Monday, 3 October 2022

Pakistan is Hoping for 5G in 2023


Pakistan continues to lag most other Asian countries in terms of the maturity of its telecom sector. This is partly due to the poor state of its fixed-line network following years of under-investment and neglect by the state-owned incumbent telco Pakistan Telecommunication Company (PTC), with teledensity now down to almost 1%.

This lack of focus has left the door open to mobile to become the dominant platform for both voice and data. While penetration rates are low by Asian (and rest-of-world) standards, the mobile voice and mobile broadband markets have been growing at double-digit rates of late – at least in subscriber numbers. In contrast to the fixed network market, Pakistan’s mobile segment is highly competitive. The result has been continued downwards pressure to pricing and ARPU, such that mobile revenues have been unable to keep pace with the rate of market expansion as 4G LTE networks, in particular, stretch ever deeper into the more remote parts of the country.

Future growth (in market size as well as revenue) is likely to come from the wider availability of value-added services on top of the expansion of 4G LTE and (from 2023) 5G mobile networks. The Universal Service Fund (USF) continues to direct investment towards the development of mobile broadband (and, to a lesser extent, fibre-based networks) in under-served and even un-served areas of the country, with multiple projects being approved to start in 2021 and 2022.

As Pakistan strives to overcome the immediate hurdles and pave the way for 5G, Opensignal has examined the mobile network experience of users on the four nationwide mobile operators — Jazz, Telenor, Ufone, and Zong — over a period of 90 days beginning on April 1, 2022, and ending on June 29, 2022, to see how they stack up.

Pakistan's telecom industry is also facing major challenges due to ongoing power outages and economic turmoil in the country. To ensure that they can provide uninterrupted services to subscribers and cope with these challenges, telecom operators have urged the regulator — Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) — to take urgent measures. While PTA is yet to come up with an immediate solution, some operators like Jazz and Telenor are reviewing their operations and preparing to deal with the impact. In contrast, despite these challenges, Zong has continued to upgrade it's 4G network with FDD Massive MIMO solution to improve its 4G network’s capacity and spectrum efficiency. The operator has reportedly upgraded more than 170 sites since September last year.

Possibly that is why Zong wins the bulk of Opensignal's awards, winning four out of 10 categories outright (Download Speed Experience, Games Experience, Availability and 4G Coverage Experience) and jointly winning in a further four, including three awards alongside Jazz (Voice App Experience, Upload Speed Experience and 4G Availability ) and the Video Experience award alongside Ufone. On the other hand, Ufone picked up both Consistency awards — Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality.


Jazz Pakistan is the market leader with nearly 43 million mobile broadband subscriptions as of April 2022, having a market share of 38 percent.

Jazz has signed an agreement with fibre-based broadband provider Nayatel to connect all of its mobile sites in Lahore to fibre. The programme is expected to be completed by December 2022. In a press release from the provider, Jazz noted that the upgrade would improve capacity, reduce latency and enhance network availability. Further, the development paves the way for future technologies, such as 5G, which require low latency and high backhaul throughput. Jazz is aiming to increase the proportion of its sites that are connected to fibre to 70% over the next five years.

Jazz, jointly with JazzCash and Mobilink Microfinance Bank, has pledged Rs1 billion for flood relief efforts, the company said in a statement. The amount includes provision of emergency supplies and extension of telecom services. For immediate rollout, Jazz will work with NGOs and the government for distribution of emergency supplies including shelter, food items, and medical supplies, the company claimed.

According to Aamir Ibrahim, CEO of Jazz, there are around 1% to 2% users on their network that have 5G handsets. Even if the spectrum is provided for free, still the business case for 5G in the country is quite weak. Jazz launched 4G around eight years ago, and still, 50% of the handsets being sold today are 2G. Therefore, Jazz believe they need to focus on 4G for all before thinking about 5G for a few. 


Telenor Pakistan is third in terms of market share (22%) with nearly 25 million subscriptions.

Recently they have declared a massive operating loss in the half-year ended June 30, 2022.

Telenor Pakistan, along with its parent company, Telenor Group, have pledged PKR 1.1 billion in cash and in-kind services to support nationwide flood relief efforts. Telenor Pakistan made a cash donation of PKR 100 million to UNICEF Pakistan to support them in relief efforts by providing life-saving nutrition and hygiene packs in affected areas on an immediate basis.

