Sunday 29 September 2019

LG Uplus Tests 5G in 28GHz band using 800MHz Bandwidth. Sees AR as 5G Killer App

In a recent press release (no shareable link but press releases are here - see 27 Sep), LGU+ announced that they have tested 5G commercial environment in the 28 GHz band using 800 MHz bandwidth. I am assuming this means Carrier Aggregation. With this they have successfully verified 4.2 Gbps DL and 1 Gbps UL speeds.

The press release (using Google translate from Korean) states:

This test is based on the 3GPP standard based on the 28GHz frequency bandwidth 800MHz allocated by LG Uplus, and tested by applying the terminal specifications expected to be released next year.

Download 4.2Gbps is more than three times the current 3.5GHz 5G download speed of 1.33Gbps, enabling HD-quality 2GB movies to be downloaded in four seconds. Upload 1Gbp is now more than 10 times the 3.5GHz 5G upload maximum speed of 85Mbps.

Testing was done using two antennas and 64QAM technology. LG Uplus plans to increase speeds by two to three times with four additional multi-antenna MIMO technologies and advanced modulation (256QAM).

At the end of 2017, LG Uplus conducted a speed verification of 20Gbps maximum speed by combining 28GHz and 3.5GHz as non-standard equipment.

28GHz is installed in hot spot areas such as Hongdae and Gangnam, shopping malls and stadiums, and has a large amount of data and a large number of floating populations to provide stable high-speed services. do.

In particular, the maximum upload speed is 10 times higher than the existing LTE and 3.5GHz 5G speed 75 ~ 85Mbps, smart factories that require a lot of upload capacity. It is expected to provide a new service environment in the enterprise and industry areas such as 200 cars can be accommodated) and personal service areas such as real time live broadcasting and customer video transmission.

As 28GHz uses high frequency, it has high straightness and is affected by obstacles and has a small coverage, so it needs more careful base station location design and more time and effort for quality stabilization.

LG Uplus Sang-Heon Lee, NW Development Officer, said, “This test was conducted to prepare for commercialization, and to improve cell design and mobile / boundary quality advancement at the optimal location.” 28 GHz is one of the core values ​​of 5G. It is an important technology that provides ultra high speed, but it is difficult to handle, so we will thoroughly prepare to satisfy both speed and quality from the customer's point of view. ”

Average data usage by 5G users is as high as 18.3GB, and average 4G users use 9GB in the same period, according to MSIT in May 2019. 5G data is about 2 times than that of 4G. This remarkable traffic growth is driven by UHD and AR/VR contents. According to LG Uplus, new services featuring AR and VR functions are proving popular and already account for 20% of 5G traffic, compared with 5% for 4G. The company said it aims to double the number of AR content to 1,500 by the end of this year, including K-pop dance, home training and sports videos, to cater to varied consumer needs.

The above video is one of the adverts for the LG Uplus AR K-Pop (Korean popular music) app. K-Pop is a musical genre consisting of pop, dance, electropop, hiphop, rock, R&B, and electronic music originating in South Korea. In addition to music, K-Pop has grown into a popular subculture, resulting in widespread interest in the fashion and style of Korean idol groups and singers.

While it looks like 5G is making an impact for the operators and the users in South Korea at the moment, the real challenge is to see if this trend continues. Also, it may be a bit difficult to replicate this success in other countries. We will have to wait and see.

Thursday 26 September 2019

NTT Docomo: Bringing 5G to the Rugby World Cup

NTT Docomo has recently launched a pre-commercial 5G service in select areas of major cities in Japan, delivering on its commitment to provide trial coverage at stadiums for the currently ongoing Rugby World Cup. The stadiums at eight venues nationwide will be converted into 5G areas.

The pilot service in 11 locations, including Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, is designed to give customers a preview of the capabilities of the technology. A total of 7,000 5G-compatible devices will be available at the operator’s experience centres at stadiums and in some cities for visitors to try out. The devices from Sony, Samsung, LG and Sharp are not for sale.

Docomo which is Japan's largest mobile operator by subscribers (78.45 million as of February 2019) said it won’t be offering 5G smartphones from Chinese vendor Huawei because of concerns about restricted access to Google services.


There will be various initiatives at the Rugby World Cup 2019 for example Docomo will provide a multi-viewer that can simultaneously watch the game from multiple viewpoints at the stadiums of eight venues nationwide where the `` Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan Tournament '' is held and docomo's live viewing venue. They are offering new watching styles such as “Angle Viewing” and “Live Viewing” as well as news and broadcast styles as part of “5G Pre-Service”.

While those outside the stadium can enjoy a innovative and powerful game watching experience due to Docomo transmitting multiple high-definition video and audio information via 5G communication.

Japan’s three major mobile operators – Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank – all aim to launch commercial 5G service in March or April 2020, in time to have their networks up and running for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Docomo says they will expand 5G coverage by combining 5G networks with existing 4G networks using equipment from multiple vendors. They plan to deploy about 10,000 base stations by June 2021. The operators also aim for 60% population coverage by 2023.

While Japan was one of the leading voices in the 5G during the early years despite continued progress of the Japanese telcos, they have been overshadowed by others around the world have been much more vocal and ostentatious.

