Thursday, 8 April 2021

Jamaica has good 4G coverage but no certainty on 5G


The Caribbean island of Jamaica currently has two mobile network operators: Digicel Jamaica and
Flow (by Cable & Wireless).

Jamaica is home to over 3 million mobile users, with Digicel claiming around 2.2 million and Flow having around one million.

In 2016 Jamaica's cabinet approved the award of a third licence to Symbiote Investments that has paid US$ 20.8 million to roll out a 4G LTE service under the Caricel brand. They started in 2017 but face a regulatory investigation into the circumstances of their licensing and in 2019 their licence was revoked and the provider shut down.

Jamaica’s Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has instructed Digicel and Flow to improve what it describes as ‘persistent quality of service (QoS) issues’ such as data and voice service interruption, dropped calls and calls not being initiated. Both companies admitted that the steep and rapid rise in the demand and use of data had hampered their service delivery. For its part, Digicel blamed the QoS lapses on its modernization program, while Flow claimed that the incidents were isolated and not related to a general failure of its telecoms infrastructure. Flow also cited vandalism and ongoing road works as mitigating factors.


Jamaica was the first market where Digicel started in 2001 in the Caribbean. It's considered as their home base and they soon became market leader on the island with a major share of the customers.

They run a dual CDMA and GSM network. CDMA is on BC1 and only for inbound roaming. Their GSM 2G is on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G is on 850 MHz up to DC-HSPA+. They started 4G/LTE on 700 MHz or Band 17 in 2016 in Kingston, St Andrew and around the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, with hopes of it reaching other parts of the island soon. Recently, they've expanded coverage to Montego Bay, Falmouth and a few other places on the North Coast and South Coast. On their 2G/3G networks they claim to cover 99% of Jamaicans, on 4G/LTE 65% are covered at the end of 2018..

Digicel has deployed LTE on Band 4 with a bandwidth of 20 MHz aggregated with Band 17. Digicel was the first carrier to offer HD Voice in Jamaica, available on its 3G network for AMR-WB or VoLTE capable devices like iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices.


FLOW, previously called LIME is the incumbent provider in Jamaica. It's operated by Cable & Wireless Communications which is owned by Liberty Global.

FLOW's 2G network is only on 850 MHz. FLOW's 3G network resides on 850 MHz and 1900 MHz. Both their 2G & 3G networks are available island wide. FLOW recently disabled DC-HSDPA and GSM on 1900 MHz, opting to use the spectrum for LTE and a small allocation for 3G, instead. The company is also intending to shutter its legacy technology (presumably 2G) "soon" but timelines were not provided.

FLOW started its 4G/LTE rollout in the Kingston Metropolitan Area in 2016 and expanded it to Montego Bay (and its environs) and the resort town of Ocho Rios as well as the towns of Spanish Town, Portmore in St. Catherine and Mandeville in Manchester in 2017 (see coverage map). FLOW's primary LTE Band, Band 4 (1700 MHz), has less in-building penetration. As a result, it doesn't propagate as far as lower frequencies like 700 MHz on Digicel. Band 4 offers more speed and network capacity than its competition because it sits on a 20 MHz bandwidth. FLOW also began deploying LTE Band 2 (1900 MHz) in places like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Kingston and a good portion of rural areas with aggregation. They recently also began adding Band 12 (700 MHz) as the 3rd LTE band that will become the layer on which the carrier deploys VoLTE. The network has already begun deployment of its full spectrum in some rural areas like Portland, St. Mary, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas and other like areas. FLOW, as of early 2020, claims its LTE network now covers 95% of the Jamaican population.

FLOW was awarded a Speedtest Award from Ookla for Q2-Q3 2018, with average download speeds of 22.66 Mbit/s and average upload speeds of 9.62 Mbit/s. They intended to cover all Jamaicans by 2020.

The Jamaican government is currently considering a proposal from US firm Rivada Networks, which would see the vendor deploy a 5G network free of charge, in exchange for a share of the eventual revenues. According to the Jamaica Observer, which quotes remarks by Donald Tapia, the US Ambassador to Jamaica, the proposal has been on the table for some time, but the authorities remain undecided.

Monday, 5 April 2021

8.05 Billion Mobile Subscribers with 5.22 Billion Unique by End of 2020


Telegeography reported that the number of mobile subscribers reached 8.05 billion at the end of 2020. The article reported

Figures from TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database show that the global wireless subscriber total has passed 8 billion. User numbers were up 1% in 2020, ending the year at 8.05 billion.

