Wednesday 29 December 2021

Sunday 26 December 2021

Cubans are starting to Embrace Mobile Internet

Cuba’s telecom sector is a unique one with state control having stymied rather than promoted the development of all sectors. The country has the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in the region, while fixed-line teledensity is also very low. Fixed-line and mobile services remain a monopoly of the government-controlled Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETESCA Cubacel).

Although there are still state restrictions over the right to own and use certain communications services, a thawing of relations between the US and Cuba has encouraged the government to improve access to services. Since 2015 Wi-Fi hotspots have been put in a number of places and since 2019, Cuba's Ministry of Communications (Mincom) has allowed individuals to create small private not-for-profit Wi-Fi networks and to import equipment.

Access to sites is also tightly controlled and censored. A DSL service was launched in March 2017 in areas of Havana and has since been expanded though costs have been set too high for most Cubans able to access the service. However, in 2019 Google and ETECSA signed an agreement to improve access for Cuba’s internet users by setting up a cost-free and direct connection between their respective networks.

Similarly, LTE services have been launched, with over 473 LTE base stations having been built across the island by the end of 2019. The mobile user base has grown to over six million, 70% of which are smartphone users.

Many consider Cubacel the only mobile provider in Cuba as the other C-com stays invisible. Cubacel started with a TDMA-network on 800 MHz which was decommissioned in 2009.

It's GSM-based network on 900 MHz nationwide for 2G with additional spectrum on 850 MHz in La Habana (= Havana), Varadero, Ciego de Ávila, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Holguín (at the airport and Guardalavaca).

In 2017 Cuba’s state-owned telecoms operator ETECSA has announced that its customers are from now on able to send text messages to any mobile phone in the US and anywhere else. The cost is CUC 0.60 (US$ 0.60), with ETECSA stating that the charge is "similar to other international destinations".

In 2018 about 789 3G stations on 900 and 2100 MHz covered about 68% of the population and in 2019 this has grown to 85% of the population. The company intends to continue focusing on capacity expansion with a view to reducing prices and adding more users, although accessing mobile devices is a problem due to the ongoing US embargo.

In 2018 ETECSA also started to deploy 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (B3). The operator has begun trials of 4G technology in northern Havana and in tourist hubs like Varadero, Cardenas, Mariel and Bauta. This trial 4G service is currently only available to some roaming customers and selected high-usage customers who consume over 1.5 GB of data a month, have compatible handsets and spend ‘significant amounts of time’ in coverage areas. ETECSA is aiming to bring 4G mobile services to all of the country’s 15 provincial capitals by the end of 2019.

In 2019 ETECSA has also unveiled new 4G/LTE mobile packages for prepaid customers, at the same time revealing that 3 million of its wireless lines were accessing mobile data services, following the commercial launch of 3G in December last year. The operator’s LTE network, meanwhile, was activated in the first half of 2019, but was initially restricted to selected high-usage customers. This service was opened up to prepaid users in October in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Mayabeque, Artemisa, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Holguin, Granma, Las Tunas, Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba. 

ETECSA has installed a total of 3,268 mobile base stations across the island, of which 1,357 are 2G, 1,438 3G and 473 are 4G base stations. The LTE total is expected to reach 500 by year-end, located in all provinces except Cienfuegos, which will be upgraded to enable 4G access next year.

Some 4.4 million Cubans used mobile internet services in 2020, while the number of cell phone users rose to 6.6 million, according to officials from the ETECSA.

Thursday 23 December 2021

CYTA in Cyprus is betting on 5G Use Cases for 5G Success

Cyta for CYprus Telecommunication Authority is jointly owned by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and Vodafone and is still the largest operator in the country giving a reasonable coverage at the highest rates around.

Cyta launched the first 5G network in Cyprus in January 2021.The Cytamobile-Vodafone 5G network has a population coverage of 70 per cent and is expected to reach 98 per cent in around 12 months, the company said. All Cytamobile-Vodafone subscribers, individuals and companies have access to the 5G network at no extra charge. All a subscriber needs is to be to have a 5G device certified on the Cyta network and to be in an area with 5G coverage.