Also it doesn't matter how quickly 5G networks are switched-on whats more important is how  quickly the operators can provide the country-wide coverage.

This is a challenge which will be faced by every nation around the world, though with the Rugby World Cup and the Summer Olympics next year, Japan has an excellent opportunity to stake a claim for global leadership.

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Monday 23 September 2019

Emerging 5G Markets: Uzbekistan

With Long Term Evolution (LTE) rapid expansion and slowdown in 2G and 3G services, the Uzbekistan telecom market is evolving rapidly. Embracing mobile connectivity, IoT, cloud services and smartphones has become vital for telecom companies. Operators across the value chain are forced to adapt to these emerging market changes to sustain revenue and profit.

Telecom operators in Uzbekistan are witnessing wide range of challenges including rapidly changing customer patterns, financial and technological challenges. Identifying the emerging trends and converting them into actionable strategies is vital for sustaining profitability.

Ucell is the largest company in terms of subscribers (approx. 7.1 million) owned and operated by the Uzbek company COSCOM, itself owned by State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Assistance to Privatized Enterprises and Development of Competition (a governmental authority of Uzbekistan).

It uses the 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 2G services, 2100 MHz band for 3G with coverage in main cities and has launched 4G in 2600 MHz (band 7) and announced 700 MHz bands with coverage in 6 cities in 2017 so far: Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Navoi, Zarafshan and Jizzakh. Ucell has generally the best coverage in the country at the highest rate

In September 2019  Ucell carried out tests of 5G technology at its headquarters in Tashkent. Up to 1.376 Gbps speed was reached, according to measurements using the SpeedTest service. Equipment from Huawei was used for the test. They aim to launch a 5G network at the Tashkent International Business Centre this year, before expanding coverage.

Beeline is the second provider in the country. It's controlled by Russian-backed VimpelCom. In 2016 it covers 88% of the population by 2G, 52% with 3G and also started 4G/LTE in Tashkent in 2015 expanding to other towns. Beeline uses rare 850 MHz on bands 5 and 18 for 4G/LTE.

As of the first quarter of 2018 the subscriber base of Beeline in Uzbekistan totalled 9.6 million people.

Operator UMS is currently  undergoing a phased rebranding  and will eventually provide mobile services under the brand Mobiuz. The rebranding began in December 2018 with development of the name, color identification and other parameters of the brand. Further rebranding will be carried out in stages. In number of subscribers (approx. 1.1 million) it's the 3rd operator in the country.  In June 2016 they launched 4G/LTE services in Tashkent. Their LTE network uses the 800 MHz (band 20) and is available throughout the capital. In 2017 Samarkand was added. 4G services are available at no extra cost for existing 3G subscribers with compatible devices and SIMs.

The final operator Uzmobile, a subsidiary of the national operator Uztelecom, also has more than a million subscribers. Using a combination of CDMA-450 and GSM technologies – the latter of which was only launched in April 2015 – they have installed a total of 1,200 new 2G, 3G and 4G base stations since 2015. 4G/LTE was started in 2017 on 1800 MHz.

Uzmobile have also started testing 5G technology, Huawei equipment was used for these trials, and they have placed their first 5G base stations “into operation for pre-trial testing” on “frequencies up to 6GHz”. The testing will use non-standalone network infrastructure built on top of its 4G network, and will involve “multiple non-hierarchical (disproportionate) access and Massive MIMO” technologies.

The test results will inform the operator’s procurement and deployment plan, which is expected to take ‘more than one and a half years’. According to one of its engineers, the operator has achieved data connection speeds of 1.455Gbps (downlink)/114Mbps (uplink) on its Tashkent network.

Saturday 21 September 2019

MTN: Connecting Rural Africa

I wrote about MTN on the Small Cells Blog last year, where Babak Fouladi, Technology and Information System (Group CTIO) at MTN delivered an insightful talk. In addition to providing a lot of valuable insights on how they plan to tackle rural connectivity, they talked about their RFP for Rural, Ultra-rural and Ultra-ultra-rural sites.

In the latest TowerXchange, Navindran Naidoo, Group Executive, Network Design & Planning, MTN Group explained this and a lot of other details. The article is available here. I will just look at what he said specifically about this RFP below:

The RFP is an attempt to source full turnkey vendors for our different categories: rural, ultra-rural and ultra-ultra rural. The RFP should close in September. 

We are interested in the role that independent telecom tower companies (towercos) can play in enhancing rural connectivity. Leasing space on towers could be an important enabler of investment in rural and ultra-rural areas. However, the leasing model is unlikely to be operable in ultra-ultra rural areas where low ARPUs will be unable to support more than one operator. Sharing infrastructure is an option for reducing the cost of roll-out and opex too. 

I cannot comment on how the pricing structure and economics of the sites will work, as we are waiting to see what is proposed in the responses to our RFP.

There are a few ways we identify and categorise sites, such as determining the distance from the urban areas we already serve. We can use satellite imagery to complement that and identify the best areas to serve, as we cannot rely on census information in these areas. 