The cellular market showed year-on-year growth despite the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to downturns in user take-up in a number of countries.

Of the end-2020 wireless user total, 55% were located in Asia; China and India alone accounted for 34% of the global base.

Asia saw year-on-year growth of 1%, with Pakistan registering the biggest jump in percentage terms. Customer numbers increased 6% in 2020 to 177 million. And there’s still room for expansion in Pakistan. The country’s wireless population penetration was around 80% at the end of 2020, compared to a regional average of 104%.

As for other regions, the U.S. & Canada also saw a 1% increase in customers, while overall user numbers in the Middle East and Latin America remained virtually static during 2020.

In Latin America’s largest market by subscribers, Brazil, the year finally saw an end to a long-running decline in user numbers. The customer total had fallen from over 280 million in 2014 to below 200 million as of June 2020. But the second half of 2020 brought a turnaround as the country ended the year with 205 million cellular subscribers. However, Argentina, Peru, and Uruguay all experienced annual decreases of 5% or more in 2020.

The fastest-growing region was Africa, which saw a 6% increase in subscribers during 2020 to 1.16 billion. This annual growth is on a par with the previous year’s figure.

Of the top 40 fastest growing markets globally in 2020, Africa was home to 29. It was led by South Sudan, which recorded an annual subscriber increase of more than 23%, while larger markets such as Kenya and Nigeria also recorded double-digit growth (up 13% and 12% respectively).

At the other end of the scale, the number of wireless subscribers in Europe has been in decline for the last six years. Of the 41 countries in Europe with a population above 200,000, 27 witnessed a drop in their wireless subscriber bases between December 2019 and December 2020.

Eastern and southeastern Europe saw some of the region’s biggest customer losses, with countries such as Moldova, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece all registering annual declines of more than 5%.

You can read the complete article here.

Hootsuite / We are social also publish annual numbers on Data Reportal. The embedded deck below provides numbers for 2020.

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Thursday, 1 April 2021

South Sudan is getting 3G Upgrades and 4G

Following the referendum in 2011, oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Having been deprived of investment for decades, it inherited one of the least developed telecommunications and internet markets in the world, while other infrastructure is also lacking. Although this potentially can create investment opportunities for infrastructure and service providers, such developments largely depend on a negotiated end to the protracted civil war which erupted in December 2013, and which has caused considerable mayhem and bloodshed, particularly in the oil-producing areas. With the civic struggle exacerbated by large-scale famine, investors in all economic sectors have been discouraged.

There was once investment activity among mobile network operators who sought to expand their networks in some areas of the country, but by late 2016 both Zain South Sudan and MTN South Sudan had cut back their workforces in a bid to save on operating costs, while their falling subscriber bases have strained revenue. Zain South Sudan in particular recorded considerable financial losses in 2015 and 2016. Operators in the telecom sector, as in other markets, have placed themselves in survival mode and are hoping for a political settlement and a return to some degree of social stability. Although MTN and Zain reported a significant fall in the number of mobile subscribers in 2017, with a consequent severe decline in revenue, both saw subscriber bases increase in 2018 as they absorbed customers which had migrated from VivaCell after that company was closed down for failing to pay back taxes.

South Sudan has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in Africa. Growth in the sector in coming years is premised on a resolution to the political crisis and a recovery of the country’s economy. The virtually untapped internet and broadband market also depends to a large extent on the country gaining access to international fibre optic cables and on a national backbone network being in place. Sophisticated infrastructure solutions are needed to reach the 80% of the population that live outside of the main urban centres. With a negligible rate of bank account ownership, mobile payment and banking solutions also have a strong potential once a reliable mobile infrastructure is built.

Currently there are only two mobile operators in South Sudan. They are South African giant MTN and Kuwait-based Zain. The government will provide security to all mobile operators to ensure improved internet service in the country. 


MTN has the largest number of subscribers in South Sudan.  They have invested US$30-million (R430-million) in revitalising and expanding operations since the end of the five-year civil war, reviving transmission sites, upgrading to 3G and adding new coverage.


Zain has also made huge investments and developed  the telecommunications infrastructure of South Sudan.  

They have over 300 third generation (3G) voice and data enabled network sites. The technology being deployed nationwide can easily be upgraded to super-fast 4G LTE.  Zain’s local unit in South Sudan has launched a commercial 4G offering in the capital city Juba. 

According to TeleGeography, as of end-2020 Zain South Sudan had 1.05 million subscribers, putting it in second place behind its sole competitor MTN South Sudan, which has 1.70 million customers.