Sunday, 25 July 2021

Spain gets Coverage Layer 5G Spectrum in 700 MHz Band


The Spanish operators just secured 700 MHz of spectrum in the auctions that just concluded. Spain's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation has details here and the PDF of final results is here. TelecomTV nicely summarises the results as follows:

Spain’s auction of 700 MHz spectrum for 5G services was concluded in just one day, with the government raising little more than the minimum reserve prices for the blocks snapped up by Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone: The country’s fourth mobile operator, Másmóvil, did not participate.

Orange paid the starting price of €350 million for two blocks of 2x5 MHz spectrum. Vodafone also paid the reserve price of €350 million for its 2x10 MHz of capacity.

Only Telefónica (Movistar) paid above the minimum required: It shelled out €310.089 million for its 2x10 MHz (the starting price for that tranche had been €270 million). 

The spectrum licensed can be used for downlink and uplink connectivity, which is what the operators need for their 5G service offerings: The 700 MHz band enables operators to extend the reach of their next-gen mobile networks outdoors (so it is particularly useful for non-urban areas) and to better penetrate buildings with their 5G signals and so is attracting increasing operator investment, with China Mobile having just announced the results of its initial 700 MHz 5G radio access network equipment tender. 

In total, then, the Spanish government raised just over €1.01 billion: In the scheme of things that’s not much for the government coffers but it also isn’t sapping the operators of funds that can be used to build out their networks. Three blocks of 5 MHz spectrum that could be used only for downlink connections were not taken up by the operators and have been classified by Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation as “deserted.”

5G Observatory points out:

The fourth mobile operator in terms of market share, Masmovil, opted out of the process earlier this month. Players did not bid for any of the 5MHz blocks of non-paired spectrum available and the auction did not reach the 2.1 billion EUR target set by the regulator.

All licences will be valid for a period of 20 years and extendable for a further 20-year period. The operators are obligated to activate 5G services in 450 localities with populations above 50,000 by the end of June 2025, as well as covering the country’s largest airports, train stations and motorways.

This was Spain’s second sale of 5G-suitable spectrum, following an auction covering the 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz bands in 2018. A third and last 5G spectrum auction, this time in the 26GHz band, is planned to take place before the end of the year.

Source: Xataka Movil

A statement from Orange Spain is available here.

A statement from Vodafone with a summary of Spectrum they hold is available here.

A statement from Telefonica with a summary of Spectrum they hold is available here.

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Thursday, 15 July 2021

People of Eswatini want their Internet Connectivity back

Eswatini (or eSwatini) formerly called Swaziland is a sovereign state in Southern Africa, neighboured by Mozambique and the Republic of South Africa. It's a landlocked country of 17,000 km2 and approximately 1.2 million inhabitants. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It was one of the last countries in the world to abolish an almost complete monopoly in all sectors of its telecom market. Until 2011 the state-owned Eswatini Posts and Telecommunications also acted as the industry regulator and had a stake in the country’s sole mobile network, in an uneasy partnership with MTN Eswatini. 

Eswatini now has two mobile network providers: MTN Eswatini (formerly MTN Swaziland) and Eswatini Mobile (formerly: Swazi Mobile).

A new independent regulatory authority was established in late 2013 and has since embarked on significant changes to the telecom sector. Eswatini Telecom was provided with a unified licence in early 2016, while MTN Eswatini secured spectrum in the 1800MHz band to provide LTE services. Eswatini Mobile has launched GSM, 3G and LTE services, supported by a network sharing agreement with MTN Eswatini.

Mobile market penetration in Eswatini is well above the average for the region, though this is largely due to subscribers taking SIM cards from both networks in order to access cheaper on-net calls. Subscriber growth has slowed in recent years and has been affected by the economic slow-down resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eswatini is landlocked and so depends on neighbouring countries for international fibre bandwidth. This has meant that access pricing is relatively high, though prices have fallen more recently in line with greater bandwidth availability resulting from several new submarine fibre optic cable systems that have reached the region in recent years. In addition, Paratus in September 2020 completed a terrestrial cable linking Mozambique with South Africa and running through Eswatini.