At the 5G Techritory Conference 2021, Chrysis Phiniotis, CTIO of CYTA presented a talk on 'CYTA 5G Journey to the Top'. His talk is embedded below:

Back in October, Ookla®, the Speedtest® company, announced that Cyta had the fastest mobile network in Europe.

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Sunday 19 December 2021

Haitians praying for Reliable 4G LTE Mobile Broadband

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Their economic and social indicators remain far lower than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The recent years of political and economic turmoil and natural disasters, including periodic and damaging hurricanes, have stifled most sectors of the economy, including the telecoms sector which remains one of the least developed in the world. In the internet market, poor fixed-line infrastructure has obliged most businesses to rely on satellite and wireless technologies. 

Haiti currently has two mobile networks operaters: Digicel Haiti and Natcom.

Digicel came to Haiti in 2006 and has won the most customers since. The other provider Natcom was created after the privatization of the national operator in 2010 with Vietnamese help. Other networks often saw suspensions too: Concel sold its cellular network branded as Voilá to Digicel in 2012. The CDMA mobile network of Haitel was shut down in 2013.

In 2020 both operators were given a one year period of exclusivity in the provision of LTE services, though both had asked for four years. Their efforts in promoting LTE as well as innovative mobile data services such as mobile banking are going some way to improving internet connectivity in rural areas, and in coming years this will enable communities to make greater use of internet services in those many areas where fixed-line infrastructure remains inadequate.

However the mobile networks are unreliable and only cover some areas with 3G, often dubbed as "4G". 4G/LTE has started with Natcom. Many locals have two SIM cards, because of the situation as starter prices are minimal. WhatsApp is very popular to communicate.

Digicel has become the market leader with almost 3/4 of all mobile users in the country since its launch in 2006. It has a reasonable coverage for voice, but only some areas are covered by 3G for faster data which are marketed as "4G". These areas are shaded in dark red on this coverage map. 3G coverage is verified in Cotes des Arcadins, Anse A Galets, Saint-Marc, Gonaives, Cap-Haitian, Port-de-Paix, Hinche, Mirebalais.

2G/GSM up to EDGE is on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz and 3G labeled "4G" up to HSPA+ on 2100 MHz. 

In October 2021 Digicel Haiti confirmed that 15% of its cell sites are currently unable to function due to ongoing fuel shortages and other issues around security. Digicel Haiti has around 1500 cell sites across the country.  They confirmed that around 10% of these were non-operational due to a lack of fuel, demonstrating the scale of the escalation.

The outage has affected 200,000 mainly rural users of the company's services. Digicel has approximately 4.5 million customers in Haiti.

Natcom was created in 2010 after the privatization of the state-owned national provider Teleco with Vietnamese assistance. It's a joint venture owned 60% by Viettel and the Vietnamese army and 40% by the Haitian state.

The operators 2G is on 900 MHz and its 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE is on 1700 MHz (AWS, band 4). They hold a temporary 4G/LTE concession covering six metropolitan areas of the capital Port-au-Prince: Delmas, Petionville, City Centre, Carrefour, Tabarre and Plaine du Cul-de-sac. In 2018 finally the Haitian regulator CONATEL granted them bandwidth for 4G/LTE on 1700 MHz (band 4).

Natcom has still less coverage than Digicel, but offers in certain areas faster speeds and generally lower rates thanks to many promotions.

Natcom has built a 6,500km fibre backbone, which is helping to support growth in the fixed-line broadband sector, practical challenges mean that for the majority of people and businesses connectivity is achieved through mobile networks. 

Thursday 16 December 2021

NTT Docomo is Open and Virtualized Networks Leader

We have highlighted many firsts of Japanese operator NTT Docomo in many different posts in our blogs. For the regular readers of our blogs, it won't come as a surprise that NTT Docomo announced that they have already 10,000+ base stations based on O-RAN principles and the number is expected to exceed 20,000 by March 2022. 

