Friday 28 September 2018

Turkcell Group in 5 slides

I came across couple of presentations from Turkcell recently, one from ITU by İzzet Sağlam, 5G R&D Engineer and the other by Gulay Yardim, Head of Radio Network and 5G R&D at Istanbul 5G briefing. There was a lot of commonality in the slides. Here is summary of Turkcell in 5 slides.

Turkcell Group is present in 9 countries and has 50.2 million subscribers, including 2.1 million fixed subscribers. Its largest presence is in Turkey, followed by Ukraine & Belarus.

Turkcell has its own apps which has been downloaded 86 million times. Based on the figures available, the apps have gained popularity in the last year.

The picture above shows their 5G Architecture. Turkcell thinks that 5G can have major impact in Education, Healthcare, Smart Cities and Automation. In addition Turkcell is using LTE-Advanced Pro (a.k.a. 4.5G) for drones to provide coverage in case of emergencies and is also using 4.5G for providing fixed wireless access.  The following is a video from their Dronecell testing

Turkcell has been a leader in testing 5G, working with both Ericsson & Huawei. Turkcell 5G R&D team has been focusing on SON, AI, Network Slicing, MEC, Physical Layer, Connected Car, Healthcare, etc. Along with being active in standard bodies, its been active in NGMN as well.

Finally, Turkcell thinks that 5G FWA will be a great opportunity as its already present in this area. Its 4.5G Superbox has packages from 50GB to 200GB data allowance. 4.5G also offers impressive speeds to most users.

One interesting fact worth highlighting is that Turkcell is probably the only mobile operator with 50% women employed in its workforce and 42% of women in the leadership positions. Hence it is very common to see woman speakers from Turkcell in many conferences and events.

Here is Turkcell's Aysem Ertopuz, Executive VP, Digital Services and Solutions, speaking on 5G and Digital Transformation at 5G MENA

Thursday 20 September 2018

Dialog Axiata: On its way to 5G after successful roll-out of commercial 4.5G

In our post back in May, we looked at the Sri Lankan mobile market. Dialog Axiata is the mobile operator with largest market share. In its 2017 annual report, it mentions that there are 3,000 2G/3G sites and over 1,500 4G sites. The 4G LTE coverage has a lot of scope for improvement.

It has also launched 4.5G, LTE-Advanced Pro features that allow download speeds in excess of 1 Gigabits per Second (Gbps).

In addition, as per the report, "Dialog Broadband Networks (DBN) serves over 700,000 individuals and corporates, providing multiple services including fixed telephony, hosted PABX offerings, broadband, internet leased lines, data communication, Internet Data Centre (IDC), converged ICT solutions, telecommunication infrastructure, transmission and backbone services. DBN commercially launched 4.5G technology in June 2017, establishing yet another milestone in the region’s broadband technology landscape featuring download speeds in excess of 100 Mbps. The fixed LTE demonstrated accelerated growth, where the customer base grew by 59% in 2017, surpassing 300,000 subscribers. DBN launched Prepaid LTE in July 2017, the only Prepaid option for Home Broadband (HBB) to cater to the mass market. Additionally, VoLTE services were launched on HBB routers by end of 2017, providing crystal clear voice solutions."

Indika Walpitage, Vice President, Network Operations & Service Assurance, Dialog Axiata shared his perspective on technical requirements on path to 5G at 5G Asia yesterday. The following are couple of pictures/slides shared by Neil Shah from Counterpoint Research on Twitter.

As mentioned above, they have already launched 4.5G which includes Massive MIMO as well.

On 5G, they are trialing with Ericsson and Huawei. In an interview with last month, Indika Walpitage mentioned the following:

Acquisition of larger spectrum blocks such as 100 MHz will be a challenge in Sri Lanka in the 3.5GHz band as there are occupants already using legacy wireless technologies like Wimax and other proprietary solutions. Regulations related to the use of E band and other high bands are not yet finalised in Sri Lanka. This will cause some delays in introducing commercial 5G networks locally.

Since 2G, 3G and 4G are still widely used, having to co-locate a fourth technology on existing base station infrastructure will be a challenge. There will be challenges in installing heavier antenna integrated radios into existing infrastructure.

Operators need to densify the network, especially when we deploy 5G at higher frequencies. This needs a sound business case to justify the investments and is going to be a logistically challenging task.