For backhaul we expect to use a variety of technologies. In rural sites we have specified microwave backhaul as these sites should not be too far away from our existing network. For ultra-ultra-rural sites, we have specified optimised Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) backhaul. Ultra-rural sites will see a mixture of the two solutions. 

The towers will also differ from site to site. At normal rural sites, shareable macro towers will be used; at ultra-rural sites we expect shorter towers of between 10m and 20m. While at ultra-ultra rural sites, we are leaving the details of the structure to our vendors to propose depending on what they think will work best.

We don’t only need sites which have a low-cost bill of materials, but we need structures with minimal maintenance and a quick implementation timeline. It should take up to a week to erect a rural site, but our ultra-ultra rural sites should be complete in a day or two. 

Site availability will differ to what we expect for our core sites. At rural sites we are proposing > 98% availability; at ultra-rural sites > 95%; and we will wait to see what our vendors propose for ultra-ultra rural sites. At these most rural sites we need to keep maintenance and repair visits to a minimum, so while we expect to use solar power and battery back-ups at our rural and ultra-rural sites, we may opt for solar-only sites at our most remote sites. Eliminating diesel generators cuts maintenance and refuelling, cutting batteries from our most remote sites further simplifies the maintenance of the sites and eliminates sites going down due to battery theft. 

Most rural sites, with their larger towers and more demanding initial specification could be upgraded, but ultra rural and ultra-ultra rural would require complete rebuilds. But that would be an excellent problem to have.

We think offering data and internet connectivity is essential. Even at our ultra-ultra rural sites we want to be able to offer at least 3G levels of connectivity. 

Our CHASE programme helps us focus on what matters for our users: Coverage, Handsets, Affordability, Services and Education. We have to ensure sufficient data coverage in low-income areas; affordability of handsets and data services; bundle together the correct services for our customers; and enhance digital literacy and awareness so that people can make the most of the services we deliver. 

The complete article is here.

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Wednesday 18 September 2019

New Zealand: New age of 5G

There are three main mobile operators in New Zealand they serve a relatively small population of approximately 4.8 million. All three of them own and operate their own network of towers.


Vodafone is the market leader with 2.55 million subscribers (41% on contract) and claims to cover 98.5% of the population using their extensive  2G, 3G, 4G/LTE network.  In 2019 Vodafone sold its NZ unit to local Infratil, an investment company that owns airports, electricity generators and retailers, renewable energy and a public transport businesses. It will maintain the network under the Vodafone brand.

It has a good overall network in 4G, 3G and 2G at a range of prices. It's 4G network is good, with fast coverage in all urban areas, many towns and some rural areas.
Vodafone (working with Nokia) will flick the switch on its 5G network in December and it wants New Zealanders to know this isn't some futuristic, space-aged technology far removed from the present. They will offer services in four cities using a 40MHz slice of 3.5GHz spectrum which they says they have warehoused for "many years."  They are aiming to have at least 100 cellsites upgraded by December when they switch on the 5G network for customers to access and are also upgrading 400 existing 4G mobile sites to become 4.5G.

In a 5G ad campaign that launched nationwide on Sunday night, Vodafone pulls at the heartstrings with the story of an elderly man who takes his dog to the vet:

Spark the second largest operator with coverage over 97% of the population using their 3G and 4G network. Spark's network provides superior coverage (especially 4G in rural and suburban areas). Their number of subscribers: 2.46m (49% on contract).

It has a good nationwide coverage, but no fall back to 2G. Spark has the largest 4G network of all 3 networks in New Zealand, with universal 4G coverage in nearly every populated area, as well as many touristed areas and national parks. 4.5G (LTE Advanced Pro) is now available in many urban centres and rural areas on compatible devices.

2degrees is a relative newcomer, they claim coverage of 98.5% of the population (which includes areas where customers roam onto Vodafone's network). Its 4G network has less coverage in comparison to its competitors, and reception can be worse in rural areas particually in the South Island. However they have good coverage in urban areas including all cities, most towns and many rural areas in the North Island. Their number of subscribers: 1.41m (31% on contract).

2degrees closed down its entire 2G GSM/GPRS/EDGE network in March 2018. The provider's 3G network (including roaming on Vodafone's 3G network) now provides coverage of 98.5% of New Zealand’s population. They are also switching on 4G in the 900 MHz frequency band previouly used by the 2G network. That is helping improve their 4G coverage in rural areas as well as adding more capacity in urban areas.

Due to 2degrees's poor network coverage in comparison to its competitors, WiFi calling is available on compatible devices, meaning that you can use your call and text allowances over a WiFi network, whether you are in New Zealand or overseas. 

Both Spark and 2degrees have long standing relationships with Huawei which has been banned by the government from participating in 5G on security grounds and neither has given and definite indication of when it will launch 5G services. Spark is also waiting on the 3.5GHz auction.

Monday 16 September 2019

Fastweb and the Shared 5G Network in Italy

Fastweb, an Italian subsidiary of Swisscom since 2007, was already a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), but now the company will run its own infrastructure-based network and following approval from the Ministry of Economic Development become the fifth mobile operator in Italy, building and marketing their own 5G services. The operator has 2.6 million broadband customers but only 1.6 million subscribers to its mobile services.

