Sunday 30 May 2021

‘Health Concerns’ delay 5G pilots in Kyrgyzstan


CIS region countries are not planning to be leaders of 5G rollouts but they have been conducting some or other pilots and trials. Commsupdate reported

Kyrgyzstan’s State Communications Agency (SCA) – a subordinate agency of the State Committee for Information Technology & Communications – has disclosed that planned launches of test/pilot 5G networks have been suspended, largely due to COVID-19, although delays were also related to a campaign to address public 5G ‘health concerns’, the regulator told the Tazabek news service, adding that the date for 5G service deployment in the country is ‘not determined’ yet.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that in December 2019 the Kyrgyz regulatory authorities decided to allocate frequencies in test mode for 5G mobile network operations while approving proposed measures for supporting IoT development, in accordance with the 2019-2023 Digital Transformation policy roadmap. The temporary licences permit usage of spectrum within the 3300MHz-5000MHz range.

In July 2020 the regulator underlined that cellcos do not have the right to install and operate 5G network equipment without its specific permission, although adding that if the results of 5G tests ‘are positive’, the authorities would consider the issue of holding an auction of 5G frequencies. However, also that month operators reported multiple criminal attacks on their network facilities related to public fears over 5G, and the SCA began issuing information to address the matter, including global scientific evidence supporting 5G’s safety.

Developing Telecoms added:

Kyrgyzstan’s regulator has issued two 2300MHz spectrum licences to the state-backed operator MegaCom while noting that the country’s 5G network pilots will be delayed.

MegaCom bid KGS116.87 million (US$1.38 million) for two licences in the 2300MHz-2400MHz TDD range in an auction held by the State Communications Agency (SCA), itself a subordinate unit of the State Committee for Information Technology & Communications.

The two licences will allow MegaCom to deliver coverage across Kyrgyzstan, with the notable exception of the capital Bishkek and second largest city Osh. MegaCom spent KGS77.92 million to acquire 40MHz of spectrum in the 2300MHz-2340MHz band, and KGS38.95 million for 20MHz in the 2380MHz-2400MHz band.

TeleGeography reports that MegaCom bid KGS5.56 million more than the combined reserve price for the two licences despite the SCA indicating that it was the only bidder, with a third available licence for 40MHz of spectrum in the 2340MHz-2380MHz band going unsold. The concession covered the Batken, Naryn and Talas regions and had a reserve price of KGS17.72 million.

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Thursday 27 May 2021

Ethiopia to get a new Mobile Network Operator that will provide 4G & 5G

Ethiopia has been talking for a long time about getting a new MNO. Finally, they may have one.

Bloomberg reported:

Ethiopia awarded a new telecommunication license to a consortium including the U.K.’s Vodafone Group Plc, paving the way for a long-awaited opening of the sector to outside investors.

The government of the Horn of Africa country had received two offers. The consortium led by Safaricom submitted a bid of $850 million, according to the prime minister. The other from MTN Group Ltd., Vodacom’s Johannesburg rival, and partners including the Silk Road Fund, a Chinese state investment group, was for $600 million.

The winners -- Vodafone, Vodacom Group Ltd., in which the British carrier has a majority stake, and Nairobi-based Safaricom Ltd. -- will invest $8.5 billion in their network during the coming 10 years, including the license fee. Others include CDC Group Plc and Sumitomo Corp.

The government of the Horn of Africa country had received two offers. The consortium led by Safaricom submitted a bid of $850 million, according to the prime minister. The other from MTN Group Ltd., Vodacom’s Johannesburg rival, and partners including the Silk Road Fund, a Chinese state investment group, was for $600 million.

Al Jazeera added:

The Safaricom-led consortium will provide 4G and 5G internet services, and by 2023 a low-orbit satellite will be put in place to provide nationwide 4G coverage, Brook said.

“A momentous day for Ethiopia!” he wrote on Twitter.

“Imagine the quality service and efficiency it will engender, the new opportunities, millions of jobs and the transformative effect to our economy!”

Ethiopia’s telecoms reforms also include a plan to sell a stake in Ethio Telecom, a move officials hope will make the firm more efficient.

It should be noted that last year, Vodafone group invested in AST & Science's SpaceMobile to Beam 4G / 5G Directly to Devices. Nick Read, CEO, Vodafone Group, said: “At Vodafone we want to ensure everyone benefits from a digital society – that no-one is left behind. We believe SpaceMobile is uniquely placed to provide universal mobile coverage, further enhancing our leading network across Europe and Africa - especially in rural areas and during a natural or humanitarian disaster - for customers on their existing smartphones.”

There is very little information on Global Partnership for Ethiopia available at the moment. This Wikipedia article has some details that will hopefully be expanded later on.

