Saturday 31 March 2018

South Korea: KT ready to roll-out 5G in 2019

According to Mobile World Live, KT, the second largest mobile operator in South Korea, announced plans to start commercial 5G service in March 2019, which will make it one of the first operators in the world to launch the next generation mobile technology, Yonhap News Agency reported.

KT’s announcement comes despite the head of its 5G business unit, Lee Yong-gyoo, stating at Mobile World Congress last month it is not yet ploughing ahead with large-scale investment in the technology.

They also recently released a 5G video, explaining their vision

In a recent ITU conference KT also talked about their 5G service implementation at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter olympics. Samsung & Intel had partnered with KT over this event.

According to Fierce Wireless report, 22 5G links at 10 different sites—delivered 3,800 terabytes of data during the two-week event. A prestandard 5G network running in 28 GHz with vendors including Samsung and Ericsson used only line-of-site connections for communications in the millimeter-wave spectrum. KT recorded peak speeds of up to 3.5 Gbps on a 5G Samsung tablet using the network.

According to a report in Netmanias, KT is developing Five network solutions for 5G commercialization in 2019. These are technologies for expanding service coverage and maximizing 5G network performance. The solution development has been completed to 80% level, and it is planned to be completed in the third quarter of this year.

5G slot-integrated structure - LTE has a delay of 4 ms for transmitting Ack signal after receiving data due to difference of upload and download frequency channels. The 5G integrated slot structure transmits the Ack signal at the same time as the data reception in the TDD scheme, so that the delay can be minimized.

5G-LTE interworking structure - In case of shadow area due to discontinuous coverage in initial 5G network, it automatically switches to LTE network and provides seamless service.

Intelligent multi-beam tracking solution - When the user terminal is disconnected from the main base station, the user can access the auxiliary base station and use 5G service seamlessly by grabbing the signal of the peripheral auxiliary base station in addition to the main base station.

In building solutions - 5G frequency is very high in transmission loss due to high frequency band frequency characteristics. KT secures 5G quality by using 5G repeater in offices, premises, underground parking lots, and other buildings.

AI-based network optimization solution - 5G network optimization technology with remote and automation functions. For example, when performing antenna optimization, an engineer is stationed on the LTE site. In 5G, antenna direction and angle are optimized remotely.

Finally, some videos of KT booth and 5G equipment from Mobile World Congress 2018.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Palestine: 3G finally....

Picture Source: QZ

Palestinians in the West Bank were finally allowed high-speed 3G mobile data services at the beginning of this year. In world where fourth generation of mobile technology is available in even the most remote areas – from the peak of Mount Everest to the islands of the South China Sea – Israeli restrictions have until now forced Palestinians to settle for outdated second-generation technology. And their economy reflects it.

The only two Palestinian cellular providers Jawwal (owned by Palestine Telecommunications/PalTel)  and Wataniya Mobile (a subsidiary of Ooredoo) launched 3G mobile networks for customers in the Israeli-occupied territory at end of January 2018. Both these operators have to license their wireless spectrum from the Israeli government and route their traffic through Israel. And while Israel’s government granted 4G licenses to six Israeli mobile operators in 2015, Palestinians have remained stuck two generations behind.

Israel, where 3G networks went into service in 2004, had previously blocked Palestinian mobile companies' access to the necessary frequencies for nearly 12 years. In November 2015, it agreed to allow 3G in the West Bank alone and not in Gaza, however this was further delayed for unknown reasons.

Israel’s reasons for keeping Palestine on 2G up to now are not entirely known, however it is speculated that less-secure 2G networks are easier for the Israeli authorities to monitor—or at least to monitor without detection. They can eavesdrop (or potentially mass send everyone their own text messages, as evidenced in the Israeli assault of 2014) on traffic coming over Israeli companies' networks. 

To continue that level of surveillance on an upgraded 3G network run by Palestinian companies, Israel will have to either ensure that it can continue to tap into the network backbone those companies use, or use more detectable active surveillance technology like IMSI catchers. Active surveillance would be detectable: it would also be a violation of the Oslo accords, which declare that both sides “shall refrain from any action that interferes with the communication and broadcasting systems and infrastructures of the other side.”

But there could also be commercial reasons for delaying 3G. Palestinians often opine that one less visible economic aspect of Israeli occupation means that the 4 million strong Palestinian population living under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza is often used as a lucrative market for Israeli goods and services, to the detriment of Palestine’s own economy. One feature of Israel’s control is its stranglehold on the mobile market.