Having acquired Tiscali SpA 's fixed-wireless business and full ownership of its 5G-friendly 3.5GHz spectrum and 835 of their towers in a deal worth around €150 million (US$176 million).  Since December 2016 Fastweb has had the right to use 3.5GHz spectrum in the main Italian cities and allows them to provide fixed-wireless connectivity to all market segments in Italy.

In July 2019 Fastweb announced a network-sharing deal with CK Hutchison’s Wind Tre “to accelerate the roll-out of a nationwide, state-of-the art 5G network”. Fastweb said then that “the shared 5G network will include Wind Tre and Fastweb macro and small cells, connected through dark fibre from Fastweb, to be deployed nationwide, with a targeted coverage of 90% of the population by 2026”.

As a result Fastweb will be able to compete with TIM and Vodafone as well as with Wind Tre, and with French-owned Iliad, which started up in the market when Wind – then owned by Veon – merged with Hutch’s Tre.

Due to the astronomical prices of spectrum licenses and fighting competition on all sides, Italy's telecom operators are increasingly engaging in network-sharing partnerships as they roll out their new 5G services. Network sharing is hardly a new thing in Europe, of course, and has already taken off in Italy. Under competitive and regulatory pressure, Telecom Italia and Vodafone are sharing mobile towers and will even use the same 5G basestations outside the big cities. Across the entire European region, market dynamics are spurring interest in similar arrangements.But Fastweb and Wind Tre are going much further.

The two operators are pooling spectrum resources and site equipment to build a single 5G network that each will use to provide retail services to its customers. If the scheme works, it may validate network slicing, an advanced technique that allows operators to run different "virtualized" network services over the same physical infrastructure. It could even become the preferred model for other European operators struggling to fund the deployment of 5G networks. It will also allow Fastweb to deploy 40MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum acquired in a private transaction last year. Adding this to Wind Tre's 20MHz they hope this will give the operators the means to challenge Telecom Italia and Vodafone.

The details of their approach, confirmed by a Fastweb spokesperson, mean each company will effectively become a virtual operator of a shared 5G platform. While some of the commercial arrangements are still unclear, the companies will use the same mobile sites and network equipment across the entire country. The first 5G services are scheduled to arrive next year. By 2024, Fastweb and Wind Tre expect to have nationwide coverage.
Fastweb believe network slicing can overcome much of the concern about control and efficiency. This untried technology, which is due to be standardized in future 5G releases, usually attracts attention as a means of guaranteeing service levels for different enterprise customers. To Fastweb, it is above all a way to guarantee service independence from Wind Tre on a shared 5G network. "Thanks to the slicing capabilities of 5G, both Fastweb and Wind Tre will have complete end-to-end control on our virtual networks," said Fastweb's spokesperson. "This agreement allows us to achieve the utmost level of synergies and efficiency in the deployment, without compromising on independence and control."

Realizing this vision would mean proving that network slicing can facilitate the most extreme form of network sharing. To give itself the best chance of success, Fastweb is also developing software tools for the full automation of 5G network management. "5G is more than just a new mobile technology. It is a new way to think and develop services, processes, IT systems and networks," they say. If it can persuade the industry that a single 5G network used by multiple operators holds no major drawbacks, it could usher in a new 5G paradigm.

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Saturday 14 September 2019

Vodafone: Creating Europe's Largest Tower Company

Earlier this year Vodafone unveiled plans to spin off or float its telecom tower business, a company that would be valued at up to £18 billion and rocket into the FTSE 100.

The new standalone business, called TowerCo, will own Europe’s largest tower portfolio, comprising approximately 61,700 towers across 10 countries, with 75% of these sites in the major markets of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Total towers comprise 19,300 in Germany, 11,000 in Italy, 9,700 in Spain (adjusted for the sharing deal with Orange), 6,600 in the UK (representing 50% of total UK towers, consistent with Vodafone’s ownership of Cornerstone, the 50:50 joint venture company that owns and manages its passive infrastructure) and 15,100 in Other Europe (excluding VodafoneZiggo). The masts provide mobile coverage across each country allowing phone owners to make and receive calls and use data to access apps and websites. Income comes from leasing space on each mast to rivals offering their own mobile phone networks.

The business is estimated to generate about €1.7bn in revenues and €900m profits, leading analysts to value the business at between €15bn and €20bn, based on valuations of other mast businesses.

The deal would also allow Vodafone to focus on selling broadband and developing 5G services. TowerCo would allow rival telecom companies to share infrastructure, a move that will please City planners and environmentalists worried about the growth of the masts. The new company should be operational by May 2020. 

According to Nick Read, Vodafone’s chief executive:

“We are now creating Europe’s largest tower company. Given the scale and quality of our infrastructure we believe there is a substantial opportunity to unlock value for shareholders.”
Shares in the world’s second largest mobile operator climbed almost 10% as investors relished the prospect of a windfall from a sale or initial public offering of Europe’s largest towers company.

Vodafone intends to use the proceeds from the sale programme to reduce its levels of debt, 
which reached €48bn when the company completed its €18.4bn deal to buy Liberty Global’s German and eastern European cable assets. 

