Sunday, 28 March 2021

World's Largest Mobile Networks by Data Traffic - March 2021

The analysis firm Tefficient, posted this chart in one of their Tweets. As you can see that China Mobile is the leader, followed by Reliance Jio and then China Unicom, China Telecom, Airtel and Vi (Vodafone Idea). 

As you can see, Bharti Airtel, India and China Telecom are also enjoying huge traffic growth.

Last year, Tefficient had also reported the absolute number up to 1H 2020. Vodafone Group (excluding vi) is the next highest carrier of the data traffic followed by Telkomsel Indonesia, Telenor group, MTS Russia, AIS Thailand, 3 Group Europe, Zain Group, XL Indonesia, Indosat and 3 Indonesia.

Of course not everyone agrees with all the numbers

We will provide updated ranking when it is available. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Good 3G/4G coverage has established a foundation for 5G in Jordan

 

Jordan is very much focused on high-speed, reliable, and comprehensive telecoms infrastructure to achieve its digital economy goals. The country already has a highly developed mobile sector, led by three major regional players, and has an extensive LTE network infrastructure.

The launch of LTE services quickly led to substantial growth in data revenue for the MNOs, which continue to expand their data offerings as a key focus area moving forward. The industry is also preparing itself for the next wave of developments relating to 5G and IoT/M2M.

The Kingdom of Jordan has three network providers: Zain, Umniah and Orange. 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz on Zain and Umniah and 1800 MHz on Orange, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz on all three operators. 4G/LTE has started on all providers in 2015 on 1800 MHz mainly in Amman, added by 2600 MHz. Many locals own more than only one SIM card.



Zain (a Kuwaiti company) is the market leader in Jordan and the best coverage and speeds in the country. 4G/LTE is has started in 2015 on 1800 Zain Jordan's number of subscribers reached 3.5 million by 31 December 2020  its parent company announced.


Umniah is owned by Bahrain-based Batelco. It's the second provider in the country giving a good coverage.

Umniah has announced that it will shut down its second-generation (2G) network in the near future in order to upgrade and invest in its existing 3G and 4G networks, following the example of a number of international telecommunications companies. This move, which is a first by a telecom in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is directly in line with the company’s strategy to invest innovation in order to enrich and advance the experiences of its customers.

According to Umniah, its 3G and 4G networks are well equipped to provide all its subscribers, those with new smartphones as well as older versions, with the many advantages provided by these technologies, including better quality calls, faster data, smoother transmission between voice and data, better coverage and greater stability of the network in general.


Orange, affiliated to French T茅l茅com, has the smallest network in the Kingdom.

Orange has said their 3G coverage has now reached 98.6% of the population, whilst it 4g footprint stood at 97.4%. The operator did not disclose coverage details for its 4G+ network but claimed that the system was capable of providing download speeds of up to 250Mbps.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Wi-Fi and 5G Status in South Korea


Last year we reported on this blog that South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology Information and Communication is heavily promoting Wi-Fi 6, in 6GHz (a.k.a. Wi-Fi 6E). 

Back in February, South Korea's ICT ministry said that it has made over 15,000 new public Wi-Fi service zones available across the country and in buses last year, bringing the total locations with free public Wi-Fi to over 57,000. Yonhap News Agency revealed:

The Ministry of Science and ICT said the public can access free Wi-Fi in 28,132 public locations, such as bus stations, public facilities and parks, and also in 29,100 buses.

By region, there are 2,529 public Wi-Fi locations in Seoul, with 4,358 locations in the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, according to the ICT ministry.

South Korea has recently boosted efforts to expand public Wi-Fi zones that had previously been limited to indoor facilities, such as community centers and traditional markets.

The ICT ministry said it has focused on outdoor locations, installing free Wi-Fi at 7,949 bus stations, 1,286 parks and 320 major streets across the country from 2019 to 2020.

The ministry has also replaced 18,000 aging routers with the latest Wi-Fi 6 equipment, resulting in speeds that are three times faster on average.

The ministry said it plans to establish 15,000 additional public Wi-Fi zones this year.

You can see a video of one such Free WiFi on Bus event here.

Hackaday reported that the government has released the details of the 220,000 WiFi access points to the public. This includes the location, IP address, and RSSI data for use by people and companies wanting to develop location-based services.

Aju Business Daily said Geographical locations, internet protocol addresses and received signal strength indicators (RSSIs) have been collected for emergency response purposes and to pinpoint the location of an AP or to calculate the floating population. RSSI is an estimate of the strength of WiFi signal between an AP and recipient device.