Deployment of fibre to all sites is essential to support the higher fronthaul and backhaul bandwidths which are needed in 5G systems. This also creates a significant challenge for operators like us.

We have been actively lobbying with the regulator to release the spectrum required to rollout 5G. In terms of infrastructure readiness we have been working proactively since the introduction of SDR based radio products by major network equipment suppliers. All new procurements are in line with 5G architecture to support upgrading to 5G. The core and transport network roadmap is being developed with 5G and its applications in mind and we are already progressing towards building cloud-based NFV and SDN infra.

We have already deployed a considerable number of massive MIMO radios in the access network. More importantly, building people skills on digitization and automation within the organization is key to success in our 5G journey. We have focused attention on this aspect.

We have realized the importance of introducing commercial 5G networks to our market as soon as the technology is ready. Currently the use case is enhanced broadband with low cost per bit, yet in the future we will see multiple use cases, mainly targeting industry automation. It’s important to work with business and technology partners to identify the needs and correct solutions while working with regulators to secure the spectrum assets. We also need to integrate with the complete 5G ecosystem to get maximum gains. Digitization and automation should be key ingredients in the 5G success formula.

Related Post:

Monday 17 September 2018

MegaFon: The Russian Giant Focusing on 5G and Blockchain

In the 2017 Annual report released by Megafon, there is a lot of valuable information on what is it up to and what are its priorities.

Russia prides itself with by leading the mobile penetration table of the top ten most populated countries in 2017 by GSMA.

Russian telecoms is a rapidly growing market according to GSMA. According to AC&M Consulting, at the end of 2017, mobile connections totalled 255.4 million, with SIM card penetration at 179 %. Major Russian telecoms operators include MegaFon, MTS, VEON, and Tele2.

Operators derive most of their revenue from mobile services, but, with the market approaching saturation, new growth areas become increasingly important, including above all digital services such as mobile TV, Internet of Things, system integration, and e-commerce.

Mobile services remain the principal source of revenue for the Russian telecoms industry and account for more than half of the market. TMT Consulting estimates this segment’s share at 55 % in the total revenue for 2017.

In 2017, the Russian mobile market recovered after a two-year decline. According to TMT Consulting, the aggregate revenue from this segment grew by 1.5 % to RUB 891bn as compared to a 0.3 % decline in 2016.

This recovery of the mobile market is mainly due to weaker price competition among Russian major telecoms operators, operators phasing out unlimited plans, and strong performance of value added services in the B2B segment.

Despite a steady decline in the recent years, traditional mobile services (voice and texting) still generate the bulk of the segment’s revenue. Voice traffic volumes, however, have remained almost flat. According to the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, the aggregate voice traffic of Russian mobile operators was 455.8 billion minutes in 2017, just a 1 % increase over the last’s year 452.1 billion minutes.

The traffic growth was mainly due to the increasing demand for such mobile services as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger. It was also driven by an increase in the share of stream video content viewed via YouTube and social networks. Own digital TV offerings from major telecoms operators and streaming music services are fast gaining popularity. For example, in 2017, MegaFon.TV’s subscriber base almost doubled, growing from 1.7 to 3.2 million users.

Telecom Daily estimates that at the end of 2017 over half of all mobile data traffic in Russia was attributable to 4G/LTE networks and generated by about 25 % of all mobile subscribers. According to TMT Consulting, LTE network users count 33 million subscribers, or 28 % of the total mobile subscriber base in Russia. According to GSMA, 55 % of all subscribers use 3G and 4G networks.

Apart from 4G expansion and new tariff promotions, the increase in mobile data traffic is also driven by growing numbers of subscribers with LTE-enabled and widescreen smartphones. These factors prompt users to view and send more HD images and videos, boosting the traffic considerably. The traffic growth was also facilitated by new tariff lines, such as ‘Vklyuchaisya!’ (‘Connect!’).

The company description according to MegaFon press releases is as follows:

MegaFon is a leading mobile operator active in all segments of the telecommunications market in Russia, as well as in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Tajikistan. The company is a technology pioneer, having been the first to cover all regions in Russia and to roll out commercial 3G, LTE and LTE Advanced networks. MegaFon is currently supporting 5G development, promoting big data and IoT solutions.

Together with major Russian internet company Group, MegaFon is developing new digital solutions for individual and corporate clients.