There are very few operators actually offering international roaming in Eswatini. Not even all South African providers, but only MTN for a surcharge. 


Up to 2017 MTN Swaziland, also called MTN Swazi and now renamed to MTN Eswatini, was the only provider in the country. It has a quite good coverage up to 4G/LTE at rather high prices. That's why many local people complain about rates higher than in South Africa. 

2G is up to EDGE on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE was added in 2014 on 1800 MHz (Band 3).

Newly licensed operator Eswatini Mobile broke the monopoly of MTN in the country when it launched on 28/7/2017. It shares tower infrastructure with incumbent MTN. The operator has disclosed plans to invest SZL 600 million (US$ 44.8 million) in its network over the course of the next 5 years. In 2019 it was renamed to Eswatini Mobile after the country changed names.

The newcomer is headed by local tycoon Victor Gamedze and was awarded a concession in December 2016, fending off competition from locally-owned SDnet and international providers Viettel and Orange.

The network is started in Mbabane, Ezulwini, Matsapha, Manzini and 24 other towns. Their service covers 80% of the population in 2017. All sites have 4G/3G/2G voice and data services and now cover major parts.

As part of its ‘Ambition 2025: Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress’ strategy, African mobile operator MTN Group has selected Finnish vendor Tecnotree to be responsible for overseeing the digital transformation of its operations in Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Eswatini, South Sudan and Zambia. Tecnotree, which specialises in developing software support systems to telecom services providers, has secured a five-year deal to provide MTN Benin, MTN Cote d’Ivoire, MTN Eswatini, MTN South Sudan and MTN Zambia with cutting-edge software solutions that will enable them to provide customers with new cloud-based services.

The award of the contract to Tecnotree comes in the wake of the South Africa-based group’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to modernise its networks using Open RAN technology, allowing for the rapid expansion of 4G and 5G population coverage across its markets, in support of Ambition 2025. Under the plan, MTN aims to roll out Open RAN across its entire African network by the end of 2021 working in collaboration with its partners Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, TechMahindra and Voyage.

Pro-democracy protests are currently ongoing in Eswatini, the government has ordered network providers MTN Eswatini and Eswatini Mobile to disconnect the nation. The connection was restored  yesterday amid court challenge.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Singtel shows the power of Standalone 5G

Singtel announced the launch its 5G Standalone (SA) network in May, offering customers early access to the most advanced 5G connectivity globally. Compared to 4G, 5G SA delivers twice the responsiveness, 30% faster uploads, and strengthened authentication and encryption capability. With much greater bandwidth and near-instant responses, 5G SA will enable revolutionary applications like self-driving cars, real-time immersive entertainment, and massive IoT (Internet of Things) connections.

This infographic shows all the things 5G Standalone can do.

In addition, Singtel also produced a series of 5G videos explaining the benefits of 5G from Standalone point of view.

The press release highlights:

Since last September, Singtel has been operating Singapore’s fastest 5G NSA network under a market trial, offering 5G speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. Within a year of receiving its 5G licence, Singtel has now turned on 5G SA and deployed over a thousand 5G sites across Singapore in strategic locations such as Orchard Road, the Central Business District, Marina Bay, Harbourfront and Sentosa, as well as major residential areas including Sengkang, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Jurong East, Woodlands, and more. It is the only telco in Singapore to roll out in-building 5G, covering popular malls such as VivoCity and Ngee Ann City, and will continue to expand its indoor 5G footprint in the coming months.

On the enterprise front, Singtel is focused on accelerating 5G innovation and 5G adoption, launching Genie, the world’s first portable 5G-in-a-box platform and expanding its 5G ecosystem with 5G Multi-access Edge Compute trials in collaboration with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

All consumers in Singapore can trial 5G’s ultra-fast speeds and ultra-low latency at Singtel’s 5G experience zones in selected Singtel Shops, UNBOXED and UNBOXED Lite on Orchard Road.