Irfan Wahab Khan, Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Pakistan and chairman, Telenor Microfinance Bank, said:
“In this moment of national tragedy and calamity, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the floods. With the support of Telenor colleagues from around the world, we are committed to supporting impacted families and communities through these testing times and will do all we can. The road of rehabilitation for the affected is long and treacherous, and we will continue to support to the best of our abilities.”


Zong Pakistan is the second largest operator with 31.3 million subscriptions and a market share of 28 percent. 

Zong has commercially launched a dual-band (1800MHz and 2100MHz) FDD Massive MIMO upgrade on its 4G network in partnership with ZTE. In a statement from the Chinese vendor, ZTE notes that the solution has improved Zong’s 4G data traffic capacity by 21% and improved averaged user throughput by 40%. Zong and ZTE launched the first Massive MIMO site in Peshawar in September last year and by May 2022 the upgrade had been deployed on more than 170 sites. Zong and ZTE are planning to continue expanding the large-scale commercialisation of the FDD Massive MIMO solution to further improve 4G network capacity and spectrum efficiency.

Jazz has been quite vocal about the fact that 5G is not an option for at least the next two years and if it stands by this theory, the company won’t be bidding for the 5G spectrum anytime soon. However, Zong might be an exception to this as it has more strategic interest in Pakistan than commercial ones. Further with a cash-rich parent company in the form of China Mobile and synergies brought in by other Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE, Zong might just take a leap of faith in the 5G spectrum. 

In the wake of the recent unprecedented floods which has affected millions of people across the country, Zong 4G has announced free of cost services for all impacted areas.


Ufone is the smallest operator with 12.4 million subscriptions and 11 percent market share.

Ufone 4G acquired 1800 Mhz spectrum in 2021 and it continues to expand its 4G services in Pakistan to provide an unrivaled telecom experience to its customers. The transformation went on to raise the bar in terms of service delivery and redefined quality connectivity through its world-class voice and data services. The measures helped Ufone 4G to pull off the fastest customer acquisition in the industry during 2022. Owing to the continued modernisation and up-gradation of its network, Ufone 4G went on to register as “Pakistan’s No 01 Voice and Data Network” on Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA)’s Mobile Networks Benchmark Report 2022.

Ufone 4G has launched an accurate weather update service ‘WeatherWalay’ to facilitate customers, especially with regard to the monsoon season and extensive flooding that has affected every province across the country.

The service has been introduced as an Interactive Voice Response (IVR), where customers can call 3392 and obtain precise details of the weather and any changes in it over periods of 24 hours, 72 hours and even a week within the city or other areas in Pakistan. Curated by a team of expert meteorologists led by Dr. Muhammad Hanif, WeatherWalay is being offered free of cost until the 30th of September to assist customers and ensure safer commutes.

Industry watchdog the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has announced that 96% of damaged network sites in flood-affected areas have been restored. At its peak 3,386 sites were damaged by the recent floods, but repairs carried out by the telcos, civil and military authorities and the PTA have restored 3,251 of those sites, the regulator confirmed. Only 135 sites remain offline, with those mostly located in inaccessible areas of Balochistan and Sindh but the PTA notes that other sites are active in those areas, preventing a communication blackout. The PTA added that it had recorded 120 breaks in national fibre-optic backhaul infrastructure, but all of these have now been repaired.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Iraqi Operators Trying to bring 4G/LTE to the Masses

 

Iraq continues to face a number of political and economic challenges, though increasing civil stability has made it easier for mobile and fixed-line operators to rebuild telecom services and infrastructure damaged during the last few years. The government was minded to extend the licenses held by the MNOs for an additional three years to compensate for the chaos and destruction caused between 2014 and 2017 when Islamic State held sway in many areas of the country. However, this plan was scuppered by opposition among some politicians, who asserted that the market needed more competition rather than extensions of existing licenses.