MegaFon is an expert at setting up mobile services for events of national and international significance, including the Kazan Universiade, Sochi Olympics and Paralympics, and as a partner of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. In 2017 MegaFon was appointed the supplier of infrastructure and additional services for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup.

MegaFon was the first company to complete blockchain bond placement in Russia in October 2017, and one of the first to do so globally, with Raiffeisenbank purchasing the entire RUB 500m issue.

In November 2017, MegaFon, AlfaBank and Sberbank made the Russian market’s first ever blockchain payment transaction, with MegaFon transferring RUB 1m to MegaLabs under the existing revolving credit facility agreement.

According to Gevork Vermishyan, MegaFon CFO, "We were the first in Russia to make a blockchain bond placement and a blockchain payment transaction in 2017. These transactions support our drive to be a champion of digital economy in Russia. We believe that blockchain technology offers significant opportunities and has potential to become a new standard in transaction data sharing. We are excited to spearhead the digital transformation of the financial market. I would like to thank the joint project teams that made this breakthrough possible."

More information on this is available here.

As all other large mobile operators, MegaFon is working on 5G. Last year, a press release mentioned that MegaFon and Huawei set an all-time mobile internet speed record for Russia, demonstrating the operation of a 5G network at speeds of 35 GB/s.

Another project in conjunction with Huawei is the Autonomous Electro Bus with 45 km per hour in Kazan 5G Pilot Project in 3400 – 3800 MHz spectrum band. This is using the 5G core with Huawei CPE amd uses the aggregation of two carriers, 100 MHz bandwidth each, complying to 5G NR 3GPP R15.
Another 5G vendor is Nokia. At SPIEF’18 pre-commercial terminal equipment was demonstrated within the fragment of 5G network. High speed video streaming was successfully presented. Nokia AirScale 5G New Radio Base Station in 26 GHz was used with 400 MHz channel and active massive MIMO. For the Terminal equipment, precommercial smartphone equipped with 5G Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X50 chipset was used.

One of these Virtual Reality Penalty 5G Demo by Nokia is in the video below:

Recently, the Moscow Government and Megafon have signed an agreement to develop services and new digital technologies across the city. The five-year cooperation agreement, signed by the mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, includes projects in the spheres of virtual and augmented reality, IoT, smart city technology and 5G. 5G is a key component of Moscow’s Smart City 2030 strategy, which is due to be approved by the mayor by the end of the year.

We are looking forward to bringing more information on MegaFon when available.

Further Reading:

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Lesotho: First 5G launch in Africa

Lesotho is a small kingdom of approx. 2 million people landlocked by South Africa. According to ITU's Measuring the Information Society Report 2017, this small landlocked country was one of the first African countries to implement sector reform that included establishing a regulator, privatizing the incumbent and introducing competition. This has resulted in some of the highest levels of mobile-broadband coverage in Africa.

There are two mobile providers: Vodacom Lesotho (VCL), a subsidiary of the South African mobile group, which launched in 1996; and Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL), the country’s incumbent telecommunications operator, which launched in 2002. Penetration is relatively high for the region, with the State of ICT in Lesotho survey reporting that 79 per cent of individuals owned a mobile phone in 2016, including 87 per cent in urban areas and 72 per cent in rural areas. One factor is relatively high 2G coverage that reaches 98 per cent of the population, one of the highest levels in sub-Saharan Africa. The universal service fund has played a role in extending mobile coverage to underserved areas. Mobile-broadband was introduced relatively early in Lesotho, when Vodacom launched its 3G network in 2008. This early start has also resulted in one of the highest 3G coverage rates in Africa, at 100 per cent of the population. LTE was introduced in 2014 and population coverage is high by regional standards, at 69 per cent of the population.

The market share of  VCL and ETL is as shown in the table below:

In 2008, there were 599,500 mobile subscribers in Lesotho, but by 2016 this number had increased to almost 1.9 million – achieving a growth rate of around 216% in eight years. However, while the industry has experienced an exponential growth in subscriptions, there is substantial dominance in the market. As of 2008, Vodacom Lesotho (VCL) controlled around 82% of the market, while ETL controlled the remaining 18%. 

However, ETL seems to be regaining ground as it increased its market share to 23.6% in 2016 (LCA 2016). This has led to a reduction in VCL’s market share to 76.4%. Pricing data from RIA shows that VCL was the most expensive over the period 2013–2015. Then VCL reduced its prices in Q1 2016 to become the cheapest operator.