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Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Misinformation and Fake News to delay 5G in Bolivia

Although Bolivia had enjoyed strong economic growth prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, GDP remains among the lowest in South America. Many areas of the country outside the main cities are poor and undeveloped, and there is a sizeable proportion of the population which live in remote valleys and areas where telecom infrastructure has been chronically neglected. As a result, the penetration of telecom services is relatively low.

State-owned Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel) is the country’s incumbent long-distance operator, also offering local telephony, DSL, and pay TV services. Its subsidiary Entel Movil is Bolivia’s largest mobile network provider.

Bolivia has almost twenty times as many mobile phone subscribers as fixed line connections, and the trend towards fixed-mobile substitution continues. Besides Entel, two other companies offer mobile telephony: Tigo, wholly owned by Luxembourg-based Millicom International, and NuevaTel, trading as Viva and controlled by Trilogy International. A proposed deal to merge Millicom’s business units in the region with those of Liberty Latin America was called off in February 2019.

Due to the poor quality, high cost, and poor reach of DSL, mobile networks have become the principal platform for voice services and data access. The take-up of services based on LTE has risen steadily as network builds have developed. Tigo launched the first LTE services in mid-2014, followed by Viva in mid-2015. By early 2021 both companies’ networks reached more than 95% of the population. About 92% of all internet accesses are via smartphones.

2G and 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz with variable coverage. 4G/LTE started in 2013/4/5 on all three providers: Entel uses 700 MHz (B13), Tigo 700 (B17) and 1700 MHz (AWS, B4) and Viva 1700 (AWS, B4) MHz only. 4G/LTE is now given out by all providers to prepaid customers without surcharges.

Coverage and speeds can be very different according to location. Generally, they are a bit lower than in neighbouring countries, but operators need to invest heavily to catch up.

Entel for Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones S.A. is the state-owned incumbent provider in Bolivia. It's still the market leader with a share of 44% of national customers in 2015. It provides the best coverage even in remote areas. It started with 4G/LTE on 700 MHz (B13) in 2014 in the cities of La Paz, El Alto, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. Their 4G footprint is expanded gradually to other departmental capital cities and larger cities

Entel has announced that it has successfully trialled 5G at the Expocruz 2019 event in Santa Cruz. The tests were carried out in conjunction with Chinese vendor Huawei and achieved downlink transmission speeds of up to 1Gbps. Entel claims that the trial makes it the first Bolivian mobile operator to demonstrate 5G technology.

Tigo run by internattional Millicom Group is the second provider in Bolivia with a market share of 29%. It was the first to deploy 4G/LTE in 2013, which has spread to at least one city covered in each of Bolivia’s eleven departments: 4G coverage. 2G and 3G are on 850 MHz. 4G is on bands 4 (1700 MHz) and 17 (700 MHz).

Viva run by Nuevatel PCS is the smallest of the three providers with a 27% market share, but the only one who gained customers by its very low rates. Where it has coverage, it sells data at the lowest prices. It was the last to start 4G/LTE in summer 2015 in the La Paz area: 4G coverage area. 2G is on 1900, 3G is on 850 MHz, 4G is on band 4.

There are no plans or announcements on 5G in Bolivia. Last year a lot of mobile masts were destroyed due to massive amount of misinformation spread about Covid. As a result, Entel, the state-owned telecommunications company headquartered in Bolivia, recently piloted an automatic traffic monitoring trial in Chile, utilising 5G wireless connectivity and AI. It is much safer to wait for any 5G trials in Bolivia.

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Friday, 2 July 2021

Poland is still waiting for a faster 5G


The liberalisation of Poland telecom market has resulted in  considerable development in the broadband and mobile sectors. The incumbent operator, Orange Poland, dominates the broadband market and has invested in fibre infrastructure to support the growing adoption of bundled services among customers.

