Thursday 25 November 2021

Mongolia is Getting Ready for 5G and IoT

Mongolia has a population of 3.3 million but there are roughly 4.69 million mobiles, giving the penetration rate of 141.8%.

Telecommunications in Mongolia face unique challenges. It is the least densely populated country in the world and a significant portion of the population live a nomadic lifestyle. It has been difficult for many traditional information and communication technology (ICT) companies to make headway into Mongolian society. With almost half the population clustered in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, most landline technologies are deployed there. Wireless technologies have had greater success in rural areas.

Mobile phones are common, with provincial capitals all having 4G access. Wireless local loop is another technology that has helped Mongolia increase accessibility to telecommunications and bypass fixed-line infrastructure. For Internet, Mongolia relies on fiber optic communications with its Chinese and Russian neighbours.

There are four mobile operators in the country: MobiCom, Unitel, Skytel and G-Mobile.

Skytel and G-Mobile both only operate 3G networks in Ulaanbaatar and GSM-incompatible CDMA/EVDO networks in the rest of the country. 

On MobiCom and Unitel 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G (HDSPA) on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE started in 2016 in Ulaanbaatar city only on 1800 MHz (Band 3) and new licenses were given out for 700 MHz (Band 28).

MobiCom is the biggest Mongolian cellular operator with 1.7 million active subscribers. It was established in 1996 as a joint Mongolian-Japanese venture and is the first Mongolian cell phone service. It was founded by Mongolian Newcom Group, and Japanese KDDI. As of 2015, Mobicom held over 1/3 of the market, with network coverage of 95% of the population. 

Mobicom introduced 3G (HSPDA) networking in 2009. Its network support phones with 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (Band 3) has been launched for all users without any surcharges and is enabled by default on all new SIM cards.

The operator has launched a 5G interoperability trial in partnership with its parent company and Telecom Infra Project (TIP). 

Unitel (Universal or United telecommunications) was founded together with South Korea in 2005 as GSM mobile phone operator. In 2010 Unitel declared that it has become 100% indigenous company (i.e. Mongolian share owners bought all share from the Korean side).

Unitel network covers approximately 88% of population. In 2009 Unitel launched its 3G network on 2100 MHz. In 2016 they started 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (Band 3) in the towns of Ulaanbaatar, Erdenet, Darkhan City, Dalanzadgad, Tsogttsetsii open for prepaid. It has a lower coverage, but better prices than MobiCom.

GSMA Intelligence estimated Unitel’s mobile connections at 1.6 million at end-Q3, placing it in the top two of four operators in Mongolia.

The operator has secured an option to be the first in the nation to employ satellite connectivity services from specialist Lynk Global. The company expects to be able to provide satellite services to standard mobile phones in 2022, when Unitel will have a “first-to-market right” to use it within the sprawling country. 

In a statement, Unitel CEO Enkhbat Dorjpalam noted the topography, extreme weather and size of Mongolia meant it had very specialist coverage needs. The Unitel executive explained Mongolia was 1.6 million square kilometres with a population of 3.3 million spread across the country, adding “we have unique needs for coverage in our country given our nomadic lifestyle and extremely large livestock population of more than 70 million animals, which is a critical component to our society’s growth and resiliency.”

GMobile LLC was founded in April 2006. In 2008, GMobile was the first operator to introduce 3G technology in Mongolia and launched G-Internet phone service – mobile internet service based on 1X, EvDo technology. It presently only has175,000 subscribers.

Skytel Group has approximately 255,000 active subscribers the company's network functions on an HSPA+ network in Ulaanbaatar and [CDMA2000 1x] & [EVDO] network technology in the rest of the country.

Mongolia-based operator ONDO (IN Mobile Network LLC), is now the the fifth mobile operator in Mongolia, it has received a license to provide mobile services from the national telecommunications regulator Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC).

According to local media reports, ONDO is piloting the latest generation of high-speed mobile internet or 5G technology in Mongolia using cutting-edge technologies in the telecommunications industry.

The report said that ONDO plans to deploy 4G, 5G, and IoT networks, according to its new website, with an initial focus on the capital Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia’s Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC) has awarded the country’s fifth mobile licence to ONDO (registered as IN Mobile Network), which plans to operate under the SuperNet brand. The firm plans to deploy 4G, 5G and IoT networks, according to its new website, with an initial focus on the capital Ulaanbaatar. A list of licensees published by the CRC shows IN Mobile Network’s concession expiring on 10 September 2031.

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