Wednesday 27 January 2021

Mobile Users in Botswana have recently started enjoying 4G LTE-A


Botswana whose population is around 2.33 million, has one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Africa, estimated at over 150 percent (or around 3.4 million), due to high levels of SIM ownership.

Despite one of the highest mobile penetration rates in Africa, though with this growth in the number of subscribers has slowed sharply in recent years. The popular use of multiple SIM cards from different operators has delayed the introduction of mobile number portability. Although the telecom regulator has not been convinced of the facility’s economic benefits the government insists that the facility will be made available. In a bid to generate new revenue streams and secure market share, the three MNOs – Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (backed by Orange Group) and BTC – have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector by adopting 3G, LTE and WiMAX technologies. In the fixed-line broadband market they compete with a large number of ISPs, some of which have rolled out their own wireless access infrastructure.

After a period of stagnation, the number of internet users has risen strongly in recent years, largely the result of lower prices following improvements in international connectivity. Historically, the landlocked country has depended on satellites for its international bandwidth, and on other countries for transit capacity to landing points of international submarine fibre optic cable systems. The landing of additional cables in the region in recent years has improved the competitive situation in this sector, while prices for connectivity have fallen dramatically. Paratus Teleco (a pan-African telecommunications operator) in mid-2020 announced plans to build a private network covering the entire country and linking to the company’s international cables.

The three main operators provide fairly good coverage and speeds for African standards. 2G is mainly on 900 and some 1800 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE has started on 1800 MHz (band 3) with all 3 providers.

Wide areas of the country are not covered by the mobile network, in towns and villages you can expect some coverage. The map for the two main providers is improving each year, but when deciding whether to get a local SIM card, remember that there’s simply no mobile coverage across large parts of the country (including much of the Kalahari and Okavango Delta). That said, the main highway system is generally covered.

Mascom Wireless, a private Botswanan mobile company controlled by Portugal Telecom is the market leader in the country. It has the best 3G coverage and in 2014 their 3G covered 70% of the population. In 2015 Mascom started with 4G/LTE in Gaborone.

Orange by French Télécom is the second operator in the country with a 27% market share. It has a lower coverage, but they were the first to start with 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz to be available in Gaborone and some other towns in 2015.

In June 2020 Orange Botswana announced the launch of LTE-A services, increasing data transfer rates on its 4G network. The upgrades are being branded 4G+ and have already rolled out in Greater Gaborone (which houses about 10 per cent of the country’s population) and Francistown, the country’s second-largest city

LTE-A services will eventually be available in most parts of the country – both urban and rural – according to Orange, allowing customers to experience better streaming, faster downloads and quicker browsing as well as quicker sending and receiving of big files.

BTC Mobile (rebranded from be Mobile) is the brand name of the state-owned Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), that combines the operations of fixed line operator BTCL and wireless operator be Mobile. It's the third operator with 16% market share. 4G/LTE has started in 2016 in Gaborone, is rolled out in the country and it claims the best 4G coverage right now. 

Saturday 23 January 2021

3G and 4G are Blooming in Ukraine


Ukraine has a competitive mobile market dominated by the three network operators Vodafone Ukraine (owned by MTS and using the Vodafone brand name), Kyivstar (owned by VEON) and Lifecell (owned by Turkcell). Another 4th operator is 3mob (3G only in Kyiv) roaming on Vodafone.

Mobile broadband services present a significant growth opportunity. Significant investment has been made in extending 3G infrastructure, while operators have more recently concentrated on LTE. Additional spectrum in the 2600MHz band was auctioned in January 2018, and of spectrum in the 1800MHz band in the following July, issued under 15-year licenses. All three MNOs promptly launched LTE services.

A continuing difficulty for MNOs remains the conflict with Russia, which has resulted in operators having to write-down the value of assets in disputed regions, and being forced out of Crimea as well as the Donetsk and other contested areas. Anti-Russian sentiment formed the backdrop for MTS Ukraine’s decision to rebrand as Vodafone.

However the Ukrainian mobile phone networks have improved within the last years. As one of the last countries to start 3G and 4G in Europe as late as 2015 and 2018, it now gives a reasonable coverage in populated areas at good prices. 3G was first limited to 3mob exclusively, as more bandwidth was unavailable before it was freed up for the major three operators in 2015. It now covers more than 80% of the population. The major three Kyivstar, Vodafone, lifecell provide good coverage in cities and some rural areas and would typically be your choice. 3G on 2100 MHz has been available from 2015 and covers more than 80% of the population in 2019.