In the mobile news,  Tefficient reported that 4G/LTE traffic has been going down as 5G traffic grows.  February 2019 was the last time monthly 4G traffic was so low (380 PB) in South Korea as it was in January 2021. 4G visibly in decline the past months while 5G traffic grew to 45% of total.

Also as you can see in the other tweet, South Korea's operators net added over 1 million 5G subscribers in January 2021 - the first month over 1 million since the 5G launch. 18% of total mobile subscriber base now 5G.

But not everyone is happy with 5G. The Korea Bizwire reported:

Hundreds of 5G smartphone users in South Korea are banding together to take legal action against the country’s three major telecom operators — SK Telecom Co., KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. — for spotty connection and the poor quality of the latest generation network, industry sources said Thursday.

As of Thursday, around 1,000 5G smartphone users have expressed intent to take part in the collective lawsuit to seek at least 1 million won (US$890) in compensation per user from the three mobile carriers over their 5G network quality that fall short of expectations, despite their costlier pay plans, according to Kim Jin-wook, a lawyer at law firm Joowon, which is spearheading the legal action.

Kim argues that 5G network quality is not a discernible improvement from previous 4G LTE networks and has drawbacks, such as limited availability.

The three telecom operators had deployed 166,250 5G base stations as of November last year, which is just 19 percent of the number of 4G base stations, according to industry tracker Opensignal.

South Korea’s 5G coverage centers around major urban areas, such as Seoul, with carriers aiming for nationwide coverage by next year.

Carriers also initially advertised 5G download speeds as being 20 times faster than 4G LTE, but a government report last year found that average 5G download speeds were around four times faster than those of 4G.

“Considering that monthly 5G plans are around 50,000 won more expensive than 4G LTE plans, we expect around 1 million won in compensation for users subscribed to two-year plans,” said Kim.

He added that the lawsuit will be filed in May after gathering more participants.

This may be the catalyst the Korean operators need to massively improve the 5G user experience for the end users.

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Thursday, 18 March 2021

Suriname may be Small but it has all Gs, including 5G

 

Suriname is the smallest of the nations on the South American continent, with about 580,000 inhabitants. The only Dutch-speaking nation in South America, it has close affinities with the Caribbean, and is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

The state-owned incumbent telco, Telesur, is the only provider of fixed-line and fixed broadband services in Suriname. The country’s fixed-line infrastructure is reasonably reliable in the more populated coastal region, though poor in the interior. Telesur started building out a fibre network in Paramaribo in 2013, and in June 2018, the company started with the rollout of the National Broadband Project (TNBP), which was completed in 2019.

Fixed teledensity and broadband penetration are slightly lower than average for Latin America and the Caribbean, while mobile penetration is significantly above the regional average and much higher than would be expected given the country’s relatively low GDP per capita.

Many Surinamese have up to three mobile lines with different providers, which has pushed up penetration figures although the number of subscribers has fallen in recent years as consumers have responded to economic pressures. The mobile market supports only two players: Telesur (trading as TeleG), and Digicel (part of Digicel Group, a significant operator across the Caribbean and Pacific regions). In early 2015 Digicel acquired the only other operator, Uniqa, which only had about 5,000 subscribers. In January 2017 Digicel signed a deal to host the MVNO Transatel, which operates in a number of markets across the Caribbean and Latin America.

There are two mobile network operators in Suriname: Telesur (TeleG) and Digicel. 3G coverage is still labeled "4G" by Digicel and real 4G/LTE by Telesur available only in the population centers. There is almost no mobile reception in more remote and less densely populated parts of Suriname like the vast Sipaliwini District. One exception is Upper Suriname and Gran Rio where there is at least 2G coverage.

Telesur the state-owned operator in Suriname is currently running a 450 MHz CDMA (incompatible to GSM), 900 MHz and 1800 MHz GSM and a 2100 MHz 3G HSDPA network, the latter available only in Paramaribo and Commewijne. This Coverage Map is available. In 2016 real 4G/LTE started on 700 MHz and 1800 MHz (bands 3 and 28).

Telesur has launched a new range of ‘Big Data’ high-volume mobile data packages aimed at high-end 4G LTE and 5G device owners, as well as business customers using 5G modems. Telesur switched on its 5G network in downtown Paramaribo nearly a year ago, in December 2019, but has kept its 5G marketing low-key until this month, whilst it also implemented high speed LTE-A upgrades in selected areas in late-2019.

The operator’s commercial 5G network has been live in the nation’s capital of Paramaribo since December 2019, but Telesur has not heavily promoted this until recently as it was deploying LTE-A upgrades in strategic locations to complement the offering.