The Polish mobile market is vibrant and growing with a total of about 53.9 million mobile subscriptions. Orange is the largest operator by market share in the country followed closely by Play. The mobile market in recent years has been characterised by the rapid extension of LTE networks and the development of mobile data services based on newly released and re-farmed spectrum. The regulator’s attempts to auction spectrum in a range of bands has been delayed, with spectrum in the 5G-suitable 3.4-3.8GHz range having been suspended to later in 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and legislative changes.

Mobile penetration in Poland is above the European average, though this partly reflects the continuing popularity among consumers to keep two or more SIM cards, which has distorted the real mobile penetration rate. Nevertheless, the distortion has been addressed on two fronts: by network operators being encouraged to disconnect dormant SIM cards, and by legislation which obliges subscribers of prepaid services to register their details. These forces have resulted in a significant readjustment in the number of subscribers in the market.

The market has effective competition from four MNOs, and has room for more than two dozen MVNOs though many of these are small operators with marginal market share. ARPU has been adversely affected by retail tariff competition and by regulatory mandated reductions in mobile termination rates and roaming tariffs. In addition, roaming revenue has been deeply affected by the decline in international travel since 2020. However, operators anticipate that ARPU will rise in line with consumer adoption of mobile data services, facilitated by improved network infrastructure.

Poland's 4 GSM-based network providers are: Play (by P4), Orange (formerly IDEA), Plus (by Polkomtel, merged with Aero2) and T-Mobile (formerly ERA).

More and more MVNOs and subsidiaries of the operators are arriving on the scene competing with four major operators and reselling their networks. The first 4 operators have pretty similar market shares around 25%. Their price battles have led to one of the lowest rates for data in the EU for the consumer, but to congestion and slow speeds at peak times too.

3G is phasing out and operators moves available resources to 4G/5G networks.

Situation with 5G is very tricky - 5G works with Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) mainly on 2100 MHz, which offers maximal speed of 300 Mbps but usually is even slower than LTE-A. In contrast to others, Plus/Aero2 works on TDD 2600 MHz, which now offers the fastest speeds (up to 600 Mb/s). Resources from 3400 - 3800 MHz and 700 MHz are expected to be auditioned in summer 2021.

T-Mobile Poland announced that will shutdown their 3G network by the end 2023 and will begin in 2021 and refarm these spectrums for 4G/5G. Play confirmed, that will shut off completely 2G and 3G for 7 years. Plus and Orange also will shut down their 3G network, but there is no information about time of disabling.

OpenSignal’s recent analysis of Poland found that Orange also dominated the OpenSignal awards winning five of the seven awards. The operator won in Video Experience, Download Speed Experience, Upload Speed Experience, 4G Availability and 4G Coverage Experience.

Interestingly, they also found that 4G Availability is fairly strong in the country with three of the four national operators achieving 4G Availability greater than 85%, while Orange slightly exceeded the coveted 90% Availability mark.

However, this may be an area to watch as late last year Play expanded its 4G LTE network to many more cities and we may see that continue in 2020.

When it comes to 5G, Poland recently postponed the auction of 5G spectrum licenses in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz bands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, some operators are moving forward with their 5G deployments.

Interestingly, T-Mobile stood out in Voice App Experience where it won the award with a score of 80.1 on a 0-100 scale, which puts it into the Good category. This means many users were satisfied with minor quality impairments such as occasional clicking sounds. The other three operators were close behind with scores of 79.3 and higher, which falls into the Acceptable category. This means that while users were satisfied, there were perceptible call quality impairments experienced by some users.

 

Play, owned by P4, used to be the smallest of the 4 network operators in Poland. But their aggressive marketing, has grown their subscribers. 

By mid-2020, it had covered 98.7% of the population with 3G/UMTS, which is called "4G". LTE, which is called "4G LTE" by Play, covers 99% of population. "4G LTE Ultra" is an area where LTE Advanced is available (maximal speed: 300 Mbit/s) covering 91%. Play has also started with "5G READY", which you can get over 600 Mbps on compatible devices, but coverage is limited - 48%. 5G is available on 2100 MHz (n1) frequency for prepaid plans, but you need a special package activated. 