Source: GSMA The Mobile Economy Russia & CIS 2020 report 

4G/LTE started as late as 2018 with the three major operators on 1800 MHz (B3) and 2600 MHz (B7). In 2020 finally spectrum on the 900 MHz band (B8) was added. At the end of 2019 each of the three networks covers 60-70 % of population by 4G. This is comparatively low for an European country, but a huge advancement within 5 years. In 2019 the three operators pledged to cover all of the country by LTE (within a not specified time period).

Kyivstar is Ukraine’s largest mobile operator by subscribers and owned by Russian VEON, formely called Vimpelcom. It has currently the best coverage in the country at the highest rates. To check coverage check here.

Kyivstar started its 4G/LTE as late as 2018 on 2600 MHz (B7), 1800 MHz (B3) to be added by 900 MHz (B8) in 2020. 

They had already provided access to 4G for almost 85% of the Ukrainian population. For the nine months of 2020, the operator has invested more than UAH 4 billion in the development of new mobile technologies. In 2021, it is planned to increase the coverage of the 4G network so that high-speed mobile Internet is available to 90% of the population.

Russian-owned MTS Ukraine took over the brand of Vodafone and started with an own 3G coverage in 2015. In 2020 already more than 71% of the population are covered by their own 3G/4G.

In 2015 MTS signed a strategic partnership with Vodafone to use their label for some products. This is mainly to conceal the Russian origin of the ownership, which is unpopular in Western parts of Ukraine. MTS was re-branded into Vodafone in major parts of Ukraine at the end of 2015. In 2017 the official company name was changed to Vodafone Ukraine. In 2019 Azerbaijani mobile operator Bakcell which is part of Azerbaijan-based oil-construction-telecom-tech conglomerate Neqsol, which also owns Azertelecom bought Vodafone Ukraine from Russia’s MTS

In 2018 all special tariffs still marketed under the MTS Ukraine brand in the Eastern Regions "not controlled by the Ukrainian army" were shifted to the Vodafone brand as well. They announced that services have been disrupted in the area controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions after a fibre-optic backbone line of the operator was damaged there. Parts of the equipment of Vodafone Ukraine is out of order in the area. Vodafone says that it won't be able to repair the network if the damage took place in the area controlled by separatists. They have completed the switch to the Vodafone brand in November 2018. The last plans under the MTS Ukraine brand have been ended and a switch to the Vodafone tariffs is free for subscribers using old MTS tariffs.

Lifecell was called life:) until 2016. It's the third largest Ukrainian mobile phone operator and fully owned by Turkish Turkcell.  

3G started in 2015 on 2100 MHz and 4G in 2018 on 1800 MHz (B3) and 2600 MHz (B7). In 2020 Band 8 on 900 will be added. It's network is generally on par with the other major providers with LTE coverage of about 60% at the end of 2019.

3Mob (spelled as "TriMob") used to be the only provider of 3G/UMTS internet in a limited area of the country until 2014. In 2015 3Mob and Vodafone signed a national roaming agreement giving 3Mob users free access to Vodafone's 2G network in domestic roaming without surcharges.

In 2020 3Mob has shut down all its network base stations except those in Kyiv and will now rely mainly on 2G/3G network coverage via its existing domestic roaming partner Vodafone Ukraine. 3Mob’s mobile network user base numbers are less than 260,000, and whilst the group had held 2×15MHz of 2100MHz national spectrum since 2005, the annual fees required to retain the frequencies represented an extra financial burden on the struggling operator.

In 2020 3Mob is on its way to becoming an MVNO as it has shut down all its network bases except Kyiv and now relies mainly on 2G/3G network coverage via its existing domestic roaming partner Vodafone.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Eir Ireland's Flagship Huawei 5G (and 4G) Mast Configurations

Peter Clarke, the well known YouTuber, famous for making videos about mobile masts and other infrastructure from many different MNOs, made a nice summary of Eir Ireland's 5G sites. 

Full details in the YouTube video embedded below:


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Wednesday 13 January 2021

Greece - 5G on the move...

Greece’s telecom market continues to suffer from tough economic conditions, with long-term financial strain on the public still affecting revenue and investment. However, there are signs of recovery and renewed confidence. 

Greece’s well-developed mobile market is dominated by the three mobile network operators Wind Hellas, Vodafone Greece and Cosmote. Operators continue to invest in LTE infrastructure and technologies to provide networks capable of meeting customer demand for data services. Although the MNOs have trialled 5G since 2019, commercial services await the auction of suitable spectrum: the regulator expects to auction spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz range later in 2020, followed by 700MHz spectrum in 2021.

All three MNOs have closely attached subsidiaries that resell their offers: Frog Mobile on Cosmote, Tazamobile on Vodafone and Q on Wind. There are hardly independent MVNOs on the market.

