Monday 30 April 2018

Zimbabwe: Progress and Development

The Q3 2017 Telecoms report by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) reported an increase in Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration rate from 97% in Q2 to 100.5% in Q3.

Zimbabwe has three main mobile operators. Other mobile operators are unlikely to enter the market due to spectrum shortages.  Subscriber statsas of last year:

Econet Wireless is the market leader in the telecom and technology industries in Zimbabwe, boasting over 10 million connected customers according to this source, and offering the widest range of voice, data, content, media, as well as mobile money services.
Millions of Econet customers already use smart phones to access mobile data services, and when the company - which industry figures say has the widest 3G and 4G data networks - has been aggressively rolling out mobile and fixed Wifi hotspots in the major cities and towns. Its customers will now be expected to use its wide mobile data network and its Wifi hotspots to access the web self-care services.
Econet web selfcare, is referred to as the first "truly open network in the country" by Econet Chief Operating Officer Fayaz King, allow Econet customers to monitor their airtime and data usage anywhere and at any time.
Mr King elaborates:
 "Customers will have the convenience of having direct access to their balances, being able to transfer airtime, check their call history, activate or deactivate content and value-added services, and be able to change their PUK (Pin Unlock Key) numbers on their own, without calling for assistance from Econet".
The service will compliment Econet's recent introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence)-driven customer support.

The company recently launched a Chatbot called 'Bud-e', which carries out some of its customer services support via Econet's Facebook page, including assisting customers to install Internet and data settings, recover recharge keys from over-scratched recharge cards, reset EcoCash PIN requests, and carry out EcoCash transaction reversals, among other support functions.

Telecel Zimbabwe is a telecommunications services provider with most of its services in the mobile cellular network services. The company is owned jointly by the Empowerment Corporation (40%) and Vimpelcom (60%), one of the largest telecoms companies in the world.
According to its website it has more than 1,750,000 active subscribers. They launched their first 4G LTE services last year, allowing them to compete with rival firms Econet Wireless and NetOne, both of which introduced 4G connectivity several years ago
CEO Angeline Vere commented: ‘As part of the plan we announced in May (2017), we have started to install LTE equipment in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare. This phase will be immediately followed by a country-wide deployment of this 4G technology.’ She added: ‘In addition to the LTE, Telecel will also be upgrading current sites as well as rolling out new 3G sites across the country.’

Telecel, which is 60% state-owned, controlled around 14% of Zimbabwe’s 13.2 million mobile users at the end of June 2017, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. After several years of subscriber losses, partly due to uncertainty surrounding its ownership and licensing issues, the government is looking to turn the business around ahead of a possible sale.

Zimbabwe’s second largest operator by subscribers, state-owned NetOne, has signed a $71 million financing agreement with Chinese equipment vendor Huawei Technologies, supported by the China Exim Bank. The deal will enable NetOne to expand its mobile network into more rural areas,
NetOne grew its data market share by 6.5 percent in the last quarter of 2017, the latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) reportshows. According to the report, the State-owned NetOne is the only mobile telecommunications company that gained a market share of internet and data traffic. NetOne leveraged on growing mobile data usage in the country with its OneFusion offerings that were introduced in May last year. The One-Fusion initiative took the market by storm, offering on-net and off-net voice calls, international calls, messages, data, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. "Demand for data and internet service has been consistently increasing," Potraz said in the report.
However Portraz later directed NetOne to compensate all subscribers who lost airtime on the Onefusion package over the weekend due to a faulty billing system.

In the past, subscribers have complained bitterly that Econet Wireless Zimbabwe was "robbing" them of voice airtime and data bundles. Nothing was publicly done to Econet, resulting in an exodus by subscribers to NetOne and Telecel.

NetOne, which has become the second largest mobile phone company with about 5,5 million by subscribers, was fiercely criticised by subscribers on social media platforms for the "disappearing" data bundles and voice airtime over the weekend.

Writing on its Facebook page, NetOne apologised for challenges it was facing, and claimed it was working flat out to address the problem.

Thursday 26 April 2018

KT's 5G Plan

I recently blogged that KT is ready to roll-out 5G in 2019. Then the S. Korean Ministry of Science and ICT announced that the 3 MNOs (KT, SK Telecom & LG U+) along with an ISP (SK Broadband) will build a shared Infrastructure.

Today, Jongsik Lee, Head of 5G TF in Infra Lab. of Institute of Convergence Technology at KT spoke at Brooklyn 5G Summit (#B5GS) talking about the 5G trials at 2018 Olympic winter games at Pyeongchang and what are future commercialization plans.

Here is a summary in tweets:

Thursday 19 April 2018

Afghanistan: 4G picking up pace

The Afghan telecommunications market and infrastructure has suffered from extensive damage due to conflict as well as lack of investment and neglect. However, in the years following the U.S.-led invasion, the telecommunications sector has emerged as a leading component of the country’s economy. 