Vodafone has also spent €4bn on 5G spectrum as prices ballooned in auctions in Germany and Italy during the past year. According to George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Yes, Vodafone will lose the profits associated with running the towers, but it will also remove the €200m of annual spending tied up maintaining and expanding the network. So it’s easy to see the logic for the deal, especially since the group’s debts are fairly pressing.”
Vodafone has launched 5G roaming in 55 towns and cities across Italy, Spain, Germany and the UK. However, coverage remains limited, as the company only switched on 5G in Britain in July 2019.

Towers have become a key trading asset for cash-strapped European telecoms companies in Europe, with businesses including Telefónica, Iliad, Altice, Sunrise and BT selling masts.

US and African carriers were quicker to sell their towers than their European peers but the rising value of infrastructure assets has led many networks to consider deals to generate cash for 5G investments. That has given rise to specialist tower businesses including Spain’s Cellnex, which has built a base of 45,000 masts largely via acquisition. 

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Rogers: Striving for 5G

Rogers is the largest mobile operator by subscribers in Canada and also provides coverage in approximately 97% of the vast country.

Recently they have been working to upgrade their existing network, which has fallen behind those of Bell and Telus when it comes to top speeds, according to independent reports by PCMag and Open Signal

They have invested $1.7 billion in Canada’s first-ever 5G auction to enable 5G deployment in urban, suburban and rural communities, and acquired the 600 Mhz spectrum. This will bring the company’s planned total capital investment in infrastructure to $4.7 billion this year. 600 MHz carries wireless data across long distances and through dense urban buildings. This creates more consistent and higher quality coverage in both remote areas and smart cities. This coverage will benefit businesses across the country that rely on real-time data including farming, mining, manufacturing and transportation.

Partnering with Ericsson, Rogers will trial 5G in Toronto and Ottawa, in addition to select cities. They recently demonstrated ultra-fast speeds and low latency with virtual reality and a robot, installing hundreds of small cells in a stadium to test the new technology with data-hungry crowds at this event:

This partnership with Ericsson intends to boost and densify their network with small cells and macro sites across the country. Rogers network plan includes the continued rollout of its Gigabit LTE network with technology and equipment that is based on the latest global 3GPP standards, including 4×4 MIMO, four-carrier aggregation and 256 QAM. While the 5G standards are not yet complete, these network investments mean Rogers will be ready when the standards are finished. The new infrastructure will simply require software upgrades to enable 5G when it is ready to go. It is estimated their 5G network should be ready for prime time by 2020.

The operator is also seeing increasing growth opportunities in the machine-to-machine segment with the firm’s current 4.5G capabilities, and Canada is a market leader in machine-to-machine/IoT technology.  

However in the first quarter of 2019 Rogers’ market share of industry net adds declined to 13 per cent from 35 per cent in the same period. In a bid to attract more subscribers, Rogers introduced its own unlimited wireless plan, Infinite, in June. Competitors Bell and Telus responded by offering their own promotional offers, sparking a price war in the crowded Canadian market.

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Monday 9 September 2019

20 Years of Salt Mobile

Switzerland has approximately 11.2 million connections for a total population of 8.53 million, mobile penetration in Switzerland at the end of 2018 was nearly 132%.

Swisscom is the largest mobile phone operator in Switzerland, holding down 58.3 percent of the Swiss mobile network market. This translates to a customer base of 6.55 million customers for Swisscom, 2.78 million for Sunrise, and 1.88 million customers for Salt.

Now Europe clearly have most of the global 5G deployments as of yet but according to one vendor executive, Switzerland is “massively in the lead.” Currently Swisscom and Sunrise are both offering commercial 5G services, with the third national operator Salt working to launch sometime later this year. 

The diagrams above and below are from a report about Sunrise, but they are useful for showing the market/spectrum position of Salt. 

Salt is the smallest of the three operators has recently secured 20 megahertz in the 700 MHz band, 80 megahertz in the 3.5 GHz band and 10 megahertz in the 1.4 GHz band and are working with Nokia to begin rolling out 5G this quarter. Previously it teamed up with Nokia to showcase potential applications for 5G, achieving download speeds of 4.5 Gb/s using spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. It also tested virtual reality applications and transmitted live video to demonstrate network characteristics such as latency of around 1 millisecond.

Nokia is supplying core and radio access network equipment based off of a deal signed in January. In terms of use cases and applications, the carrier called out video streaming and augmented and virtual reality for the consumer media market, and the internet of things for verticals including, smart cities, banking, manufacturing and tourism

Accordng to Salt CEO Pascal Grieder:

“We are committed to providing our customers with an outstanding customer experience and have identified Nokia as the right partner to deliver exceptional mobile experience. They convinced us not only through their advanced technological capabilities but also their reliability and security, which are paramount to Swiss private users as well as our country’s corporations."
Salt have also just reached their 20th anniversary:

Salt’ mobile network now covers 99% of the population with 4G services. The operator today serves 1,228,000 postpaid as well as 596,000 prepaid customers. 