Their frequencies

Cosmote is the national provider with the most subscribers and the best coverage in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. 4G is given out without surcharge to all customers including prepaid plans. 4G/LTE covers at least 95% of population in 2018. 4G+ can be found in many areas and 3CA (3+7+20) is very common in big cities achieving great speeds (up to 300 Mbps). Even if your phone does not support 4G+, the speeds that you will achieve are great. It is currently the fastest (overall) network.

Cosmote has announced the commercial launch of its 5G network in Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek cities, with speeds exceeding 1Gbps in certain areas. The company is aiming to increase coverage to over 50% of the population by the end of 2021, with 100% 5G coverage of 2,000km of highways by the end of 2023. The 5G network is accessible to all Cosmote subscribers with compatible devices, at no additional charge and regardless of their mobile plan.

Vodafone Greece is the 2nd network in Greece. Their 4G speeds are ok-ish but don#t expect anything crazy-fast especially in remote areas or villages. 4G+ or 2CA (3+20 or 3+7) can be found in very big cities/busy areas. They claim to have 4G speeds faster than anyone else, but that is not the case.

In last years 5G spectrum auction Vodafone reportedly spent €130 million on 14 blocks in the 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz range; two blocks of 700MHz; four blocks of 2GHz; and two blocks of 26GHz.

They have now launched their Giga Network 5G, the new state-of-the-art network, with high speeds and the immediate response. With first stations in areas of Athens and Thessaloniki, the Vodafone Giga Network 5G is already operational and by the end of this financial year a population coverage of 40% will have been achieved. At the same time, through the parallel modernization of the 4G network, Vodafone 4G customers will also benefit from an improved connection experience and higher speeds - up to 50% - from day one. In addition, Vodafone already has the first 5G devices, while within two months the available devices will be more than twenty.

Wind is the smallest network provider in Greece. Their 4G speeds are usually slow and thus they are the slowest (overall) network in Greece. In many tourist attractions, Wind has done a great job and their 4G speeds are acceptable. 4G+ or 2CA is not common in Wind but when it is found, it usually is B3+B20 or B7+B20.

They have selected Ericsson to deploy their core network for standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) 5G. The Swedish vendor will also supply a suite of business support system (BSS) solutions to help the telco improve customer experience and launch 5G-enabled services for both private and business users.

Wind Hellas also announced that they switched on their 5G mobile network on 18 December – a matter of days after winning frequencies in the country’s multi-band 5G spectrum auction. The network will initially serve Athens and Thessaloniki, while coverage of other major cities will follow in due course. 5G population coverage is expected to exceed 60% within three years. Certified 5G handsets include the Xiaomi Mi 10T, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Lite, the Huawei P40 DS and the Huawei P40 Pro DS. Users can expect to receive download speeds of up to 1Gbps. 

Sunday 10 January 2021

Maroc Telecom Rebrands as Moov Africa

Earlier this week Commsupdate reported that Maroc Telecom is rebranding its eleven subsidiaries in Africa as Moov Africa, effective 1 January 2021. The company, which has more than 70 million customers on the continent, has revealed its plans to unite its subsidiaries around a single identity: ‘This new identity illustrates the vision of the Maroc Telecom group “Africa on the move”, which lies in the principle of sharing the group’s know-how and its capacity for innovation for the benefit of the countries in which it operates’.

While we looked at Maroc Telecom's presence back in 2018. Since then things haven't moved on too much but the chart above is from the latest available update. 

Cemac Eco Finance added in their release of the news regarding above:

Today, a new chapter in this shared epic opens with a new brand identity that brings together all the subsidiaries of the Maroc Telecom Group under  a single shared identity , with a larger territory of presence and  synergy effects.  which will contribute to the commercial influence of the brand in each country.

This new identity illustrates  the Maroc Telecom Group's vision  : “  Africa on the move  ”, which lies in the principle of sharing the group's know-how and its capacity for innovation for the benefit of the countries in which it operates.

Thus, as of 1 st  January 2021, Gabon Telecom communicate under the trademark  "Moov Gabon Telecom Africa  ", with a new graphic sign that shows membership in Morocco Telecom Group and adopt the slogan "  A new world calls you"  to the global operator, which is part of the continuity of a promise of a world of innovations which is constantly being renewed.

To assert this new brand identity and make it known to as many people as possible, the MOOV AFRICA GABON TELECOM subsidiary is launching a communication campaign common to all the countries in which the Group is present:  a continental campaign with the participation of a world champion the sporting legend,  Teddy Riner , who is about to compete for his 4 th  Olympic medal and has not failed to lend his voice and likeness to Morocco Telecom Group for wearing loud colors operator global telecommunications company of which he has been the ambassador since 2017.

