Wednesday 25 November 2020

Turkey Plans 5G Rollouts in 2021 with Demand Expected from 2022 Onwards


It's been 3 years since we last wrote about Turkey. Turkey’s telecoms sector continues to make great strides with its 5G implementation. The operators have conducted significant trials, largely supported by Ericsson and Huawei. LTE networks are already well established across the country, providing population coverage of over 93%. Many base stations have been upgraded to LTE-A.

Deployment of fibre-based broadband networks are also well underway in Turkey and while DSL services are still the leading fixed broadband access method - it will eventually lose its dominance due to the rapid growth in fibre subscriptions.

Turkey’s fixed and mobile infrastructure will help to underpin its Smart City initiatives, which have become a key area of focus for the future. Turkey recently released its National Smart Cities Strategy and Action Plan which will run for 3 years, between 2020-2023

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

There are three network operators in Turkey: Turkcell, Vodafone and. Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea).

Like in Europe, 2G GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. Nationwide Turkcell has the best coverage, followed by Vodafone and Avea. If you stick mainly to the cities, it does not make any difference which of the three providers to choose.

In 2015 the regulator auctioned off licenses on 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz bands for 4G/LTE (Bands 3, 8, 1 and 20) . All three providers launched 4G/LTE in 2016. It has been marketed from the start as "4.5G", otherwise known as LTE+ or LTE Advanced, accelerated by carrier aggregation where available in major cities in all 81 provinces from the start. Coverage is generally quite good: Turkcell has the best, followed by Vodafone and Türk Telecom with the least.

According to the recent report by Open Signal, Turkcell was to be the dominant operator across the majority of their network experience metrics. Turkcell managed to win in four out of their seven award categories — 4G Coverage Experience, Video Experience, Download and Upload Speed Experience — and each one of them by a large margin. The operator also came close to challenging its peers in the remaining three, but failed to beat Türk Telekom on Voice App and Games Experience, as well as Vodafone on 4G Availability.

Turkcell is the biggest operator in the country with 34 million mobile subscribers and 46.8 percent of the market share. 2G is on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2015 Turkcell’s population coverage was at 99.8% in 2G and 95% in 3G. Turkcell launched their "4.5G" LTE in 2016 using tri-band aggregation of 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz frequency bands. 4G/LTE is free to prepaid. Turkcell is known to have the best coverage in the countryside.

Turkcell has transformed its LTE and 5G voice network into 100% virtual infrastructures using Mavenir’s cloud-native, NFV-based IMS solution. Mavenir’s Virtualized IMS (vIMS) solution is designed to support LTE use cases and evolve into a fully web-scale platform that can meet growing requirements.

Vodafone is the 2nd operator in terms of coverage. 2G on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It has a good coverage in the country, slightly worse than Turkcell, but better than Türk Telekom.

Vodafone has conducted extensive trials on Open RAN technology with the OpenRAN leader Parallel Wireless. These trials resulted in the creation of a Playbook with the help of Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN group.

This playbook is developed by teams from Vodafone and Parallel Wireless to capture the learnings from this trial deployment where brownfield sites in Turkey were swapped with OpenRAN solutions for 2G/3G/4G, evaluating the technical and operational KPIs in the process. The playbook helps the OpenRAN community members, RAN solution providers, network operators, and system integrators take an informed approach to the selection of technology and the planning of OpenRAN deployments. It's available here.

In 2016 Türk Telekom rebranded its mobile network from Avea, but you see their old sign still sometimes. It's the smallest provider in Turkey in terms of coverage, but they have still good speeds in the cities and a fair coverage in the countryside. 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It still has the lowest coverage in the countryside, but is strong in cities.

A recent GSMA report, Roadmaps for awarding 5G spectrum in the MENA region, October 2020, mentioned that BTK, the Turkish regulator, has outlined its 2019-2023 strategic objectives under nine main themes in a 105-page long document. These objectives include detailed discussions on support for research and development activities to establish ‘5G and beyond’ national technologies; expanding fibre optic infrastructure to support fixed, mobile and cable broadband technologies; support for emerging technologies, e.g. IoT/M2M; and development of national cyber security capabilities.

The New Generation Mobile Communications Technologies Turkey Forum (5GTR Forum) was established in 2016 to coordinate activities of industry and academia relating to the development of 5G technology in Turkey. The forum produced a 338-page long ‘white book’ titled ‘5G and Beyond’. The report provides a set of recommendations for the development of physical layer, core network and terminals as well as how individual verticals could benefit from the use of 5G technology.

In terms of spectrum allocations, the report notes that the bands 470-694 MHz, 694-790 MHz, 1427-1518 MHz, 2300-2400 MHz, 2500-2690 MHz140, 3400-3800 MHz, 24.25-27.5 GHz, 40-43.5 GHz and 66-71 GHz are planned for mobile broadband systems in the short (before 2023), medium (2023-2028) and long (beyond 2028) term.

5G trials are being conducted, including:

  • Turk Telekom live trials for 3.5 GHz band; and
  • Turkcell field trials for 26/28 GHz and 3.5 GHz.
  • Vodafone has planned its 5G trials but is yet to operationalise them.

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