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Sunday 23 May 2021

Germany gets Two 5G Standalone Networks

The analyst firm Tefficient recently said, "Germany goes from a European 4G laggard to a European 5G leader" as German operators reportedly built 19,371 5G base stations in 2020 as compared to 13,334 LTE base stations. It's true that Germans are not necessarily known for mobile technology advancements but the launch of second 5G Standalone network definitely adds them to the top 10 of 5G lists.

Just this week Telefónica Germany, a.k.a. O2 Deutschland announced that they have accelerated the 5G rollout. If I understand correctly (as the original article is in German), 5G Standalone will be using the 3.6 GHz spectrum while the 5G NSA uses Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) in 1.8 GHz band. They are also going to add 700MHz for 5G, which I am assuming will provide the coverage for 5G Standalone.

The translated article says:

There are now around 1,300 5G antennas operating in around 60 cities. O2 has thus doubled the number of cities with 5G coverage within a few weeks. All 5G antennas use the powerful 3.6 GHz frequencies , which offer O2 customers high speeds, short response times and thus a better 5G network experience overall. In addition, O2 has reached a technological milestone: The provider has put its new 5G standalone core network into operation and is setting up the 5G standard on its own. Telefónica Deutschland / O2 The technological basis was created in their network at an early stage in order to enable private and business customers to use even the most demanding 5G applications in the future.

5G standalone scores in particular through the further lower latency of a few milliseconds and higher data rates in the gigabit range, by bundling different 5G frequency bands (carrier aggregation) arise. These advantages are for example for mobile gaming, virtual and augmented reality or networked drivingimportant to ensure optimal, delay-free connectivity. The company will offer commercial offers for O 2 customers as soon as 5G standalone brings real advantages for the mass market. By summer 2021 , the task now is to implement the new 5G core network nationwide in all of its own data centers. This means that the O 2 network is not only optimally prepared for the future requirements of the 5G era , it is also at the forefront of technology among German networks.

Vodafone Germany on the other hand, launched their 5G Standalone network last month. In addition to the announcement, they made a lot of infographics available and referred to 5G Non-Standalone (NSA) as "Training Wheels"

Some of the features of their Standalone 5G is listed as

  • Bandwidth: initially around 700 Mbit / s, soon more than 1,000 Mbit / s possible
  • Latency: data exchange possible in real time (10 to 15 milliseconds)
  • Network slicing: 5G networks with guaranteed bandwidth, latency and stability become possible
  • Capacity: 5G standalone can network 10x more people and machines
  • Greater range: antenna range increased by around 20 percent
  • Less electricity: the energy consumption of smartphones drops by around 20 percent

Also like the way they explain the different 5G spectrum in use:

Finally, with all these 5G advancements, Vodafone will be switching off their 3G network end of June. 2G is still active for users that can't do VoLTE or roamers.

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Thursday 20 May 2021

Eritrea, the last country in the world to adopt a mobile phone system

Eritrea was allegedly the last country in the world to adopt a mobile phone system. Its sole provider EriTel is hardly accessible to foreigners as it requires a resident's permit, is tightly controlled by the government, a very high connection fee and some weeks to get connected to a network mostly 2G-only with few 3G cells. There is a separate CDMA network covering 85% which is not compatible with most GSM phones.

A report by the International Telecommunication Union says that internet penetration in Eritrea is just above 1%. Sim cards are like gold dust in Eritrea. Citizens need to apply to the local government administration to get one. And even if you get a Sim card, you can't use it to access the internet because there is no mobile data.

People can only access the internet through WiFi, but it is very slow. To get onto social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, people use a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent government censorship.

Considerable investment in telecom infrastructure is required to improve the quality of services. The government has embarked on a work program to do exactly that, specifically aimed at extending services to remote areas, improving the quality of services, and ensuring that more telecoms infrastructure is supported by solar power to compensate for the poor state of the electricity network. 

Eritrea is currently, after Ethiopia, the last telecoms market in Africa operated solely by the public incumbent company (Eritrea Telecommunications Services Corporation -EriTel). Despite several appeals from the World Bank on the need to liberalize the national telecommunications sector, in view of the definite impact on socio-economic development, the Eritrean government has been slow to open the market to competition.  Although 3G networks are being rolled out across the country, this is a long process that will take time. The government has started a programme that aims to extend 3G services to remote areas, using solar power to support the country’s electrical infrastructure. 

The need for the development of the telecoms infrastructure in Eritrea means there is huge potential to open the door to connectivity to the vast majority of the population. With so little terrestrial infrastructure in place, satellite can play a critical role in connecting the country in a quick and cost-effective manner. As we know, mining is an important part of the Eritrean economy and the productivity of this industry can be further enhanced through the use of satellite connectivity. Additional foreign investment in telecom infrastructure, as well as introduction of more competition, would help transform this virtually untapped market. 