In June 2019, Salt's mobile network was ranked number one among its two national competitors for the first time and ranked sixth among 318 operators tested worldwide with a total of 29,218 points by 4GMark, a platform mobile performance test.The measured average download speed was 44.2 MB / s and the average upload speed was 16.9 MB / s. These levels provide consumers with a great download experience and watch TV in high definition anywhere and anytime on their mobile device.

This achievement is the result of a great deal of investment in their network which will only further improve with the development of 5G. 

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Friday 6 September 2019

Zong Pakistan Yearns for 5G Despite Poor 3G / 4G Coverage

Despite being on the  back foot in the West, the Chinese technology giant Huawei has been quietly strengthening its foothold in the massive South Asian market. Both Huawei and ZTE are the main suppliers of the radio access network (RAN) in Pakistan. Huawei has up to 60 percent of the RAN market share, with ZTE capturing virtually all the remainder.

Huawei have very much convinced the South Asian nations with a flourishing middle class to adopt their 5G technology. Huawei are already well established in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka alhtough they have yet to  take off in India.

Pakistan, which has a population of 217 million, has 161 million mobile phone subscribers including 69 million 3G / 4G users. Pakistan’s most popular data network and a pioneer of mobile internet connectivity is Zong , they have provided Huawei with the foothold it was looking for locally. 

With Zong having 12,000 4G sites across Pakistan, they announced a partnership for digital transformation early this year. Zong 4G and Huawei will be integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data to provide consumers with fast, uninterrupted connectivity.

China Mobile Pakistan (CMPak), branded as Zong 4G , has now achieved another milestone by successfully conducting 5G trials in the country. This achievement has made the Chinese telecom company the first and only local mobile operator to do so.

Zong CMPAK has been delivering the many firsts of the telecom industry in Pakistan; for instance, being the first to launch 4G in Pakistan, first to cross the prolific mark of 12,000+ 4G towers and the first to reach the more 13 million 4G customers mark and 34.71 million mobile phone subscribers overall. 

Zong has now become the first operator to conduct successful 5G trials to play a leading role in transforming the digital landscape of Pakistan. Zong believes that 5G will bring more profound and long-term changes to Pakistan’s economic transformation, social progress, and people’s livelihood improvement in future. 5G is expected to revolutionise key sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and education in Pakistan. It will have a significant impact on Pakistan's economic transformation, social progress and create new avenues of entertainment.       

With a commitment to develop the digital ecosystem in Pakistan, Zong has always been at the forefront to offer innovative, state-of-the-art and most advanced services and solutions to its valued customers. As the pioneer of 4G services in Pakistan, Zong has already established itself as Pakistan’s largest network with more than 13 million 4G customers and 12,000 4G sites. During the event, the Secretary IT, PTA chairman, Economic & Commercial Counsellor, Chinese Embassy along with the dignitaries tested Zong’s 5G network.

According to industry sources, 5G service in Pakistan will be 100 times faster than the current levels while network will be 10 times faster than existing broadband connections available in the country. 5G home routers speed has been recorded at 4 gigabytes per second, which means that it can download a 50 GB file in just two minutes. 

However some industry gurus are cautious and believe Pakistan is likely to take longer time to enter into 5G business because the penetration of 3G / 4G has only reached 32.72 percent by June 2019.

Jazz, a part of Veon, has around 60 million mobile phone users in Pakistan. Telenor has 44 million mobile phone customers, according to statistics from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). 

Mobile phone users on 3G and 4G network are facing poor network performance. Local mobile operators, under the regulation, have to maintain data rates of 256 kbps for 3G and 2 Mbps for 4G in Pakistan, Matt Walker said in a research report from MTN Consulting.

Jazz has achieved an average download speed of 17.13 Mbps and average upload speed of 10.74 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018, Speedtest report from Ookla said.

Zong has achieved an average download speed of 17.13 Mbps and average upload speed of 10.74 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.

Telenor has achieved an average download speed of 7.72 Mbps and average upload speed of 3.81 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.

Ufone has achieved an average download speed of 4.43 Mbps and average upload speed of 2.29 Mbps during Q3-Q4 2018.

The currency in Pakistan has been devalued by more than 40 percent to its value of January 2018. During January 2018 the exchange rate was USD 1 to PKR 110 and now in August 2019 it is hovering around PKR 160.

This is impacting the telecom sector in the country. Reduction in profit margins, decrease in available Capex for new investments as nearly all equipment is imported and increase in Opex are the main issues due to the devaluation of PKR.

Mobile operator revenue in Pakistan reached PKR 488750 million in 2017-18 as compared with PKR 464111 million in 2016-17.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said telecoms Capex has reached $670 million in 2017-18 as compared with $635 million during 2016-17.

Therefore Pakistan operators may well not be ready for making investment in 5G network. They may try to expand 4G network coverage and may take another 3-4 years to look for additional revenue streams from 5G.

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Tuesday 3 September 2019

Africa: The Race For No. 2 Operator

MTN is the largest mobile operator group in Africa with roughly 168 million subscribers, but who is number 2?