Play has around 9000 of its own towers in the country, more than Plus. Play customers using most tariffs are allowed to roam for free on other Polish networks in places without Play's own coverage. Now, you can roam to 4G/LTE on Orange network and on 3G network of T-Mobile. Roaming speed stays always limited to 3 Mbit/s for download and 1 Mbit/s for upload. Be aware that the budget Internet na Kartę tariff is excluded from all domestic roaming and stays on Play's limited own network only. National data roaming is coming to end in 2021 upon the expiry of the agreements. At least that motivates Play to build way more own stations in last years.

Play is trialling 4G and 5G equipment with Korean vendor Samsung. The trial will be conducted this summer in Play’s labs and on its live network in Warsaw, testing interoperability with the operator’s existing network equipment. Samsung will provide its latest 4G and 5G solutions, including 4G radios, 5G Massive MIMO radios and baseband units, utilising low and mid-band spectrum. 

Orange has good coverage in Poland. LTE is open for prepaid and covers already 99.85% of population in 2018 with speeds up to 600 Mbps. 5G is also available on 2100 MHz (n1) frequency but you'll need a special package to access it.

Orange has biggest network sharing with T-Mobile called NetWorks! Both operators are building a common cellular network and subscribers can use both networks base stations (that is not equal to domestic roaming, but basically Orange and T-Mobile subscribers are sharing the same antennas, but don't share frequencies).

Last month Orange unveiled its new business strategy to June 2024. The new strategy, under the name of .Grow, is based on four pillars: creating value in the company’s core business, particularly in the context of optical fibre and convergence; creating new solutions for business, using the latest technologies, such as 5G; further transformation of the company thanks to digitisation; and responsible management.

Plus (formerly Plus GSM) is the brand name of Poland's mobile phone network operator Polkomtel. The company is entirely owned by Spartan Capital Holdings sp. z o.o.

Plus has a good coverage throughout the country on 2G and 3G while their 4G/LTE (called LTE PLUS) network already covers 99% right now and speeds up to 150 Mbps. LTE-Advanced (called LTE PLUS ADVANCED) is available for 73% of Polish population, is open for prepaid with speeds up to 600 Mbps. 5G in Plus is available for prepaid customers up to 31.05.2021 without special packages. Plus is the local Vodafone partner.

Before 2011 T-Mobile used to be a second operator in Poland, but after rebranding to "T-Mobile.pl" (from "Era") and during period with disappointing offers compared to other operators, it started losing customers. Currently it has least market share.4G/LTE is open for prepaid and covers most of the population. On the majority of 4G base stations LTE Advanced is available to compatible devices at no extra cost. LTE-A in a T-Mobile can offer up to 700 Mbit/s of download speed. T-Mobile also offers 5G network on 2100 MHz (n1) frequency, but have to activate selected package. The operator is expanding its range of products in the GO! pre-paid range to include 5G connectivity in the ‘No Limit XL’ tariff. Users must pay PLN39 (USD10.11) per month for access to 5G services. The cellco says it now offers 31 handsets which support 5G.

It has the biggest network and most extensive coverage in Poland. T-Mobile has a union with Orange Polska to improve infrastructure called NetWorks! - T-Mobile and Orange are building cellular network together, but don't share frequencies. That subscribers can use both networks base stations (that is not equal to domestic roaming, but basically T-Mobile and Orange subscribers are using the same antennas). 

Regarding the upcoming 5G spectrum auctions, 5G observatory reports:

The updated version of the National Broadband Plan covering the 2020-2025 period adopted in November 2020 include plans for 5G in the country:

  • 700 MHz frequencies should be assigned by 30 July 2022
  • 3480-3800 MHz frequencies should be assigned by 31 August 2021 (initial goal of 30 July 2020 not met)
  • 26 GHz frequencies should be assigned by 31 December 2022

Hopefully the end users will finally be able to enjoy faster speeds after the C band spectrum auctions in August.

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