Wednesday 10 June 2020

Indonesia consolidating 4G

Indonesia’s mobile market has displayed very strong growth for the five years up to 2016. However by  2019, growth had subsided. Growing use of mobile broadband has been a significant driver of this strong growth. Industry consolidation is possible towards 2020 as intense data competition may force smaller and unprofitable mobile operators to be pushed out of the market. Currently four main mobile operators compete for revenues in the Indonesian market. All of these operators are well advanced in the deployment of their 4G LTE networks.

Mobile subscriber growth is expected to be relatively low over the next five years to 2023 as the market further matures in a highly competitive market. The market will be driven by the uptake of both 4G and 5G services. Indonesia has seen a very rapid increase in mobile broadband penetration over the past five years driven by a rising level of mobile broadband users. However, the mobile broadband market is still at a relatively early stage of development. Strong growth is predicted over the next five years to 2023.

Indonesia 4 GSM network operators are Telkomsel,  IM3 Ooredoo (a.k.a. Indosat) 3 (= Tri) and XL Axiata. Additionally, Smartfren operates a 4G/LTE network only. For the 4 major national providers 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G is on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has been started on Telkomsel, XL Axiata and IM3 on 900 MHz (band 8 in Jakarta, Bali and other cities and from summer 2015 on all networks on 1800 MHz (band 3) too.

Telkomsel, the mobile branch of Telkom Indonesia, has a market share of about 40% in Indonesia and is the only operator which is active in all provinces.It is 2/3 owned by the state through Telekom Indonesia and 1/3 by SingTel from Singapore.

Telkomsel presided over a mobile network totalling 146,571 base stations in 2017, of which 65.7% are capable of supporting 3G/4G services. For 4G 900 and 1800 MHz (bands 8 and 3) are used and from 2018 additionally 2300 MHz TD-LTE on band 40.

Telkomsel has the best coverage especially on the outer islands, but can be slow on the main places. 4G/LTE has started on 900 and 1800 MHz in Jakarta, Bali, Bandung, Medan, Surabaya, Makassar, Lombok and Manando: 4G Coverage Map. In 2016 they announced that their LTE network is now live in 100 cities in Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, as well as Papua, thanks to the deployment of more than 4,500 eNode B base transceiver stations (BTS). 4G access is only possible with a 4G-enabled SIM card sold in stores where they have 4G coverage.

According to the most recent OpenSignal report on Indonesia Telkomsel has maintained its dominance by winning four out of five metrics in their national analysis, and more than 75% of the awards in Indonesia’s 16 largest cities. 

Telkomsel has also partnered with Ericsson and selected NFVI core network technology for a major core network upgrade as it moves towards 5G deployment. Ericsson’s core network solutions will enable Telkomsel to improve speed, efficiency and agility for its current business and for future opportunities. With increasing Radio Access Network (RAN) speeds and the growing need for low latency, service providers also face the need to evolve core networks to advanced and flexible architecture that includes distribution to the network edge. The deployment of Ericsson’s NFVI (Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure) solution, together with Ericsson Cloud Packet Core, is a significant step towards making Telkomsel’s network 5G-ready. Telkomsel will benefit from scalable software architecture, reduced time to market for new services, lower total cost of ownership, and faster responses to changing consumer and enterprise demands.

M3 Ooredoo, a.k.a. Indosat, has become the 2nd operator in Indonesia with 22% share of the market. It's focusing on triple play and mostly owned by Ooredoo, which rebranded it in 2015. It has a good coverage on the main islands of Java, Bali, Kalimatan, Sulawesi and Sumatra: Indosat coverage map at low prices. 4G/LTE has started in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali and is available in about 94 cities at the end of 2016 on 900 (B8) and 1800 MHz (B3) with speeds up to 185 Mbps.  In 2017 it auctioned further spectrum on 2100 MHz (B1).
3 called Tri in Indonesia by Hutchison Whampoa from Hong Kong is now the 3rd provider with the lowest coverage and the cheapest rates. It has a limited coverage only in some main islands. If you want to travel through the archipelago or to remote places, look elsewhere. Before you buy their SIM, check coverage here for 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Up to now 3 has been focusing its efforts on its 3G network rollout, deploying access to the 2,820 sub-districts, 307 municipalities in 25 provinces in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java, Bali and Lombok. As of 2015, the operator had extended its national footprint to 86% of the Indonesian population.