Airtel just crossed 100 millions subscribers in Africa and many news sites have started calling them the second largest operator group in the region. Livemint for example reported:

Bharti Airtel’s Africa arm has crossed the 100-million customer mark across its operations in the continent, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

This is significant for the company, which entered the continent in 2010. Airtel Africa is currently the second-largest mobile operator in Africa by the number of active subscribers; South Africa’s MTN is the largest.

Airtel Africa is the holding firm for Bharti Airtel’s operations in 14 countries in the continent across three regions — Nigeria; East Africa, comprising Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia; and the rest of Africa, including Niger, Gabon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Seychelles. Nigeria alone accounts for almost half of its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda).

According to this Bloomberg article, back in July 2019, Airtel was the 4th largest by subs numbers.

  • MTN 167.7 million 
  • Orange 120 mil 
  • Vodacom 110 mil 
  • Airtel 98.9 mil

There is a small caveat though. While MTN does not include Middle East, Orange does. Again, Vodacom includes Safaricom in which it has around 35% stake. Vodafone, Vodacom’s parent (64.5% stake), had an additional 49.3 million customers in its operations in Egypt and Ghana at the end of June. If we include Vodafone, Vodacom and Safaricom, it would be going head-to-head with MTN for the top place.

The Guardian, Nigeria has a good summary of the top 4 mobile operators in Africa here.

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Sunday 1 September 2019

5G+ Strategy of the Republic of Korea

    Back in April this year, the South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT provided details not just about 5G commercialization but also about the future 5G+ strategy. This post combines that announcement with a recent presentation by the Ministry at UN ESCAP:

    The Korean government celebrated world’s first 5G commercialization in Olympic Park on April 8 2019 and shared the national vision for realizing an innovative growth in the 5G era. On that day, the Korean government announced the ‘5G+ Strategy’ as a way to create new industries and services based on 5G and pledged to establish the world’s best 5G ecosystem moving on from being world’s first. In particular, the Korean government proposed the goal to reach 180 trillion won in productivity, 73 billion dollars in export and create 600,000 quality jobs by 2026, through promoting 5G+strategic industries (major 10 industries and 5 services).

    As an effort to nurture 5G-based new industries and markets and improve the quality of people’s lives, 52 specific tasks under the following major five strategic areas will be implemented.
    1. secure early market and improve people’s quality of life through taking initiative in investing in public sector
    2. create testbed for expanding investment in private sector and develop industries
    3. support 5G service facilitation and user protection through system maintenance
    4. nurture globally recognized innovative enterprises and talents through establishment of industrial foundation
    5. globalize Korea’s 5G technologies and services through providing support to overseas expansion
    Demonstration and spread of 5G+ core services
    provide support in identifying and demonstrating profit models in 5 core areas in the private sector (2018~2021) ⇨ carry out 5G+ innovation project for deployment and spread of services (2021~2025)
    1. immersive content: real time hologram performance for remote areas
    2. smart factory: solution development for each industry and spread of industrial complex
    3. autonomous vehicle: develop and distribute 5G self-driving shuttle buses
    4. smart city: emergency rescue service in fire sites
    5. digital healthcare: emergency medical service between ambulances and hospitals
    Support demand creation in public sector
    • (SOC) support safe and efficient management of infrastructure and deteriorated facility
      • (infrastructure) carry out ‘5G+ smart SOC project’(2020~) for establishing real time monitoring system (utilization of 5G robots and CCTVs etc.) on road, port and airport etc.
      • (life support facility) support real time 5G-based safety monitoring in educational and cultural facility (2020~)
      • (deteriorated nuclear power plant) develop and adopt safe, 5G-based nuclear power plant decommissioning technologies such as real time monitoring of high risk work sites and identifying biometrics of workers (2020~2023)
    • (utilize cutting-edge device) create 5G device market based on public demand
      • (robot) carry out 5G public service robot (guide robot on public facility etc.) pilot project (2020~)
      • (drone) support R&D and demonstration of 5G drone service such as public safety, environment and measurement (2020~) and develop 5G drones for mail delivery (2019~2021) and connect this to public procurement
      • (CCTV) implement 5G intelligent CCTV R&D and demonstration as well as disaster safety pilot service (2021~)

    improve people’s quality of life through 5G public service deployment
    • (5G+ life sustaining project) distribute 5G solutions* based on public demand for improving people’s livelihood in areas such as education, agriculture and environment and resolving regional social issues (2021~)
      • * e.g. (immersive education) provide 5G-based, VR and AR remote education and training for local and vocational schools, (smart agriculture) deploy 5G unmanned tractors and drones, (environmental monitoring) 5G-based, real time fine dust monitoring etc.  
    • (improve medical service) implement ‘5G-based collaborative telemedicine pilot project’ for hospitals and clinics (2020~) → increase the portion of the medical facility with scale similar to or larger than that of general hospital to 50% by 2023