In fact NTT Docomo is also trying to export their know-how, partners and ecosystem to other interested operators. To highlight how this would work, they had also published a 5G Open RAN Ecosystem (OREC) Whitepaper back in June as can be seen in the Tweet above. 

In not just the RAN virtualization where Docomo leads. Back in 2016, Docomo introduced world's first multi-vendor network virtualization technology to LTE packet service. By March, the core network virtualization adoption rate had increased to 56%. It is expected to reach the 100% target by the end of FY 2024.

At 5G Techritory conference, Takehiro Nakamura, SVP and GM of 6G-IOWN Promotion Department at NTT Docomo Inc., presented the 5G Status in Japan, most with regards to NTT Docomo. His talk contained some interesting nuggets and is embedded below, for as long as the talk is available online.

In addition, please check out all the posts below providing interesting insights from NTT Docomo.

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Sunday 12 December 2021

Sweden is Nordic 5G Laggard

Sweden’s telecom market includes mature mobile and broadband sectors have been greatly stimulated by the progressive investment of the main MNOs in developing new technologies. The country retains one of the best developed LTE infrastructures in the region, while its MNOs have benefited from the January 2021 auction of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band which will enable them to expand services nationally.

Sweden has 4 physical network operators: Telia, Tele2 using brand name Comviq, Telenor (formerly Vodafone Sweden) and 3 (Tre).

However, all the 4 physical networks share 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G with at least one other network:

Telia runs its own 2G and 4G LTE networks. Its 3G network on 2100 MHz is shared with Tele2, while it has an own 3G network on the 900 MHz band.

Tele2 operates all its networks in cooperation with other operators: Tele2's 2G and 4G are shared with Telenor, while its 3G is shared with Telia.

Telenor's 2G and 4G networks are shared with Tele2, 3G is shared with 3 outside Stockholm, Gothenborg, Malmö, Lund and Karlskrona, where they have their own.

3 is the only Swedish network without any 2G. They currently have two different 3G networks, one on the 2100 MHz band, shared with Telenor (except in the cities named above), and one on the 900 MHz band, that they don't share. They have also built their own 4G network.

In 2021 Telia is market leader with the best coverage and 36% of customers, followed by Tele2 with 27% and Telenor with 19% and 3 with 15% in last position.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz like everywhere in Europe, 3G is on 900 and 2100 MHz. Tre does not have a 2G network.

All major 4 Swedish operators support 4G/LTE. Tele2 and Telenor have a joint LTE network called Net4Mobility claiming 99.5% coverage. LTE is on all carriers on 2600 MHz (band 7) in the cities. 800 MHz (band 20), 900 MHz (band 8, only on Net4Mobility) and 1800 MHz (band 3) frequencies are used additionally. Tre offers TDD-LTE on 2600 MHz (band 38) and FDD-LTE on 2100 MHz (band 1) in some locations. From 2019 700 MHz (Band 28) will be added by Telia and Net4Mobility.

5G started to be available in Sweden during 2020 on some postpaid subscriptions on the four big operators and since September 2021 on some high-data Comviq postpaid plans, though not on prepaid and MVNO yet. Physically, 3 different 5G networks are being built: Telia and Tre will build their own networks, while Tele2 and Telenor continuing with their joint network Net4Mobility. Frequencies on 700 MHz (n28), 2300 MHz (n40) and 3500 MHz (n78) were auctioned to 4 providers in 2018 and 2021.

Both 2G and 3G are being phased out and are planned to terminated by 2025. Telia has announced that it will shutdown it's 2G network by 2025, but has started with its phase out. Telia has also said that it's own 3G network will shut down at the latest 2025, but it will dismantle individual sites as time goes. Tele2 has said that it's shared 3G network (that has been built with Telia) is being phased out since 2021 and will be completed at the latest 2025. So for data you need to have a device for 4G/LTE on the frequencies mentioned above, while a basic service will be maintained on 2G and 3G up to 2025 for voice and SMS services.