According to Ammar Al AkerPalestine Telecommunication’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the number of Israeli SIM cards (which are deemed illegal to sell or purchase in the West Bank and Gaza) have recently spiked. Al Aker said that before 2015, the number of Israeli SIM cards in the West Bank was estimated at 150,000, but in 2015 the number rose to 370,000 cards.Israeli SIM cards allow the residents of the West Bank to enjoy 3G coverage, whereas the Palestinian operators were restricted to 2G and effectively forced out of the market.

Israeli cellphone companies have extensive coverage in the West Bank, where they’ve been able to put cellphone towers in Israeli settlements—locations that, in the West Bank’s rugged topography, are prized because they’re typically on hilltops. As a result, they have better coverage in many places than Jawwal and Wataniya, as well as offering 3G or 4G:

Israel also keeps Jawwal and Wataniya in a chokehold in another way, by licensing far less spectrum to them than to Israeli firms. In the 2015 4G auction, Israeli companies bid on a total of 65 MHz of spectrum (on top of what they already had in 3G), to serve Israel’s population of 8 million people. Jawwal and Wataniya together have less than 10MHz, for a population slightly more than half that of Israel’s. Tight spectrum means slower connection speeds and more dropped calls.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that by one estimate, Israeli operators have 20%-40% of the Palestinian market, costing the Palestinian providers $80 million to $100 million a year in potential business. The World Bank, in a 2016 report, estimated that Palestinian cellular companies lost between $436 million (£308 million) and $1.5 billion in potential revenue in 2013 to 2015 due to Israeli restrictions on frequencies and equipment imports, and unauthorized competition by Israeli operators. 

And so there may well have been some pressure on the government to let the Israeli companies—which are also in such fierce competition with each other that not all of them are expected to survive—maintain their edge.

Israeli operators, which include Orange, Cellcom and Pelephone, provide telecoms services to illegal settlements within the West Bank, enabling them to offer coverage throughout the territory.

"As I speak to you in my office, I get coverage from all of the Israeli operators,” said Mr Aker. “We have to compete with Israeli operators, they cover West Bank with much more advanced technology.”

Jawwal is owned by the local Paltel Group and the leading provider in the Palestine Territories including Gaza with more than 2.5 million customers and a market share of more than 80%. In 1999, Israel licensed access to 4.8 MHz in the 900 MHz band to Jawwal, they still retain the same access, but for more than 2.5 million subscribers compared to only 120,000 in 1999.

Five gigabytes of data from Jawwal costs about $30, compared to $5 in Jordan and less than $4 in Israel. Many Palestinians will still use illegal Israeli 3G services because of the cheaper prices. However despite its elevated cost, Ammar Al Aker still believes that the 3G service will help “improve Palestinian citizens’ lives and develop the economy.” To this end, he confirmed that the Jawwal network is “powerful and widespread” and that in order to serve the largest number of users the company has installed 1,000 cellular towers in the West Bank.

Wataniya Mobile of the Kuwait-based and Qatar-owned Ooredoo Group. It started as the second mobile operator in 2009 in the West Bank. In 2017 it extended its area of operation to the Gaza Strip. Wataniya is now at the break-even point, but that it once suffered losses of as much as $20 million a year, it has only stayed afloat due to its main investors Ooredoo and the self-rule governments Palestinian Investment Fund.

The economy of the West Bank should significantly benefit from the new 3G services. Smaller Palestinian entrepreneurs also expect an immediate 3G bump in business.
For ordinary Palestinians, everyday life will get just a little easier.

Alaa Amouri, 20, a student, said she gets 4G from an Israeli provider that offers only partial coverage in the West Bank. Mobile data from a Palestinian provider would offer real-time updates on potential trouble on the roads, said Amouri, who commutes between east Jerusalem and her West Bank university, passing through the crowded Israeli-run Qalandiya crossing almost daily. It (3G) helps in getting news updates, she said. Sometimes when we are at the Qalandiya crossing, we find it blocked without knowing why.

However due to continuing security concerns, neither Palestinian operator is permitted by the Israeli government to extend their 3G coverage to the Gaza Strip. Considering the continued blockade it is unlikely this will change any time soon. 

Similarly 4G technology will probably not be deployed in Palestine until the rest of the world as moved onto 5G. 