The three major MNOs are Zain Iraq, Asiacell, and Korek Telecom, which together control over 90% of the mobile market. The operators have struggled to develop LTE services, partly because of issues related to damaged infrastructure but also partly due to wrangles with the government and regulator concerning the conditions of their licences. With the availability of LTE services being very low, there is little change for 5G to be available in the short term. In the meantime, most services are still based on GSM and 3G, except in the Kurdish region where LTE is more widely available.

In the most recent Open Signal report on mobile network experience of Iraqi users, Asiacell wins the lion’s share of awards, winning both speed awards (Download Speed Experience, Upload Speed Experience), all three of the experiential awards — but sharing Games Experience with Zain — and all of the Coverage awards (Availability, 4G Availability and 4G Coverage Experience. On the other hand, Zain picked up both Consistency awards — Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality. Zain also places second in almost all of the award categories that Asiacell wins outright, with the only exception being Availability where it had to settle for third place behind Korek. Korek does not claim any awards this time — either solely or jointly — but placed second in Availability and both Consistency categories.

Asiacell describe themselves as leading the change with their nationwide fast, reliable, and secure 4G+ data speed coupled with award-winning coverage serving more than 16 million customers at 21000 points of sales and outlets throughout the country thanks to their extended advanced network of 7200 LTE sites. 

Asiacell in August 2021 signed a five-year deal with Nokia to upgrade its microwave network to address growing capacity demands and provide reliable, low-latency connectivity. Under the agreement, the Finnish vendor will replace or modernise legacy equipment, deploying around 3,000 network links across the country. Nokia will supply products from its ‘Wavence’ microwave packet radio portfolio, which it claims will improve cost efficiency and performance, adding that its ultra-broadband transceivers will enable Asiacell to provide ‘fibre-like’ connectivity in areas where fibre cannot be deployed.

Commenting on the deal, Asiacel CEO Amer Sunna was quoted as saying: ‘We are pleased to extend our partnership with Nokia by trusting them with yet another project. Improving network performance and enhancing the end-user experience has always been our top priority and having Nokia as a strategic partner is helping us achieve this. By leveraging Nokia’s global scale, we look forward to building a future-proof network that will help us meet the growing mobile traffic demand in Iraq.’

Korek Telecom proclaims themselves the fastest growing mobile operator in Iraq, offering the largest and most reliable mobile network. Their network covers the entire country and its cutting edge technology ensures they match the best network quality with best in class services. Serving the 18 provinces of Iraq, Korek offers a comprehensive range of wireless communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users.

Zain Iraq works to provide the best and most modern telecommunications services to the Iraqi customers and to provide exclusive and innovative offers to its subscribers, specifically after launch 4.5G+ services as the first telecom company in all parts of Iraq through a cooperation with its global technology partners certified for the latest technologies and communication solutions

Zain Iraq’s vision for the year 2022 is centered on creating partnerships with the youth, providing them with products and services that can help them communicate with the world.

Zain Iraq’s 2021 revenue reached USD 769 million, and EBITDA amounted to USD 312 million, reflecting an EBITDA margin of 41%. Net profit reached USD 42 million for the period. The operator’s customer base increased by 2% to reach 16.4 million customers. It should be noted that the Iraqi dinar devaluation also impacted Zain Iraq’s revenue by USD 172 million for the year.

Zain has launched a virtual 5G-ready network in Iraq, under the name Oodi, with US-based digital commerce company Matrixx Software. Zain, based in Kuwait, says that Oodi uses out-of-the-box software capabilities to provide Iraqi customers with complete flexibility, transparency and ease-of-use.

Ali Al-Zahid, CEO of Zain Iraq, said: “Our number one priority is to provide our customers with the best and most advanced services.” According to Google Translate, “oodi” means “friendly”.

Al-Zahid added: “Delivering upon those promises requires forging partnerships with forward-thinking companies that can make the future of mobile services and customer experience a reality.”

Zain said customers can create their own plan, and can see account balances, services and spending using the software.

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Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Tanzanians are Embracing LTE and Internet Services


Tanzania’s telecom sector enjoys effective competition, particularly in the mobile segment. There remains considerable movement within the market, with Smart having stopped services in late 2019 and Tigo Tanzania having completed its merger with Zantel. Millicom in April 2022 completed the sale of its Tigo Tanzania unit to Axian Group, as it sought to focus on its operations in Latin America.