The OpenSignal June 2021 report on Sweden reveals a varied picture with three of the four national operators winning — or sharing the win — in at least three of the seven mobile experience categories. Telia solely wins Download Speed Experience, Upload Speed Experience and 4G Coverage Experience, while sharing the victory in Games Experience and 4G Availability. 3 leads in Video Experience and jointly wins Games Experience and Voice App Experience. Tele2 is a joint winner in Games Experience, Voice App Experience and 4G Availability.

Telia, owned by the Swedish Telia Company is market leader in Sweden with the best coverage nationwide in 2G, 3G, 4G and (on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz): 4G/LTE is available for all prepaid products with up to 100 Mbit/s speed.

If one is visiting northern Sweden and intending to stay out of cities, then Telia or its subbrand Halebop will probably be the only network that has coverage.

In May 2020, Telia launched Sweden's first large-scale public 5G network in Stockholm. 5G is now being rolled out at a high pace from Skåne to Lappland and is already available in 22 cities. And in doing so, Telia managed to beat the Swedish 5G speed record. Telia collaborating with Ericsson means that 5G will have the same coverage as today's 4G network, in the period leading up to 2025 (covering 90 percent of Sweden’s geography and more than 99 percent of the population). As early as 2023, the 5G network will cover more than 90% of the population. 4G capacity will also double as part of the mobile network modernization. Telia’s 5G network uses higher frequency bands, such as 3.5 GHz, in densely populated areas with a lot of connected people and things using the network. The higher frequency bands are also used to build local, dedicated 5G networks for e.g., industry, ports, and hospitals. The lower frequency bands, such as 700 MHz, are used in rural areas to be able to offer good coverage and connection.

Comviq is a subsidiary of Tele2 in Sweden. That's why it uses the Tele2 and Telenor network on 2G, the Tele2 and Telia networks on 3G and Net4Mobility (= Tele2 and Telenor) on 4G with up to 80 Mbps speed. In September 2021, 5G on Net4Mobility was opened up to some high-data Comviq postpaid plans with up to 100 Mbps speed, but is not open for prepaid yet.

Tele2 doesn't sell own prepaid SIMs anymore, they are geared to contract customers and channel all prepaid products through their Comviq brand. They have a 99+% coverage on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.

Tele2 said it had switched on its commercial 5G network on May 24 2020. The operator said that the company’s customers will be able to enjoy the next generation mobile network in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. 5G services will be offered using 80 megahertz bandwidth on C-Band spectrum.

Telenor has a good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE network up to 450 Mbps is available on Net4Moblity for prepaid too.

Telenor Sweden activated its 5G network in October 2020 in central Stockholm, marking the launch of nationwide roll-out using the new technology. The operator said the 5G network will provide internet access at 1 Gbps to customers with a compatible handset and a Telenor 5G-ready 30 GB, 75 GB or Unlimited subscription. The Telenor network uses 80 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7 GHz band, which is shared with Tele2 via their Net4Mobility joint venture.

The next cities to get 5G will be Gothenburg and Malmö, and then the new network technology will reach cities with over 50,000 inhabitants, and finally, smaller towns. Telenor also said that it expects its 5G network to cover 99% of Sweden’s population by 2023.

3 (called "Tre") in Sweden has good speeds in 3G (on 900 and 2100 MHz) and 4G/LTE on (800, 2100 and 2600 MHz, partly as TD-LTE on band 38): Tre 3G and 4G coverage. Have in mind that Tre doesn't operate a 2G network and has no 2G roaming. You'll need to have a 3G or 4G device for using the Tre network. International roaming is blocked for all prepaid lines, you will be able to use their SIMs in Sweden only.