Sunday 16 May 2021

Saudi Arabia's New Spectrum Outlook to Unlock more than 23 GHz of radio spectrum

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has issued its ‘3-year Outlook for Commercial and Innovative Use of the Spectrum in Saudi Arabia.’ The spectrum outlook is part of the National Spectrum Strategy, which aims to unlock the potential of radio spectrum in Saudi Arabia for a smarter and safer future by 2025. CITC is planning to allocate or improve access to more than 23 GHz of spectrum for a wide range of uses, of which 4 GHz will be licensed, 6.2 GHz will be license-exempt, and more than 13 GHz will be lightly licensed. CITC is also actively monitoring other potential frequency bands for further future releases.

The press release said:

CITC is planning to allocate licensed spectrum in the bands 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 1,500 MHz, extended 2,100 MHz, 3,800 – 4,000 MHz and 26 GHz frequency bands for mobile use between 2021 and 2023. As part of the regulatory changes, additional spectrum will be managed through a combination of innovative approaches that will deliver greater sharing and flexible access, including spectrum trading to allow the market to change the ownership and, in some cases, the use of spectrum. In addition, with this new spectrum outlook, CITC aims to achieve a balance between complementary technologies in cases where the market cannot deliver, monitor spectrum utilization for improved decision making, and assist innovation by making a variety of bands available for new technologies from trial licenses to shared and short-term access. The spectrum outlook details Saudi Arabia's path to becoming a global leader in radiocommunication and wireless technologies by attracting investments, meeting current data and connectivity demands and proactively anticipating future needs. Correspondingly, CITC aims to leverage innovation in spectrum management by expanding its range of resources and services, while ensuring the digital ecosystem is ready to unlock its full potential. Drafting this outlook followed a transparent and collaborative process that involved public consultation and engagement with more than 65 wireless technology organizations from different 20 countries.

Saudi Arabia became the first country in the Middle East, Europe, or Africa to designate all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for unlicensed use. The Kingdom now has more than 2 GHz of spectrum for Wi-Fi operations – the most mid-band spectrum designated by any country globally. This decision was lauded by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

The Kingdom made this decision after a comprehensive consultation, significant engagement with various global stakeholders, and trials with Wi-Fi 6E equipment furnished by WBA members Broadcom Inc. and Intel Corporation. The trials demonstrated that the Kingdom could advance its digital ambitions, achieving 2 Gigabits per second speed in laptop computers, while enabling continued operations with existing users of the 6 GHz band.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Kingdom’s decision for digitizing its economy and enabling next-generation services. In WBA’s annual report, members of the Wi-Fi industry said that the 6 GHz band is a critical component of their network strategy, with 78% seeking to take advantage of this spectrum to deliver high speed wireless broadband. By making all 1200 MHz of the band available, the Saudi’s have created a wireless superhighway with seven non-overlapping 160 MHz channels of green field spectrum for Wi-Fi 6E devices to use. Saudis will enjoy high reliability Wi-Fi that doubles the speeds and halves the latency compared to the capacity-constrained 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

The Kingdom will also be well positioned to lead in Wi-Fi 7 deployments when it becomes available. With this broad-based designation, Wi-Fi 7 deployments using 320 MHz wide channels will get up to 5 gigabits per second in mobile devices at very low latencies. This sets the stage for the Kingdom to further reap the benefits of contextual Internet, integrated communications services, and immersive AR/VR for telemedicine, education and worker training.

With Saudi Arabia joining the ranks of the US, South Korea, Brazil, and others, in designating all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band for license-exempt use, the WBA hopes that other regulators in the region will take note and make a similar commitment to advancing their own wireless broadband capabilities. This will lead to Global harmonization, which is key to scale, accelerating technology development, and reducing costs for end-users.

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Saturday 1 May 2021

No 5G in Bangladesh until 4G Succeeds

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. However, economic constraints over the last few decades has resulted in under-investment in network infrastructure, with the result that the country has an under-developed fixed-line market, with the fixed-line penetration rate being the lowest in South Asia.

Bangladesh’s mobile market is also relatively under-developed, though it has experienced strong growth over the last six years. Operators have trialled 5G and the BTRC is expected to auction spectrum for 5G services before the end of 2021, aiming to provide national 5G coverage by 2026.

Slow to moderate mobile subscriber growth is predicted in coming years, with constraints to stronger growth coming from intense local competition and from additional taxes in the national budget which are expected to dampen consumer use of services.

Bangladesh has also seen a very rapid increase in mobile broadband penetration over the past five years, though it remains well below most other Asian countries. Growth is being driven by a rising number of mobile subscribers able to access faster download speeds on LTE networks. An unprecedented level of investment among operators during 2018 and 2019 extended the footprint of LTE infrastructure and laid the groundwork for operators to launch 5G services from 2021.