The new Moov Africa brand identity of the Maroc Telecom Group thus marks a further step in the international development of the Maroc Telecom Group, and thus reaffirms the unequivocal commitment of the Maroc Telecom Group alongside Gabon to offer the best products and services to its customers.


The name:

The choice of the new brand name for all the African subsidiaries has its roots in the “MOOV” brand, already present in 50% of the Maroc Telecom Group territory and which illustrates this strong image of movement, renewal and life.

The Ellipse:

Symbolizes  dynamism , one of the founding values ​​on which the culture of the Maroc Telecom Group is based in all the countries where it is active.

The MOOV name reinforces this momentum of dynamism and movement.

The Losanges:

Evoke  the  digital  and  technological universe  in which the group operates.

Colors :

The  blue , evoking the world of technology and innovation, orange, symbol of energy and vitality, represents the sun, the warmth, vitality and African generosity.

Signature :

This is the promise of the Maroc Telecom Group.

A historic signature, which has experience and consistency, through the achievements and major innovations brought by the operator for more than 20 years. And which paradoxically, remains definitively current through a promise which is constantly renewed: "A new world calls you". The word "call" is defined here in the primary and universal sense of communication; that of creating a link, the link towards this new world and therefore the future in all that it brings of innovations and technological and societal benefits.

The video below shows the transition from Green to Blue, Moov Bénin becomes Moov Africa

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Wednesday 6 January 2021

Brazil is hopeful of getting 5G this year


Brazil has four major operators resulting from numerous mergers and acquisitions, they share 97% of the mobile market:  Vivo (Telefónica Brazil, owned by Spanish Telefónica), TIM (owned by Telecom Italia), Claro (owned by Mexican América Móvil) and Oi (formerly Brasil Telecom).

Vivo (pronounced like 'VEE-voo') is the largest mobile carrier in Brazil, which is owned by Telefónica from Spain and has 32% of the Brazilian market share in 2018. From their total of 75 million subscribers only 57% are using prepaid plans. It was the last operator to allow prepaid customers on 4G/LTE in 2015. Vivo is known to have the most reliable network at the highest rates in the country.

Vivo's network has national coverage and it became the brand for all consumer services provided by Telefónica in Brazil, which include broadband internet, TV subscription and fixed telephone lines.

TIM (pronounced like 'cheem'), owned by Telecom Italia, is the prepaid leader in the country. It’s the overall no. 3 with a total share of 24% or 56 million subscribers, 79.5% are using a prepaid plan. TIM is present in all Brazilian states. 

Claro (pronounced like 'CLAH-row') is the third largest mobile operator in Brazil owned by Mexican América Móvil. It has kept a 25% of the Brazilian market share making it no.2 in the country. Of their total of 59 million subscribers, 74% are using a prepaid plan.

Claro's network has national coverage and similar to Vivo, Claro offers additional services, like fixed broadband connection, telephone line and TV subscription.

Claro partnered with Ericsson to present the first 5G stadium in Brazil. The event, which took place during the Led Zeppelin show in Concert no Allianz Parque Hall, included the first holographic transmission in real time in the country performed with 5G technology.

Oi (the Brazilian word for 'hi') is the fourth largest mobile operator in Brazil that is currently owned by CorpCo, a joint venture with Portugal Telecom, and has 17% of the Brazilian market share. Of their total of 39 million subscribers, they have a high prepaid share. 81% are using a prepaid plan making Oi the number two on the prepaid phone market.

Oi network has national coverage and also offers additional services similar to other major operators, like fixed broadband connection, telephone line and TV subscription.

Oi may be the smallest of the big four, but it has the largest WI-FI network in Brazil with more than 1 million access points. Oi has furthermore a national roaming agreement with TIM closing some gaps due to its lower coverage. 

A consortium comprising Telefonica, Telecom Italia and America Movil’s Claro secured a BRL16.5 billion ($3.2 billion) agreement to acquire Oi’s mobile business, a deal expected to be completed in 2021.

According to the recent Open Signal report, when comes to the consumer mobile network experience in Brazil, it is a two-horse race develop between Claro and TIM.

The rollout of 4G on the 700 MHz spectrum band in Brazil is having a big impact, as users on networks that have implemented it are spending more time on 4G and are on average enjoying faster download speeds. Also seen is a cascading effect of this on the Video and Voice App Experience as upload and latency measurements have also improved. And with an upcoming auction of 5G licenses — including more spectrum in the 700 MHz band — Open Signal expects the mobile network experience to continue to improve as the market matures.