More recently Vodacom Group has launched Africa’s first commercial 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) network, in Lesotho, while announcing the technology was ready for deployment in South Africa when spectrum is assigned. This service will use 3.5GHz wireless spectrum, previously assigned by regulators to deliver “fibre-like speeds"— a radio frequency with greater ability to penetrate buildings, but lower expected speeds. This is a fixed 5G intended to replace slower, cable-tethered broadband modems, rather than mobile phones.

Initially, Vodacom’s service is delivering roughly 700Mbps download speeds with 10-millisecond latency, slower than the 1-5Gbps download speeds and sub-2-millisecond latency other 5G carriers have been promising. While Vodacom says that it is using standards-based 5G, it claims that its download speeds will improve to over 1Gbps after future software updates and devices.

In a statement, CEO Shameel Joosub talked-up the achievement, but warned Vodacom’s home market of South Africa could not afford to be left behind as 5G rolls out elsewhere.
“What we’ve accomplished in Lesotho is an example of what can be achieved in Africa, should the requisite spectrum also be made available,” Joosub said. “Vodacom will be able to make 5G services available to its customers in South Africa once requisite spectrum is assigned. Global technological advancements are evolving at a rapid pace and South Africa can’t afford to be left behind, particularly when we look at some of the potential use cases for 5G to support critical sectors of our society such as healthcare and education.”

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is yet to confirm a date for its 5G auction. South Africa has granted Vodacom a temporary license for 5G testing, but the carrier is not allowed to sell its services there yet, and 5G spectrum approvals elsewhere in Africa aren’t expected for some time.

Further Reading:

Saturday 8 September 2018

Orange Group presence worldwide

The Orange group Integrated 2017 Annual Report highlights the reach and vision of the group. Along with the presence in 28 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa, it has 5 main business activities and 3 customer groups as can be seen in the picture below.
Some other key figures from the report:

  • 152,000 employees
  • Over 2 million B2B customers (professionals and SMEs, incl. 43,000 businesses with more than 50 employees) in France
  • Over 3,000 customer multinationals outside France
  • 273 million B2C customers
  • Over 450 customer operators in France (wholesale)
  • €7.2 billion investment in 2017
  • 4.7 million customers with very high-speed (over 100 Mbit/s) broadband access
  • 46 million 4G customers
  • No. 1 FTTH operator in Europe (26.5 million fibreready households)
  • 10.3 million B2C customers on convergent fixed and mobile deals

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Orange Romania: 1st European 5G multi-vendor Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) test

According to The Mobile Network Magazine:

Orange has been trialling 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), using the 5GTF specifications, with live customers in Romania. It is the first such trial in Europe, although other trials of the same radio access technology are much more advanced in the USA with Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.

Orange sees FWA as a likely use case for 5G in markets where fibre and fixed broadband availability is constrained. It said that in Romania it could see potential for up to 10% of the overall broadband customer base to have a FWA connection

In Floresti, Orange has two Samsung Fixed Wireless Access points operating over 500MHz of experimental 26GHz spectrum. The access points have 128 element MIMO antennas. Orange has one access point on a tower on top of a hill and one on a lower, 20m, tower. The trial runs from the start of June to mid July.

About 30km away in an Orange data centre the operator has sited vBBU capacity from Samsung on COTS server hardware, and a dedicated Virtual Core from Cisco. Arnaud Vamparys,  Orange Senior VP Radio Networks, said the operator would not necessarily deploy vRAN to support FWA deployments, but that it was important to do so in this instance to explore the potential flexibility and efficiency benefits that such an architecture could support. “We are not saying that FWA will be on virtual radio, but we are doing it in the beginning because it is important to understand the choice.” The operator had deployed a high layer split between the access point and vBBU, he added.

More details are available in TMN mag. Below is the official video about the FWA testing.

Further Reading:

Sunday 2 September 2018

Global Top 20 Telcos by Revenue

Source: Global 100 Total Telecom via Elena Neira

AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile and NTT have maintained their top four positions in 2017 while Softbank has slipped one place to let Deutsche Telekom become the fifth largest operator by revenue. Other top 20 players by revenue include Telefónica, Vodafone, China Telecom, América Móvil, Orange, Comcast, China Unicom, KDDI, British Telecom (BT), Charter, Altice, Telecom Italia, Telsta and KT

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