Tre Sweden (3 Sweden) officially launched its 5G network in June 2020 in Malmö, Helsingborg, Lund, Västerås, Uppsala and large parts of Stockholm. In December 2019, the Operator was the first in Sweden to launch a trial 5G network - then in southern Stockholm.

With nearly 400 active 5G masts, half of them in Stockholm, Tre said that it now has Sweden's most developed 5G network. The 5G network is activated using Tres' existing frequency spectrum.

All private customers with a 3Surf subscription from Tre and a 3G mobile from Tre, can access to the new 5G network at no extra cost. The same applies to corporate customers who have subscribed after January 15, 2019.

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Thursday 9 December 2021

Vodafone Deutschland (Germany) Continues 5G Use Cases Innovation

Since the launch of the first European 5G Standalone Network, Vodafone Germany has continued innovating, to find the killer use case. Here are some of them that they have been working on this year.

First 5G HospitalIn the first 5G clinic in Europe, the network of the future will make innovative applications possible in the future that will significantly improve the medical treatment and care of patients. Whether in surgery, in the emergency room or even when calling the emergency services: "Digitization can save lives", says Vodafone Germany boss Hannes Ametsreiter. In order to expand the digital possibilities in hospitals, the Düsseldorf network pioneer is now equipping the Düsseldorf University Hospital (UKD) with 5G power. "We bring our real-time network directly to the hospital to support patients and doctors with new technologies."

5G TelemedicineState-of-the-art technology, sensors and a direct line to a doctor await you when you visit the doctor in the telemedicine station. The US company Onmed has now launched one of the first treatment rooms for remote treatment on the market. Go in, get treatment, get medication, go out again. A visit to the doctor in the telemedicine station could be so easy. The first Onmed stations are to be set up in the USA and worldwide this year. And now let's take a look. This is what you can expect when you visit the doctor in the telemedicine station

Research on the 5G train: Vodafone builds campus network for test track in the Ore Mountains - Imagine you take the train from Hamburg to Berlin - and that completely without a train driver: in. How this can work is researched and tested by Vodafone in cooperation with the Technical University of Chemnitz. With 5G and the Internet of Things, the two partners want to digitalize rail traffic sustainably in order to make it safer and more efficient.

Sky 5G Multiview App: Anyone watching football matches in the stadium wants to see top sporting performance on the pitch and experience pure emotions. But fans in the stands do not always get every detail of the game and miss some crucial scenes. 5G technology from Vodafone and the Sky 5G Multiview app could soon change that. The Sky 5G Multiview app combines the advantages of a live sports broadcast on home TV with real emotions in the stadium. Because the new app provides fans in the audience with exclusive content and makes it possible to experience the top game directly on the smartphone from five camera perspectives.

Football live with DAZN: GIGA 5G from Vodafone kicks off the real-time broadcast - Vodafone and the sports platform DAZN want to make live sports broadcasting with 5G technology more environmentally friendly, more efficient and more flexible. The two partners are working on a sustainable football live stream that brings the impressions and emotions from the pitch to your home in real time. Live broadcasts at sports events usually work like this: Several cameras are connected to an OB van via cables. From there, the recordings are forwarded to a broadcasting center via satellite and played out from there. All of this requires a lot of technical and human resources. The data exchange via the 5G network from Vodafone can simplify these processes considerably. With the innovative solution from Vodafone and DAZN, the camera is simply connected to a 5G-capable router and the recordings are transmitted directly to the broadcast center. No annoying cables, no OB vans and almost no delay.

Please note: All news item from German has been translated to English automatically using Google translate.

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Sunday 5 December 2021

Maldives is getting a Taste of 5G!

The telecom sector in the Maldives generates a limited revenue due to the relatively small local population, although the considerable influx of tourists increases this. The vibrant tourist sector helps to account for the unusually high mobile penetration rate, though multiple SIM card use is also widely adopted. In, addition a large number of expatriate workers require SIM cards on a semi-temporary basis. Steady growth in recent years has attracted international investment, including the Qatar-based Ooredoo Group.