As mentioned in this report Palestinians could consider initiatives at the local level without waiting for external actors. More specifically, each Palestinian municipality could make sure that areas under its control are well connected by ensuring the installation of fiber backbone and microwave links. Municipalities can also add solar power panels onto their street lighting poles as well as a wireless network to ensure citywide Wi-Fi. In addition, mesh wireless networks, which are not dependent on centrally-located towers and can bypass obstacles like hills, are a promising new avenue for municipalities. Indeed, local companies proposed a study for Ramallah modeled on Brazilian and US cities using street lighting poles but were not able to secure the funding. Such local-level projects should ideally be undertaken within a clear overall vision and strategy.

This is a complicated part of the world, ultimately political solutions are needed. However the status quo of technologically disadvantaging, and economically hindering Palestine is just another obstacle to peace. 

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Sudan: Untapped Potential

Sudan is the third largest African country and its has tremendous potential in so many sectors. However due to the effects of having lost much of its oil reserves to South Sudan which seceded in 2011, some domestic volatility and social unrest; the economy has performed poorly in recent years. As a consequence the telecoms market has shrunk: The number of mobile phone subscribers in the Sudan dropped to 27.9 million in 2016 from 28.3 million in 2015 and the number of internet users declined to 9.9 million subscribers from 11.4 million. There were 9 million smartphone users as of Q1 2017.

However the estimated market penetration rates in the Sudanese telecom sector are still encouraging: 77% for the mobile market, 30% for the internet market, and 1.1% for the landline market. Mobile internet is also thriving. The number of internet cafes in the state of Khartoum has decreased noticeably since the early 2000s as mobile internet has become cheaper and more accessible to the public.

Sudan might have been one of the last African countries to introduce mobile telephony, in 1997, but the growth rate since entering the market has been one of the fastest in Africa. As the mobile sector has expanded even further since, operators have rolled out highly advanced networks. Sudan now has one of the most well equipped telecommunications infrastructures in the region, including a national fiber-optic backbone and international fiber-optic connections. 

Sudatel is the biggest telecommunications and internet service provider in Sudan. Established in 1994 as a public company, the government owns just over 20% while private companies own the remainder. Its shares have been traded on several Middle Eastern stock markets. Sudatel operates landlines as well as GSM mobile,and Sudani is the mobile arm of Sudatel Group. 

It is a mobile and broadband service provider for consumers and businesses in Sudan, and was the first telecom company in the country to deploy a 3.75G service — called SudaniOne.

Sudatel ended 2016 with a mobile subscriber base of twelve million. Commenting on the results, CEO Tarig Hamza Zain Alabdain said: ‘Sudatel began to reap the fruits of its investments in infrastructure, especially the broadband fibre-optic networks across Sudan which will go a long way in supporting Sudatel’s effort in reinforcing the data and information technology revolution through current and expected broadband connections until 2020.’

Sudatel's 2020 Strategy focuses on transforming from a traditional telecom operator to becoming an ICT provider.


Sudatel Telecom Group and Liquid Telecom are also to build new FTTH networks across Sudan.
The partnership will increase the broadband capacity and speeds available to homes and businesses in Sudan, which are currently reliant on wireless networks to access the Internet.
Leveraging Liquid Telecom’s experience in deploying high-speed networks, Sudatel will build FTTH networks in Sudan designed to the highest network standards and using the latest technologies.

Another key player is Zain Sudan, formerly Mobitel Sudan, it is now the second biggest mobile telephone network operator by subscribers in the Sudan with more than 11 million customers. 2G coverage is found in populated areas and 3G in towns.The company is introducing 4G in Sudan throughout 2016, and is one of the biggest telecommunications operators across the Middle East and North Africa. 

Zain was awarded a 4G/LTE license by local regulator NTC in February 2016. Later that year it has become the first operator to launch LTE services. 4G network coverage can be found across the capital Khartoum, Medani, Port Sudan and El Obeid to reach around 20% of the population. Almost 300 4G sites have already been switched on, spreading to 21 towns and cities by 2017.

MTN Sudan is a subsidiary of the South African MTN Group, a provider of communication services and it is operational in Africa and the Middle East. MTN Sudan offers mobile phone and data services to the Sudanese market and covers 99% of populated areas in Sudan. 

MTN Sudan based in South Africa is the smallest provider of the trio with more than 3 million customers. 

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Bangladesh: 4G Race

Bangladesh has three main operators, Grameenphone, Robi-Axiata and Banglalink. They have a combined share of 96 per cent of the country’s mobile connections, and each recently paid $1.2 million for a 4G licence. 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 have started 4G/LTE in February 2018, in parts of capital city Dhaka and other major cities.