 

Digicel Suriname is part of the Digicel Group operating in 32 countries in Central-America and Asia-Pacific areas. They have been operating in Suriname since 2007. Besides being present in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz 2G bands, they operate on a "4G" labeled 3G-based HSPA+ network on 850 MHz covering major populated areas in Suriname and allowing speeds of up to 2 Mbps. 

Sunday, 14 March 2021

China Telecom's 5G and IoT Progress


China Telecom's 2020 results were published this week. The PDF of that is available here. Capacity Media reported:

China Telecom has reported 2020 revenues up by 4.7% on the year with earnings up 1.4%.

The company said its revenues were 393.6 billion renminbi in 2020 — equivalent to US$60.7 billion. EBITDA was 118.9 billion renminbi, said the company, equivalent to $18.3 billion.

Meanwhile the company said that “5G achieved a promising start, with 86.5 million people now subscribing to 5G packages, 24.6% of the company’s mobile customers. “The number of mobile subscribers reached 351 million with net addition of 15.45 million, and the market share expanded to 22.0%.”

The small print of the company’s revenue breakdown show that 5G customers are spending on average 65.6 renminbi ($10.11) each, compared with 44.1 renminbi ($6.79) for mobile customers as a whole.

RCR Wireless said

China Telecom expects to increase investments in 5G infrastructure this year with the aim of almost doubling the number of base stations in the country, the company said in its annual report.

The Chinese carrier said it has earmarked a total of CNY39.7 billion ($6.1 billion) for 5G capex, slightly up from CNY39.2 billion in 2020.

Last year, China Telecom, together with rival operator China Unicom deployed 300,000 5G sites across China and ended 2020 with a combined 380,000.

For 2021, China Telecom said it expects to reach a total of 700,000, offering full 5G coverage in all counties and in certain developed towns, rural areas, railway lines and highways.

At the end of 2020, the telco had a total mobile base of 351 million mobile subscribers, up 4.6% year-on-year. The operator added an average of 6.83 million 5G subscribers a month to end 2020 with a total of 86.5 million. China Telecom had commercially launched 5G services in late October 2019 and closed that year with 4.6 million subscribers.

In 2020, 5G subscribers generated ARPU of CNY65.60 compared with CNY44.10 for its overall user base, which experienced a decline of 3.7% year-on-year.

But the most interesting bit was on IoT as can be seen from this Tweet

Ibraheem Kasujee, IoT Analyst at Analysys Mason noted that, IoT connections reached 237.6m (+50.9% on 2019), but IoT revenue was 'only' CNY2.2 billion (USD338 million), +16.9% on 2019. Implies a monthly ARPC of < USD0.15. Tom Rebbeck, Partner at Analysys Mason noted that China Telecom’s IoT division has (roughly) twice as many connections as Vodafone, and generates (less than) half the revenue.

The annual report points out that, "IoT includes mobile data traffic, SMS, value-added services & applications related to IoT, other IoT Projects, etc."

We will have to wait and see how many of these are 2G/3G IoT vs 4G NB-IoT/LTE-M.

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Thursday, 11 March 2021

5G will reach parity with 2G in 2025 but 4G will dominate Argentina

 

Argentina has one of the most dynamic mobile markets in Latin America, being the third largest in the region after Brazil and Mexico. Mobile penetration has fallen in recent years in line with a reduction in the number of subscribers following a long period of steady growth. This is partly due to pricing competition among operators which has reduced the incentive for multiple-SIM card ownership. The regulator has encouraged the market entry of additional MVNOs to increase competition, though collectively the MVNOs only have a very small share of the market. Market changes are anticipated into 2021 as Telef贸nica Group moves its Latin American businesses (with the exception of Brazil) into a single unit.

Operators have trialled 5G though given the continued capacity of LTE infrastructure it is unlikely that commercial 5G services will be available before 2021.

Argentina has 3 national operators: Claro (by Am茅rica M贸vil), Movistar (by Telef贸nica Spain) and Personal (by Telecom Argentina). They three all have about the same market share. For being former state-owned company, Personal tends to have a better coverage in rural area but has very llimited prepaid plans compared to Movistar and Claro. In Buenos Aires area, Movistar has best coverage in Subte (subway) networks even in between stations (as of Jan. 2021). Although reliable free WiFi is available inside of each subway station,

2G and 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz, so users from Europe and Asia need a "US-band" device. 4G/LTE is on AWS (1700/2100) MHz and B28 (700 APT).