There exist four main mobile operators in the country, Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC) was re-launched in 2002 (incorrectly named as Airtel Afghanistan in table below) and a second mobile operator, Roshan, began offering services the following year. AWCC and Roshan were awarded duopoly exclusivity over the market for three years from 2003 to 2006. A third operator, Areeba, entered the market in 2006 and was subsequently renamed MTN Afghanistan after being acquired by the South African mobile group MTN in 2007. A fourth mobile operator, Etisalat, entered the market in 2007. As of 2014, Roshan had a one-third market share, MTN had a one-fourth market share, and AWCC and Etisalat each had shares of approximately one-fifth.


The number of mobile-cellular subscriptions in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2016. In 2016, the number of mobile subscriptions in Afghanistan stood at 21.6 million. According to Abdul Razaq Vahidi, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology in Afghanistan; 

"In Afghanistan, in 2002, there was no infrastructure. We almost started from a zero base, with 20,000 fixed lines in Kabul city and some major cities. But now, we have 80% mobile penetration and 3 million people out of the 30 million population are using the Internet. "
The mobile sector has been boosted by the absence of effective fixed-line alternatives.

Key developments recently: 

  • AWCC launched Afghanistan’s first LTE system with coverage of Kabul.
  • Afghanistan is making good progress on the roll-out of a nationwide optical fibre backbone.
  • Afghanistan’s mobile market has experienced reasonably strong growth.
  • The mobile broadband market is being driven by a rising level of mobile subscribers and strong competition.


The operator with the largest number of subscribers Roshan is an Afghanistan success story, serving as a catalyst for economic growth and actively contributing to the country’s long-term development. Since its inception in 2003, Roshan has invested approximately $700 million in Afghanistan and is the country’s single largest investor and taxpayer, contributing approximately five percent of the Afghan government's overall domestic revenue. Roshan directly employs more than 700 people, 20 percent of whom are women, and provides indirect employment to more than 35,000 people. The company announced their 4G network would be launched imminently in May 2017. No further information can be found as yet. 

Roshan is deeply committed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is a major shareholder of Roshan and promotes private initiatives and building economically sound enterprises in the developing world. Also owned in part by Monaco Telecom International (MTI) and Telia, Roshan brings international expertise to the country and is committed to the highest standards of network quality and coverage for the people of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in May 2017, Afghan Wireless launched the first 4G LTE service in Afghanistan. That service is now live in Kabul, and the company is extending 4G LTE to the entire country. 

The company has invested more than $400,000,000 to build Afghanistan's largest, fastest and most reliable communications network. AWCC's network provides its 4G/LTE, 3G and 2G subscribers with data access capacity of at least 400 Mega Bytes per second—the fastest and best speed available in Afghanistan.

Amin Ramin, the Managing Director of Afghan Wireless states:

"We at Afghan Wireless are proud to be the first mobile communications company to provide 4G/LTE service to the people of Afghanistan,The launch of AWCC's 4G/LTE Network in Kabul—and soon, throughout the nation—is the latest example of AWCC's determination to provide Afghans with the world's best communications services.  Afghan Wireless is a company built by Afghans. And we're honored to serve Afghans, and support our country's technological development, economic and social progress."

 Some interesting Tweet-observations about Afghanistan:

Monday 16 April 2018

South Korea MNOs to build Shared 5G infrastructure

According to Yonhap News Agency:
South Korea's mobile carriers and an Internet service provider will share the burden of building the costly infrastructure for a high-end fifth-generation network, which they will then share in using, officials said Tuesday.  
The move could save about 1 trillion won (US$938 million) over the next 10 next years, as it would keep SK Telecom Co., KT Corp., LG Uplus Inc. and SK Broadband Inc. from making redundant investments, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.  
The four companies will together build the nationwide infrastructure, such as base stations for the 5G network, though details on how much each firm will pay are set to be finalized during the first half of this year, it said.  
The ministry did not elaborate on its estimation of the cost of building the 5G network. 
We recently blogged about KT's ambition to roll out 5G in 2019 here.

One of the reasons the shared infrastructure makes sense is because while most of the world will be rolling out initial 5G network in sub-6GHz band (mainly between 3.4 - 3.8 GHz), South Korea is looking at 28 GHz band. While technically millimeter waves start at 30 GHz (or they are known as centimeter waves or cmWaves below that), anything above 20GHz is often referred to as mmWave. 

Very few networks have commited to mmWave 5G rollout initially. Main commitments are from US operators (AT&T and Verizon), South Korea and Japan.

