread part of Somalia's economic eco-system" the World Bank said.

Therefore Hormuud Telecom also plan to expand its mobile money financial services to reach all of the Somali population. Hormuud's CEO, Ahmed Mohamud Yuusuf, said that the low data prices are a testimony to the huge strides that the country has taken to increase its digital infrastructure.

"The next step in our journey is to reach 100% mobile money penetration. We know that mobile money is vital to Somalia's post-COVID development, allowing urban and rural communities to flourish, empowering the most vulnerable and widening financial inclusion. More recently we've also seen how incredibly important access to telecoms and Internet has been to public health during the COVID-19 outbreak."

Mobile money is popular in the country where over 95% of the local currency – the Somali Shilling – is believed to be counterfeit. For a country long affected by civil war and unrest, mobile solutions have provided the foundations for business and trade to once again emerge in the country.

Very recently the National Communications Authority (NCA) of Somalia has issued a warning that they will have to conform with the country’s unified licensing framework which complies with national communication law. All mobile operators and telecoms companies in Somalia have until the end of August 2021 to apply for licences to operate, or they will have to cease.

According to the NCA, applications for national communications infrastructure providers carry an initial fee of US$5,000. Licensees then need to pay an initial operating fee of $275,000 and an annual fee of $50,000.

In order to qualify, organisations should be registered in Somalia and have a fully registered office and permanent premises in Somalia. They also need to “provide details of shareholders and directors” and “provide evidence of tax compliance”, said the regulator.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Canadians to get 5G Upgrade after conclusion of 3.5 GHz Spectrum Auction

The Canadian telecom market continues to show steady development as operators invest in network upgrades. Much of this work is being supported by regulatory efforts to ensure that operators have spectrum available to develop 5G services, for which several auctions are planned through to 2024. Assigning and releasing spectrum for 5G will allay existing fears that the country could lag developments in the US and Europe. In addition, the regulator has set aside a portion of certain spectrum for new entrants to encourage competition in the wireless segment. Much of the investment among operators has been channelled into LTE infrastructure to capitalise of consumer demand for mobile data services, while there has also been further investment in 5G.

At the same time, fixed-line telephony services are dwindling as customers make greater use of mobile networks and VoIP options. Revenue from the broadband and mobile sectors is underpinning overall telecom sector revenue while the fixed-voice sector continues to decline.

The mobile penetration rate remains comparatively low by international standards, and so the market offers further room for growth. Canadians are well provided for LTE and LTE-A infrastructure. Despite topographical challenges and the remoteness of many areas, the major players effectively offer 99% population coverage with LTE. 

The government has endeavoured to encourage market competition by ensuring that blocks of spectrum have been reserved for new entrants, while preventing deals among operators which would have concentrated spectrum either regionally or nationally. About 43% of spectrum to be auctioned in the 600MHz band has been reserved for smaller operators in a bid to encourage competition.

Canada has 3 national mobile providers: Rogers Wireless, Bell Mobility and Telus Mobility. In the last few years all networks have moved to the GSM-based technology on 3G and 4G/LTE, CDMA is gone.

On 2G (GSM/EDGE) Rogers is the only provider on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. All operators have 3G (UMTS) on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. 4G (LTE) is widely available on all providers. If you have signal, chances are you will be getting at least 3G.

In Canada, UMTS-based HSPA+ and DC-HSPA+ used to be called "4G". Real 4G on LTE began some years ago on the Big Three networks on 700 MHz (B12/13/17) and 1700 MHz (B4). Rogers, Bell, and  Telus also support the 2600 MHz (B7) frequency, which is far more compatible with devices from overseas, but it is usually not deployed throughout the full footprint and is generally confined to the big cities. Bell and Telus have also refarmed some 1900 MHz (B2) to LTE. Extended coverage (meaning Rogers roaming on Bell/Telus, and the reverse) is not available to prepaid customers. As a general rule, Bell and Rogers are stronger in the east and Telus is stronger in the west, but Bell and Telus have implemented RAN sharing, so they can effectively be seen as one network. Also important to note is that Rogers only has "extended" coverage in the north of Canada (Yukon/Northwest Territory/Nunavut), so you will not have coverage as a prepaid user. If you need coverage in the north, you will need to sign up with Bell, Telus, or one of their sub-brands, or get an Ice Wireless SIM once you arrive.

The government of Canada recently confirmed it had raised a total of CAD8.9 billion in its auction of 3.5 GHz spectrum, which will be used by local carrier to further expand 5G services in the country.

5G licenses in this key band were made available based on 172 localized service areas covering the entire country, allowing bidders to target geographic markets, including rural areas. The government noted that a total of 23 companies participated in the auction. In total, 1,495 out of 1,504 available licenses were awarded to 15 operators, including 757 licenses to small and regional providers across the country.