According the the most recent Open Signal report  Personal’s lead over second-placed Claro for 4G Availability has risen to 7.6 percentage points, up from the 5.1 percentage points seen in the previous report. However, both Claro and Movistar have edged closer to the 85% mark, with their scores rising by around 1.5 percentage points. However, Personal’s impressive lead over Claro for speed has moderated since the last report, declining from 6.1 Mbps to 5.3 Mbps for Download Speed Experience and from 0.9 Mbps to 0.6 Mbps for Upload Speed Experience. — Claro has consistently placed second for both metrics.

Not everything went Personal’s way, given that Claro won the remaining two awards — Games Experience and Voice App Experience — and the fact that its users enjoyed an experience that was one category higher than that seen by other operators’ users — Fair instead of Poor for Games Experience and Acceptable instead of Poor for Voice App Experience. Claro was also only one point away from a Good rating for Voice App Experience and placed in the same category for Video Experience — Very Good — as Personal. Placing in the Very Good category indicates that users experienced generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling but the experience might have been somewhat inconsistent across users and/or video providers/resolutions.

While Movistar came third in five of the seven measures of the mobile experience, it succeeded in beating Personal to second-place for Games Experience and Voice App Experience. It is not Personal that has to watch out for Movistar — the latter was only 0.8 percentage points behind Claro on 4G Availability and 1.1 Mbps behind it on Download Speed Experience.


Claro (formerly called CTI Movil) owned by Mexican Am茅rica M贸vil is still market leader by a small margin amd has good coverage. For 4G/LTE mainly band 4 on 1700 MHz is used.



Movistar is owned by Spanish Telef贸nica and still the No.2 in the country what customers are concerned. It has the widest 4G/LTE coverage in the country covering 68% of population in 2016 on bands 4 and 28. 4G service is available in more than 380 locations, including all 23 provincial capitals and the national capital.


Although being only no.3 in the country OpenSignal gives Personal the best nationwide performance. Note that their customer service is not available in English. About 90% of the Buenos Aires metro system (called Subte) is covered by Personal's 4G/LTE. At the end of 2017 it had 71% coverage of population in over 1000 towns and cities.

Telecom Argentina which owns Personal has announced that its mobile unit Personal has activated the first 5G network in Argentina, launching a total of ten mobile antennas in the cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario. The five mobile sites in Buenos Aires were deployed by Huawei, while the Rosario infrastructure utilises Nokia technology. The network re-farms existing 4G frequencies, via a Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) configuration. The 5G cell sites can be accessed by any Personal subscribers with compatible handsets.


Argentina’s National Communications Agency (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) has confirmed that it will stage a week-long 5G trial at its headquarters in Buenos Aires this month. The tests will run from 15 March to 19 March and explore how fifth-generation technology will benefit the country’s industrial, educational and entertainment sectors. While the spectrum intended for use has not been divulged, TeleGeography notes that the watchdog has previously sanctioned both Movistar and Personal to utilise 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) frequencies for 5G trials.

According to GSMA Intelligence Mobile Economy Latin America 2020 Report, smartphone adoption in Argentina will continue to increase along with the subscriber penetration but most of the growth will be in 4G subscriptions. 5G will reach a parity with 2G/GSM while 3G will continue to be used as well. 

Monday, 8 March 2021

India Auctions 4G (and 5G) Spectrum


The Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT), part of Ministry of Communication just concluded a spectrum auction. The detailed results for anyone interested is available here. As the spectrum allocation happens on a regional level rather than national level, it may be a bit confusing to understand for the outsiders.

'India sells spectrum worth $10.6B in two-day auction', nicely put by Light Reading

While the telcos acquired spectrum in several bands, the 700MHz spectrum remained unsold because of the high reserve price. An Airtel statement mentioned that the "the reserve pricing of these bands [700MHz and 3.5GHz] must be addressed on priority in future. This will help the nation to benefit from the digital dividend that will inevitably arise out of this."

CommsUpdate reported

India’s mass spectrum auction, which saw the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) put up for sale a total of 2,308MHz of airwaves across seven bands, has ended after just two days, with the government netting INR778.15 billion (USD10.6 billion) – well below the reserve price of INR3.92 trillion for the total available spectrum – with around two-thirds of the available spectrum left unsold.

As anticipated, the trio of bidders – Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) – steered clear of the 700MHz band, marking the second time that the government has failed to sell the sought-after airwaves by overpricing the spectrum. The operators also avoided the 2500MHz band, whilst just 15MHz of the 175MHz available in the 2100MHz band was sold.

The Economic Times writes that Jio purchased the most spectrum, paying INR571.23 billion for 488.35MHz, focusing primarily on renewing its 800MHz licences alongside frequencies in the 1800MHz and 2300MHz bands. Airtel paid the next largest amount, with INR186.99 billion for a total of 355.45MHz across the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz bands. Vi, meanwhile, purchased just 11.8MHz of spectrum in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands for a total of INR19.93 billion.