The two licensed operators, Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun (Dhiraagu) and Ooredoo Maldives, have both invested in HSPA and LTE infrastructure, providing national coverage with both technologies following substantial investment. This development has encouraged the take-up of mobile broadband services among subscribers. In late 2018 Dhiraagu trialled 5G technology, though commercial services have not yet been considered given the existing capabilities of LTE.

Both Dhiraagu and Ooredoo Maldives also provide fixed-line services and have greatly expanded the reach of their respective fibre networks.

The country has given priority to telecom infrastructure upgrades, with considerable success. There is a well-developed national network, and in recent years investment has been extended to outlying islands, following a period when commercial considerations focussed such investment in the capital Malé as well as in tourist resorts.

The submarine cable connection to Sri Lanka improved international bandwidth and helped reduce access pricing for end-users. A second submarine cable linked the archipelago to India in 2006. Additional cables linking the main atolls has substantially strengthened domestic connectivity

The two network operators: 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz up to (DC-)HSPA+ speed, 4G/LTE has started in 2013 on both providers on 1800 MHz (3) and added by 2100 (1) and 2600 (7) MHz. 5G started on Dhiraagu in Male in 2019 and is available without surcharge. Both networks have shops next door to each other at Male international airport.

Dhiraagu is the leading and the largest provider of telecommunications and digital services in the Maldives. It's mostly owned by the Batelco Group from Bahrain and the Government of the Maldives. They have linked the Maldives from north to south through a 1,253 km long fibre optic submarine cable network which supports the nation's largest 3G and 4G/LTE and fixed broadband networks.

4G/LTE started in Male on 1800 MHz (band 3) frequency band and has been expanded in 2015 to a few more islands and the 2600 MHz (band 7). In 2016 they completed a campaign to provide 3G services to 100% of Maldivians on all inhabited islands, and its focus is now on offering nationwide coverage of its 4G/LTE network, which is currently available to 60% of the population. Dhiraagu is aiming to complete the 4G/LTEexpansion project by the end of 2017

Dhiraagu made a huge fuss when it launched a commercial 5G service in 2019, but this service was basically only available to tourists with the correct phones. 

Ooredoo was taken over and rebranded 2012 from Wataniya. It's the second mobile provider in the Maldives. LTE has started 2014 on 2600 MHz (band 7) in Male, now available to prepaid customers to be added by 2100 MHz (band 1).

Their coverage is good but not as good as Dhiraagu's. In 2017 LTE coverage has spread to 40 inhabited and resort islands, covering 75% of the population.

Ooredoo has launched commercial 5G services in the Maldives, with the initial rollout covering a large percentage of the capital city of Malé, including key business hubs, hospitals and public spaces. Ooredoo Maldives has also announced the simultaneous launch of 5G AirFibre, the Maldives’ first 5G-powered home broadband service.

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Wednesday 1 December 2021

5G lights up Thailand’s digital future

At the GSMA Mobile 360 APAC – 5G Industry Community Summit, October 2021, Dr. Supakorn Siddhichai, Executive VP, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) presented a Keynote looking at Thailand’s digital economy development plan, 5G City whitepaper, network and industry standards. His talk is embedded below:

Last week operators True and Dtac announced an $8.6 billion plan to merge. If approved by regulators, the new company would become the largest Thai telco by market share, accounting for about 54 percent of all mobile users. It would also effectively slim Thailand’s three-horse telco race down to a duopoly.

Thailand’s telecom market, with an estimated 91 million mobile customers, has for several years been a three-horse race. The industry leader is AIS, which has 46 percent of the mobile market and posts consistently strong earnings. In 2020 AIS reported 85.6 billion baht in net cash flow from operations and paid investors 20.2 billion baht in dividends. Its two main competitors are True and Dtac, which have about 33.7 percent and 20.8 percent of the mobile market respectively.

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