In Opensignal’s first comparison of the 5G experience across carriers in Canada, they found a mobile network experience landscape characterized by extreme competition. Out of seven awards for the taking, not one award category was won outright by any of the operators. Users saw three-way statistical ties between Bell, Rogers and Telus on three metrics — 5G Availability, 5G Reach and 5G Upload Speed — and in the remaining categories, users saw ties between two operators.

Historically, Canada has been one of the leading 4G markets globally when it comes to mobile network experience. In the latest Global Mobile Network Experience Awards report, all three national carriers — Bell, Rogers, and Telus — placed in the top ten for Download Speed Experience, but when it comes to 5G, Canada is losing global leadership.

Due to challenges with limited 5G spectrum Canada is now losing ground in 5G compared with other countries. This change of fortunes as we enter the 5G era is likely because Canada’s carriers are limited to deploying 5G in lower spectrum bands for now, as the auction of the critical 3.5 GHz mid-band spectrum was delayed until June 2021 due to COVID-19. However, even then, Canadian carriers will have access in this auction to a very limited amount of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band — 200 MHz (maximum of 150 MHz for Bell, Telus and Rogers) — which is significantly lower compared to many other 5G countries. The full capabilities of 5G are best realized through the wider channel sizes in the new 5G bands, as for users to enjoy the best 5G speeds, carriers need to be able to deploy 5G with 100 Mhz channel sizes which is extremely difficult for carriers to achieve without access to new mid-band spectrum.

Open Signal have also reported on the difference in mobile experience in urban and rural areas. This improved drastically over the years and, on average, is significantly higher than in many other countries globally. However, Opensignal's analysis shows that the urban/rural divide in the mobile experience continues to exist in the country. While the operators and government have been addressing this issue, it is evident that there is more to be done to remove the rural-urban gap.

Rogers and its sub-brands are the only national provider who offers GSM-based 2G on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz up to EDGE. Due to network sharing between the other two telcos, Rogers has slightly less coverage than other two but you will not notice much difference unless you are deep in the mountains or remote areas. A device capable of 850 MHz and 1900 MHz in 3G or 700 MHz (B12/13/17) and 1700 MHz (B4)/1900 MHz (B2) in 4G is essential.

Rogers was the first operator to bring 5G to Canadians in early 2020, and over the past year and a half it has delivered 5G connectivity to over 800 communities across Canada, now reaching more than 50% of Canadians. By the end of 2021, over 1,000 communities – more than 70% of the population – will have access to Rogers 5G. Recently, Rogers invested $3.3 billion in 3500 MHz band spectrum, covering 99.4% of the Canadian population, to enhance and accelerate the expansion of Canada’s first, largest and most reliable 5G network.

Telus and its sub-brands Koodo and Public Mobile have a GSM 3G and 4G network which is slightly better than Rogers. Their 3G/4G footprint is identical with Bell as they share the same towers. A device capable of 850 MHz and 1900 MHz in 3G or 700 MHz (B12/13/17) and 1700 MHz (B4)/1900 MHz (B2) in 4G is essential. 

Telus recently announced the acquisition of new 3500 MHz spectrum licences in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec at a cost of $1.95 billion. Combined with the spectrum it acquired privately in January 2021, Telus now holds licences to an average of 25 MHz of 3500 spectrum nationally and 40 MHz in our key markets, at an average price of $2.53 per MHz-pop. These licences will enable Telus to deliver enhanced mobile 5G broadband connectivity to its customers nationwide. The 3500 MHz band is mid-band spectrum that has become the critical global band for 5G innovation, as it offers the best combination of speed, capacity due to its wide channels and improved latency performance and coverage.

Bell's coverage is identical with Telus, due to their tower sharing agreements. A device capable of 850 MHz and 1900 MHz in 3G or 700 MHz (B12/13/17) and 1700 MHz (B4)/1900 MHz (B2) in 4G is essential. 4G/LTE is given out for prepaid:

Canadian carrier Bell’s 5G services already reach more than 40% of the country’s population and are on track to reach 70% coverage by the end of the 2021. They have secured 30% of the 3.5 GHz spectrum available to national wireless carriers at the recently concluded auction for a price of CAD2.07 billion ($1.67 billion). This included an additional 30 megahertz in each of the top three markets and an incremental 22 megahertz in their rural wireless-to-the-home markets.

Earlier this year, Bell announced the biggest capital expenditure plan in its history, with at least CAD1 billion in additional capital investment in new networks over the next two years to support the national economic and employment recovery from COVID-19. This investment is in addition to the more than $4 billion that Bell typically invests annually in next generation wireless and fibre network infrastructure and service development.

Bell announced the launch of its commercial 5G service in the country June 2020. The carrier’s 5G service was initially available in Montréal, the Greater Toronto Area, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Also in 2020, Bell Canada selected Ericsson 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) technology to support its nationwide 5G mobile and fixed wireless access deployment. The carrier started the construction of its 5G network last year, using equipment from Finnish vendor Nokia.

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