In their press release, Jio said, "The acquired spectrum can be utilised for transition to 5G services at the appropriate time, where Jio has developed its own 5G stack."

Last year, The Economic Times of India had reported that Jio wants to do 5G Standalone (SA) while Airtel and Vi will do 5G Non-Standalone (NSA). The different 5G options are shown above and if you are not familiar, check out the tutorial here.

Matt Walker from MTN Consulting pointed out in the LinkedIn post that:

The $11B raised in this week's auctions is just a bit over the 2019 capex result for the whole industry (excluding spectrum).

Since the end of 2019, India's telco capex - again, excluding spectrum - has been trending downwards, with annualized capex through 3Q20 amounting to $7.7B.

It would be interesting to see how and how quickly do all the operators put their newly acquired spectrum to use. 

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Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Guatemalans don't care much about 5G

 


Guatemala is unfortunately among the poorer countries in Latin America. Its telecom infrastructure has suffered from years of underinvestment from state and provincial governments. The poor state of fixed-line infrastructure has led to Guatemala having one of the lowest teledensities in the region. In many rural regions of the country there is no fixed-line access available, and so mobile services are adopted by necessity. 

Network upgrades, in both the fixed-line and mobile sectors, have largely been undertaken by the private sector. Private investment has been supported by government and regulatory efforts, resulting in a steady growth in the number of fixed lines which in turn has supported growth in the fixed broadband segment. In the mobile sector operator investments in LTE infrastructure have stimulated the take-up of mobile data services. 

Steady GDP growth should provide greater disposable household revenue and so stimulate demand for telecom and ICT services. This could be more marked if the country managed to free itself from its legacy of violence, poverty, and corruption, factors which continue to inhibit prospective investors. 

Guatemala has three main mobile operators Tigo Guatemala, Claro Guatemala and Movistar Guatemala (however Claro and Movistar are set to merge.)

Mobile telephony is the most developed telecom market sector in Guatemala, accounting for most voice lines and internet access lines. The intense competition among the three operators has helped to improve services and lower prices for end-users. Mobile penetration is on a par with the regional average, though the slower growth in the mobile subscriber base suggests a level of market saturation, with the emphasis among operators being on generating revenue via mobile data services.

Tigo is market leader with the best coverage, followed by Claro and Movistar. In 2017 the first MVNO started with tuenti on the Movistar network. In January 2019 Telefonica sold Movistar to America Movil (Claro). It can be expected that both networks will be merged in the future under the Claro brand.

Mobile networks are on different frequency bands according to provider. Tigo is on 850 MHz only, Claro is on 900 and 1900 MHz for 2G/GSM and 1900 MHz for 3G, while Movistar is on 900 MHz for 2G and 3G only with a lower coverage, but higher speeds.

4G/LTE started in 2014/5 on all three networks and is so far limited to Guatemala City and a few other towns. Tigo’s LTE is on 850 MHz (band 5), Claro and Movistar on its 1900 MHz (band 2).

 

Tigo has launched LTE services in 2015 in the capital Guatemala City and the municipalities of Santa Catarina Pinula, Villa Nueva, San Miguel Petapa, Villa Canales, Amatitlan Fraijanes and San Jose Pinula.

          

Am茅rica M贸vil controls about 83% of the fixed lines in service through its subsidiary Claro. Claro is the 2nd operator caring for 30% of the mobile users. Its coverage is only slightly less than Tigo’s and their 900 and 1900 MHz frequency is more accessible for devices from overseas. It only has started recently with 4G/LTE on 1900 MHz in Guatemala City only. In the coming years, the Movistar network will be merged.

Movistar, by Spanish Telef贸nica, is the close 3rd provider with almost 30% of the national user's share. It has the lowest prices in the country, but also a slightly weaker coverage. It has the most aggressive pricing and offers the best roaming rates for Central America.

Telef贸nica decided to end its activities in Guatemala and sold the network in January 2019 to rival Claro (America Movil). It can be expected that both networks will be merged under the Claro brand in the future.

In 2014 it switched on its 1900 MHz 4G/LTE network in the capital city, provincial capitals and some tourist sites. By the end of 2015 Guatemala City is mostly covered by LTE.

In 2020, Guatemala was plagued with earthquakes, category 5 hurricanes, deadly volcano eruptions, Covid-19 and political issues. While some publications, vendors and operators may make some noise about 5G, right now Guatemalans are least concerned about the benefits and would greatly benefit from improved 4G/LTE coverage.

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