    create 5G-based smart city
    • (national pilot city) establish data and AI center in pilot city for building data-based intelligent urban operating system in connection with 5G (2020~2022)
    • (existing city) support expansion of 5G-based smart city technologies by active deployment of 5G to projects in turning existing cities into smart cities such as smart city challenge (2019~)
    Expand private investment by:
    1. tax credit and investment
    • provide tax credits to network investment (2~3% for 2019-2020) for inducing early deployment of nationwide 5G network and invest in innovation companies by engaging in financial programs driving new growth*
      • * program supporting advancement in industrial structure (10 trillion won for 2019-2021), KP Inno fund (1.2 trillion won for 2019∼2022), smart factory fund (300 billion won for 2019∼2021) etc.
    1. establish 5G testbeds and demonstration infrastructure
    • (establish testbeds) establish 13 5G testbeds and demonstration infrastructure in five areas including various 5G terminals and equipments, 5G Vehicular-to-Everything*(V2X) communications, 5G drones** and edge computing
      • * provide support in verification of 5G autonomous driving performance on real roads in K-City(Hwaseong), Pangyo zero city and Sangam of Seoul (2019∼)
      • ** establish 5G test infrastructure in 5 drone flying test sites which are in the process of construction (Yeongwol, Gosang, Boeun etc.) (2020∼2021)
      • provide internationally accredited certificate service for supporting 5G terminal and V2X exports (2019~)
    • (5G challenge) hold contests for demonstration and expansion of 5G autonomous vehicles and drones
    • (establish clusters) establish ‘Songpa mobile cluster’ which has expanded the existing function of supporting radiowave and security industry to providing support to 5G equipment development and demonstration (2020~2025)
    1. promote 5G technology commercialization of SMEs
    • (network equipment) increase support for R&D of technology commercialization in 5G equipment (small cell, repeater, modem etc.) of small and medium-sized enterprises (to take up 25%(2017) → 35%(2020) out of mobile communication R&D)
    • (purchase conditional R&D) expand R&D support for commercialization of SMEs based on demand for purchasing 5G-based new technologies and products of public institutions and foreign countries
    1. support facilitation of 5G content market
    • carry out ‘5G content flagship project*’ and secure infrastructure for development hub (2019~) for creating major 10 globally recognized 5G content by 2022
      • * e.g. (immersive media) 360° VR sports streaming, (immersive communication) hologram video conference, (immersive life) VR shopping, (industry convergence) control AR factory and farm, (public service) VR safety education
    1. support innovation of productivity in leading industries
    • (smart factory) support gradual distribution* of 5G factory solutions optimized for innovating manufacturing and processing of small and medium sized enterprises to 1000 factories by 2022 (2020~2022)
      • * target for establishment: 200 (2020) → 300 (2021) → 500 (2022)
    • (shipbuilding) secure core technologies of ‘smart yard’ (2021~) providing support to demonstration of 5G-based smart telecom environment establishment in shipyard (2020~2023) and technologies which automate and optimize processing
    • (maritime port) establish smart maritime port logistics system which is automatic and intelligent based on 5G (pilot project: 4 ports including Busan Port and Gwangyang Port) (2019~)
    • (energy) set up an optimal energy generation system through real time 5G and big data processing in order to respond to expansion of renewable energy (solar energy etc.) generation complex (2020~2023)
    • (manufacturing AR) provide pilot AR service (AR manual, AR remote support etc.) in the field of manufacturing to small and medium sized enterprises in relation to 5G smart factory distribution (2020~)
    Support 5G service facilitation and user protection through system maintenance
    1. telecom service plan and system maintenance
    • (launch 5G service plan) induce the launch of service plan* which does not rapidly increase household burden on telecom fee, so that citizens can use various 5G services (April 2019~)
      • * continue to reduce rate for data per unit compared to LTE from the first 5G service plan
    • (support B2B facilitation) improve service plan to be flexible enough to reflect various 5G services such as autonomous vehicles and smart factories (2019~)
    1. secure radiowave resources and improve regulations
    • (allocate frequency) double frequency for 5G service by 2026 (2,680MHz bandwidth as of now → 5,190MHz bandwidth) and allocate frequency for 5G convergence service (autonomous vehicle and smart factory etc.) (2019~)
    • (improve regulations) support ease of administrative burden through measures including introduction of ‘frequency license system’ (revise radiowave act, 2019~) which integrates and simplifies the process of frequency allocation and radio station establishment
    1. create the safest user environment

    • (cyber safety) establish preventive system for cyber security breaches such as designating 5G core facilities to be critical IT infrastructure and coming up with ICT convergence security system* (revise the act on information communications network, 2019~) 
      • * legal grounds in relation to IoT device and service security, recommendations for convergence service security standard etc.
    • (reinforce stability of communication networks) establish communication disaster prevention and response system such as expanding subjects to government inspection to all of major communication facilities (80→870) and securing detour route for signal transmission between facilities etc.

    1. regulatory innovation for 5G convergence service

    • identify items for regulatory improvement in connection to regulatory sandbox and pilot project and ease regulations for location based information project (grant system → registration system, revise location information act)

    1. bridge digital divide and protect users

    • (bridge digital divide) reinforce accessibility to new terminals and services for the vulnerable class (the disabled and elderly) and expand education for utilizing intelligent information service focused on real life experiences (VR, AR etc.)
    • (principles of protecting users) set principles to prevent new kinds of damages done to users and strengthen their rights amid expansion of 5G convergence service and intelligent information technologies (2019~)

    Further details:

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