In 2015 Tri started 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3). In 2017 4G/LTE is available in 227 cities in 25 provinces on the islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java and Bali and Tri auctioned further spectrum on 2100 MHz (band 1).

XL Axiata is the 4th provider in Indonesia. It is owned by Axiata Ltd. and has about a 90% coverage on these islands: Java, Bali and Lombok. Furthermore, it covers cities on Sumatra, Kalimatan, Sulawesi and a very limited coverage on Papua. Where it has 3G, speeds are often faster then Telkomsel. 4G/LTE has started in Jakarta, Medan, Yogyakarta and is spread to other regions like Bali, Lombok, Surabaya and East Kalimatan and Sulawesi on 900 and 1800 MHz: 4G Coverage Map . As at 31 October 2017, XL Axiata says it had more than 20 million 4G subscribers nationwide, using a network comprising 16,000 BTS. At the same date, its total number of ‘on-air’ base stations had reached nearly 100,000, of which more than 44,000 were 3G-equipped.

Smartfren by Indonesian PT Smartfren Telecom Tbk is a major player in the country.They previously  used CDMA and EVDO rev.2 instead of GSM, but have now migrated to LTE.

In 2016 Smartfren started the most widespread and fastest LTE in the country so far. It employs LTE Advanced that reaches higher speeds through carrier aggregation. But two rare frequencies are used: 850 MHz FDD (Band 5) and 2300 MHz TDD (Band 40).  Smartfren's coverage is on the islands of Java and Bali, parts of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Lombok and Kalimantan. It started 4G/LTE in 25 centers so far (coverage map) and reaches 188 cities in 2016. They launched 4G/LTE SIM cards in 2015. They do not have any coverage outside of their 4G/LTE.

Smartfren have selected ZTE of China to collaborate on the development of 5G technology in the country. Together they had a demonstration and deployed a 5G network in a logistics warehouse, and connected the 360-degree camera and the VR headset through the 5G network, transmitting images to the monitoring room in real time. This demonstration adopts spectrum of 28 GHz at 5G medium-high-frequency mmWave, and the maximum throughput using two carriers reaches 8.7 Gbps.

However despite some activity on the 5G front it is not expected to launch in Indonesia any time soon.

A great deal of development is still needed on their 4G networks which despite being nearly-ubiquitous, there are major contrasts between Indonesia’s national average and city speeds highlights and the connectivity gap that exists between sparsely populated rural areas and densely populated cities, and the challenges faced by mobile operators to provide uniform mobile network experience across the country's vast archipelagic geography. 

To cope with this digital divide, which is an obstruction towards Indonesia’s digital economy goals, the Indonesian Govt. recently completed the Palapa Ring — a massive fibre-optic infrastructure project to bring high-speed connectivity across Western to Eastern Indonesia, especially to some of its poorest regions in the country’s east, including the restive region of Papua.

But that doesn't immediately solve the problem for mobile internet users, as they still won't be able to find connectivity on the go for some time to come, especially in Eastern Indonesia where mobile operators have a weak presence. Also, some areas could not be reached by fibre cables, mainly the mountainous areas of Papua and West Papua. Therefore, the Ministry of Communication and Information now plans to install 4000 BTS by end of the year to offer a “truly 4G” signal, and on top of this, they will also deploy Multifunctional Satellite (SMF) to increase access in all regions.

Therefore some breathing space is needed before 5G deployment to achieve better connectivity between Indonesia’s islands to try and make the mobile experience a less variable one across its many cities.

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