The Brazilian government aims to carry out a tender to award 5G spectrum by the end of the first half of 2021, according to Brazilian press reports. According to government officials, the future 5G spectrum auction will be “the largest auction for the right to use radio frequency of the country’s history“.

Brazil has joined a US-led proposal for building transparent and reliable 5G networks, representing another blow to Chinese vendor Huawei which is regarded as the main target of the scheme; 31 of 37 OECD countries already joined the pact, which now counts a total 49 nations.

Reuters reported Brazilian operators had been offered financial support by US authorities to opt for kit from Western vendors including Nokia and Ericsson, but they were not willing to reduce their choices and were already testing Huawei equipment before a 5G auction in the country, expected in 2021.

Saturday 2 January 2021

Slovenia is getting Better 5G this year


Slovenia’s competitive mobile market has three major mobile network operators and a small number of mobile virtual network operators, operating in a country with a potential market of just over two million people. The regulator in recent years has addressed the need of mobile operators for more spectrum, conducting a series of auctions. Mobile spectrum licenses have stipulated population coverage and data rate targets.

The 3 major operators: Telekom Slovenije (formely Mobitel), A1 Slovenija (fomerly si.mobil) and Telemach mob. (formerly tušmobil).

2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 900 and 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on 800, 900, 1800 and 2600 MHz (bands 1, 3, 7, 20) on all three operators. In 2018 both Telekom and A1 cover 98% and Telemach 90% of the Slovenian population with 4G/LTE. Telekom Slovenije also covers 86% of the population with LTE-A. 5G has started in 2020 on Telekom Slovenije on n7 and n38 and covers 25% of the population, mostly in major cities.

Telekom Slovenije is the biggest operator in the country. They are market leader with a 45% share in 2016. Their 4G/LTE is accessible for prepaid and covers 98% of the population already. It has frequencies on 800, 900, 1800 and 2600 MHz (B20, B8, B3, B7). It's the first provider to offer 5G, but not yet for prepaid.

Ericsson and Telekom Slovenije, launched the first commercial 5G network in Slovenia in July 2020.The new 5G services were switched on through a software installation to existing Ericsson Radio System and Packet Core equipment which will enable spectrum sharing between 4G and 5G on the 2600MHz FDD spectrum - traditionally used for 4G only. Under the terms of the 5G deal, Ericsson is supplying Telekom Slovenije with RAN and Packet Core solutions.

Initial 5G services are available in major cities across Slovenia, covering an estimated 25 percent of the population. Telekom Slovenije aims to increase its 5G coverage to 33 percent of the population by end of 2020.

A1 Slovenija is the 2nd provider in the country. It belongs to Telekom Austria Group, is the local Vodafone partner and has a 31% market share in 2016. It has changed its brand name from Si.mobil to A1 Slovenija. The rebranding has been implemented in 2017 across the company's fixed and mobile activities.

LTE started on 1800 MHz (B3) and recently on 800 MHz (B20) and is open for prepaid. It's coverage is on par with Telecom Slovenije and covers 98% of population by LTE in 2018 and covers Ljubljana, Maribor, Kranj, Celje in Slovenj Gradec with LTE-A

Telemach started as tušmobil in 2007 and is now the 3rd operator with a 15% market share in Slovenia what coverage and customers are concerned. In 2015 it was acquired by the leading cable TV and internet broadband provider Telemach to offer triple-play and was rebranded to Telemach in 2015. 4G/LTE has started and covers 90% of population so far. 2G is at 99% and 3G at 98%. Through a national roaming agreement it uses Telekom Slovenije's 2G and 3G outside of its own coverage. As smallest operator, it gives the lowest rates and highest bonuses

In December, the Slovenian regulator AKOS has announced a tender for 5G frequencies. The auction is expected to be completed by the Spring. Akos published a tender in the Official Gazette with a public auction for the allocation of several frequency bands for the provision of public communications services to end users. This officially marked the beginning of the process of allocating six frequency bands, which also include the 700 and 3600 MHz and 26 GHz bands, which are intended for the introduction of the new 5G mobile technology. In addition to these, other frequency bands are included in the tender, all of which will otherwise be awarded in a technology-neutral manner; therefore, customers will be able to use them for any mobile technology.

Back in August 2020, Slovenia signed a declaration on 5G security, joining a group of countries agreeing with the U.S. to guard their networks in a way that could block China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from taking part. At a security conference in Prague in 2019, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Latvia and Estonia signed joint statements with the U.S. similar to the one Slovenia inked Thursday. In it, they pledged to block access to companies that might be subject to foreign state interference.