Saturday 7 April 2018

India: 5G Roadmap Update (April 2018)

India, infamous for its abysmal internet connectivity, is in desperate need of a data upgrade. The government agrees and is implementing a roadmap for 5G. The aim is to deploy 5G services for consumers by 2020. The government set up a 22-member committee, chaired by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, in September 2017 and tasked it with evaluating and approving road maps and action plans for the technology roll out. The panel, which has representations from the industry, government and academics, aims to develop a competitive product portfolio for 5G with an objective of targeting 50% of the Indian market and 10% of global market over the next seven years.Representatives from top internet service providers and telecom service providers, including Bharti Airtel Ltd’s chief executive Gopal Vittal, Reliance Jio’s managing director Sanjay Mashruwala, are part of the panel.

 Sundararajan articulates: 

“I agree India has more at stake in IoT and 5G than any other country because we need to leapfrog to meet the aspirations of the young demography and democracy.We need to have core network and communications ecosystem that will facilitate 5G and IoT. We also need to get the rest of the ecosystem ready for the paradigm change."
India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) advised ISPs and mobile operators to vacate spectrum in the 3.3GHz to 3.4GHz band by end-September as the government prepares to auction off airwaves in the 5G candidate band, LiveMint reported.

Every sector including healthcare, agriculture, consumer retail, smart energy and transport will have to rethink their business models with the advent of these new technologies, she points out. Outlining India’s ambitions to position itself as not just as a consumer but a leader in 5G and IoT, Sundararajan says telecom service providers have already started rolling out pilots for 5G. Communication networks will be the first pillar of India’s 5G play.

The Roadmap may also provide an opportunity to the government to attempt afresh to sell certain airwaves that are ideally suited for 5G services. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, in August 2017 floated a consultation paper inviting views on the next auction of various spectrum bands, including 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz spectrum bands that are suitable for 5G mobile services.

The 5G technology aims to deliver about 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) in urban areas and 1 Gbps in rural regions, according to Manoj Sinha, minister of state for communications. By comparison, the record speed for 4G is just around 1 Gbps—that, too, in a lab trial. In the field, Reliance Jio has the fastest 4G network at a mere 18 Mbps.

Nonetheless, several private companies have slowly begun working at 5G deployment. Airtel, for example, is rolling out the Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) technology, a “key enabler” for 5G. China’s ZTE has already initiated “pre-5G” trials with Airtel, Vodafone, and Reliance Jio. 

Bharti Airtel and  Huawei, have already successfully conducted India’s first 5G network trial in February 2018.  A user throughput of over 3 Gbps was achieved, with end-to-end network latency of approximately 1 msec. According to Huawei, this was the highest measured throughput for a mobile network in 3.5 GHz band with 100MHz bandwidth.

 Bharti Airtel Director of Network Abhay Savargaonkar has said: 

“This is a small but a very significant step in our journey towards 5G. The promise of 5G is endless. It will be a game changer and will change the way we live, work, and engage. We are moving quickly to begin collaboration towards 5G interoperability and development testing based on the 3GPP R15 standards.”

However according to Amresh Nandan, research director at advisory firm Gartner: 
“Optimal quality, extreme flexibility, and cost efficiency of the 5G network…these will only develop gradually over time through the evolution of technology, architecture, and processes and information,” he said, estimating that “the real potential of 5G can only be realised post-2025.”

According to Livemint, BSNL and Nokia to sign pact on 5G, IoT applications
BSNL’s agreement with Nokia entails cooperation for smooth network evolution and transition from 4G to 5G
“After 4G, the future is 5G and IoT, which is useful in the concept such as smart cities... The MoU will help BSNL to draw a framework for transition from the current network to futuristic 5G network,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.
The MoU, scheduled to be signed Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress, entails strategic cooperation for smooth network evolution and transition from 4G to 5G. It also involves joint 5G demonstration, use case development leveraging the benefits of high speed, low latency and IoT applications to meet growing demands of connected people and devices.
The pact also involves collaborative workshops to define a phased strategy for network evolution and transformation and the implications on business, technology and operations, he added.
Nokia will also work with BSNL by sharing 5G technology concepts, new product launches and innovations available in the public domain that demonstrate possibilities of 5G, and IoT for the Indian market, Shrivastava pointed out.

One final note. Indian Premier League or IPL, professional Twenty20 cricket league in India which is very well known throughout the cricketing world begins today. After getting inspired by 5G trials in South Korea, the Indian operators are planning to do some 5G trials as part of IPL 2018. 

Airtel said it will deploy the Massive MIMO technology across IPL match venues in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mohali, Indore, Jaipur, Bengaluru and Chennai. 

The first venue to go live with Airtel’s Massive MIMO deployment will be the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai where the first match of the IPL will be played on April 7, 2018. 

Airtel was the first mobile operator in India to commercially deploy Massive MIMO. Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have already been piloting the technology in various circles.

Reliance Jio is also deploying pre-5G massive MIMO technology at stadiums in Mumbai and Delhi.

What are your thoughts?