Meanwhile the total number of mobile phone subscriptions in Bangladesh has reached 147 million at the end of January, 2018.


Grameenphone (Bengali: গ্রামীণফোন) is a joint venture between Norway's Telenor and Grameen Telecom Corp. It's the largest operator in the country with more than 65 million subscribers or an approx. 43% market share.

It started with 3G in 2013 and reaches a 90% of population coverage by 3G in 2016. Full 3G coverage is expected by 2020. 4G/LTE has started in 2018 in Dampara, Khulshi and Nasirabad in Chittagong.

Generally, they are considered the most reliable provider for internet in the country at the highest prices.  

Robi Axiata Limited is the second largest mobile phone operator of Bangladesh and the first operator to introduce GPRS and 3.5G services in the country. The company has introduced many first of its kind digital services in the country and has invested heavily in taking mobile financial services to the underserved communities in the rural and semi-urban areas.

It is a joint venture between Axiata Group Berhad, of Malaysia, Bharti Airtel Limited, of India and NTT DoCoMo Inc., of Japan. Axiata holds 68.7% controlling stake in the entity, Bharti holds 25% while the remaining 6.3% is held by NTT DOCOMO of Japan.

Having successfully completed the merger process, Robi has emerged as the second largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh with approximately 44 million active subscribers. The merged company has the widest network coverage to 99% of the population with over 13,900 on-air sites of which over 8,000 are 3.5G sites.

At a Robi Axiata launch event on 20 February 2018, BTRC chairman Shahjahan Mahmood said: “We have started our journey with 4G from today. BTRC is also thinking about 5G. Our main aim is to ensure that the subscribers get good quality of service.”

Robi Axiata MD and CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed said: “We are proud to launch the long-awaited 4G service in the country today. With a greater amount of spectrum compared to our competitors, we are ready to serve the best quality 4G service to our subscribers. We are confident that with government support, we will be able to complete the Digital Bangladesh vision by 2021 powered by the blistering speed of 4G service.”

To make 4G successful in Bangladesh, he said the government should consider reducing taxes on compatible devices, lowering the duty on equipment, introducing special incentives for rolling out service in rural areas, resolving all pending VAT disputes and move to a unified licensing regime like some neighbouring countries.

Banglalink (Bengali: বাংলালিংক) is a fully owned company of Telecom Ventures Ltd, which is a 100% owned subsidiary of Global Telecom Holding. Launched in February 2005, with over 30 million subscribers over a decade, Banglalink was the catalyst in making mobile telephony an affordable option for consumers in Bangladesh. It has 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 Feburary 2018 in Chittagong and Khulna.

The initial success of Banglalink was based on a simple mission: “Bringing mobile telephony to the masses ”, which was the cornerstone of Banglalink’s strategy. 

Banglalink took the 10.6 MHz spectrum from different two bands – 2100 and 1800, with a price of Tk2,558 crore.

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 4.5 million out of 147 million mobile users. Unfortunately it has been criticized for its unreliable service and general bad coverage.

The Bangladeshi government has rebranded Teletalk in March 2016 in an attempt to accelerate the operator’s financial recovery as it has generated a loss of nearly BDT 4 billion. Teletalk will get a room at every post office as part of the rebranding. Furthermore, Teletalk wants to expand its network through partnerships with private operators.

Mustafa Jabbar, minister for telecommunication and information technology, said the state-run mobile operator is likely to launch the 4G service in May.

“Teletalk has a plan to launch the service in all divisional cities with its own finance of nearly Tk 200 crore.”

Another top official of the operator said right now the operator's main aim is to take the licence. It has to pay Tk 10 crore to the regulator today for the licence.

But the top officials of the operator seem to have little idea on how they will pay the technological neutrality fee amounting to $36.2 million in order for it to become capable of running the 4G.

Without paying the neutrality fee, no operator will be able to introduce the faster data service. In fact, the fee and other dues have to be cleared before they get the licence, according to the 4G guideline.

In 2016/7 they installed 685 new 2G base transceiver stations (BTS) and 559 3G BTS, plus upgrade Teletalk’s core network. In 2018 Teletalk signed a network sharing pact with Robi Axiata to share all cell sites in the country.

The efforts to deploy 4G and the infrastructure building and increase in connectivity are indeed very positive developments in Bangladesh. We hope they will continue on this road and be well-prepared for the advent of 5G.