There are currently four mobile network operators in Bangladesh according to BTRC ( ). TeleTalk (state-owned - Under Ministry of Post & Telecommunication), Grameenphone (joint venture with Telenor), Banglalink (by VEON - a subsidiary of Telenor) and Robi (by Malaysian Axiata Group and Indian Bharti Enterprises Ltd)

The 3 biggest private operators GrameenPhone, Banglalink and Robi have more than 95% of all customers. State owned TeleTalk is now growing. Another provider called Citycell based on GSM-incompatible CDMA was shut down in 2016/7 for not paying its dues. Airtel Bangladesh merged into Robi.

With all operators 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz. 3G up to HSPA+ on 2100 MHz is still in the population centers mostly. In 2017 the regulator has made all licenses technology-neutral and will give out new spectrum in 2018. The three operators Grameenphone, Robi-Airtel and Banglalink have started 4G/LTE in February 2018.

Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd., brand name Teletalk (Bengali: টেলিটক) is a state-owned mobile phone company. It's the smallest operator of all mobile phone services in Bangladesh with a 2% market share caring for only 4 million out of 131 million mobile users. Teletalk provides internet & voice sevice at cheapest rate. It's service is not as good as others but trying to improve regularly. But those traveller's who want to visit Sundarban, Dublar Char Island, Katka Sea Beach, Jamtola Beach or Remote HillTrack area must carry a Teletalk SIM Card because in some area There are no network except Teletalk.

Teletalk Bangladesh limited was established keeping a specific role in mind. Teletalk has forged ahead and strengthened its path over the years and achieved some feats truly to be proud of, as the only Bangladeshi mobile operator and the only operator with 100% native technical and engineering human resource base, Teletalk thrives to become the true people’s phone – “Amader Phone”.61% of Its BTS is 4G.

Grameenphone (Bengali: গ্রামীণফোন) is also known as GP, a joint venture between Norway's Telenor and Grameen Telecom Corp. It's the largest operator in the country with a 46% market share in 2019 when it was declared dominant player by the regulator. 100% of Its BTS is 4G.

The operator announced back in Feb, the transition of 15,500 of its mobile towers across the country as 4G-enabled, to commemorate Bangladesh's 50th anniversary and reaffirming its commitment to unleash digital potential in every corner of the country.

With nationwide 4G coverage, new tower roll-out, and preparations to deploy an additional 10.4 MHz spectrum, the company is positioned to meet people’s growing need for high-speed internet and support digital services uptake in rural and urban areas for its 80 million customers and beyond.

Banglalink (Bengali: বাংলালিংক), managed by internatl. VEON is the 2nd provider in the country. It has more than 31 million customers and a 26% market share serving all 64 districts by 2G and since 2014 by 3G too. They started in Dhakar in 2013 with 3G and cover at least all towns by now. 4G/LTE started in 2018 in Chittagong and Khulna & Now available across the country. 78% of Its BTS is 4G

According to last years Open Signal report  Banglalink registered the strongest performance among the four operators. 

Robi Axiata Limited, second-ranked operator behind Grameenphone and in front of Banglalink in user number terms. Robi Axiata started 4G/LTE in 2018 in all 64 district capitals of the country. 98% of Its BTS is 4G.

Robi Axiata has announced that it has deployed 4.5G technology across its entire network comprising 13,400 mobile sites. The company revealed that 4.5G services are currently operated in the 900MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, with plans to deploy 2,500 additional sites by the end of 2021. As of February 2021, 70% of Robi’s active subscriber base was using data services, while 4.5G handset penetration stood at 50.6%. Robi also disclosed that 4.5G service users are now consuming around 6GB of data per month.

The government aims to launch 5G technology in 2023 and make the network available in every district headquarters by 2026. None of the operators are enthusiastic about 5G at the moment. According to Dhaka Tribune:

Mobile operators said that at least 70 per cent of the country needs to be penetrated with 4G connectivity before making the big jump to 5G. Besides, less than 30 per cent of the country's registered handsets are 4G compatible, so gearing for 5G at this point needs to be discussed extensively, they said. Currently, 4G is only available in the divisional cities, with fluctuating network quality and internet speed. Thinking about transitioning to 5G now would not be wise, said telecom industry insiders.

One of the primary reasons why both 3G and 4G services failed to take off in a big way commercially was the low penetration of compatible handsets when those technologies were rolled out in Bangladesh.

And in case of 5G, the handset penetration at less than 0.1 per cent is worse than the other two technology when the mobile operators were gearing up to roll them out, meaning there is not much of a business case for them to undertake the massive investment needed for the service.

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