The government has encouraged foreign participation to promote economic growth and social development, and policy reforms have led to the country having one of the most liberal telecom sectors in Africa. The government has also sought to increase broadband penetration by a range of measures, including the reduction in VAT charged on the sale of smartphones and other devices, and reductions in the cost of data. Public opposition to a controversial tax on m-money transactions forced the government in late 2021 to reduce charges by 30%.

The MNOs became the leading ISPs following the launch of mobile broadband services based on 3G and LTE technologies. Operators are hoping for revenue growth in the mobile data services market, given that the voice market is almost entirely prepaid, and voice ARPU continues to fall. To this end, the MNOs have invested in network upgrades, which in turn has supported mobile data use, as well as m-money transfer services and m-banking services. Together, these have become a fast-developing source of revenue.

Currently, 5 networks (plus further 3 on LTE) are operating in Tanzania: Vodacom, Tigo, Airtel, Halotel (by Viettel), Zantel (mainly in Zanzibar; merging with Tigo).

In summer 2015 Zantel was aquired from Etisalat by the parent company of Tigo. So it can be expected that their networks may be merged. A 5th license was given out to Vietnam-backed Viettel which started in October 2015 under the brand name of Halotel.

Coverage is generally less than in neighbouring Kenya or Uganda. 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G in some larger villages and towns on 2100 MHz on all providers plus 900 MHz on Airtel. While operators have so far been able to deploy mobile networks to up to 97% of the population, only around 1/3 of them of are able to access 3G networks in the country, so that only 5% are using 3G/4G connections in 2016. In 2017 the regulator TCRA fined all 5 operators for their poor quality of services.

4G/LTE has been started so far only with Tigo in Dar es Salaam on 800 MHz, with Vodacom on 1800 MHz and Zantel in Zanzibar (only Stone Town) on 1800 MHz. Airtel and Halotel are launching 4G/LTE soon.

In 2018 new spectrum on 700 MHz (Band 28) was auctioned and won by Vodacom and still unknown Azam Telecom owned by a Tanzanian businessman for 4G roll-out. From 2012 new operators have started to roll out 4G/LTE only: Smile and TTCL. These operators mostly center on the capital only and don't have any 2G or 3G coverage.

As of June 2022 Tanzania had 56.22 million mobile subscriptions. 

 

Vodacom, jointly owned by Vodafone and South African Telekom, is the market leader in Tanzania with almost 16 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2021 and a 29.4% market share. 

It has the widest coverage in the country for the highest rates. In 2016 4G/LTE was started in Dar es Salaam on 1800 MHz (Band 3), now spread to a few more places. In 2018 it won spectrum on 700 MHz (B28) for 4G with the obligation to cover 60% by 2021 and 90% by 2024.

Vodacom has launched its 5G mobile network service, offering initial speeds of up to 400Mbps and low latency with a wide variety of potential use cases. The company plans to deploy 5G at 230 sites in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha, Dodoma, Mwanza, Iringa, Kagera, Njombe and Mbeya, amongst others. The 5G network is available to fixed enterprise and home internet customers through 5G routers, while mobile phone users will require a 5G-capable handset or device. In the coming months, maximum speeds of up to 800Mbps will be unlocked, with this set to reach 1Gbps ‘once the 5G spectrum is made fully available’. Vodacom’s new network is powered by Finnish equipment vendor Nokia which supplied its 5G AirScale portfolio, Subscriber Data Management software and 5G Gateways.

Vodacom has also announced plans for a US$10 million infrastructure investment to help enhance connectivity in rural Tanzania. The operator said it had signed a contract with the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) worth US$4.59 million. That will allow Vodacom to use the government-owned fiber-optic cable infrastructure to better serve customers in rural areas.

This investment comes after an initial investment of US$6.2 million in October 2021 and is set to further spread high-speed Internet facilities upcountry to reach more underserved areas of the East African nation.

  

Tigo was the first to start 4G/LTE on 800 MHz (B 20) in Dar es Salaam and is available for prepaid (coverage map) in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Dodoma, Tanga, Arusha with plans to extend connectivity to Mwanza, Zanzibar (Stone Town) and Kilimanjaro (Moshi). 

With a total of 13 million subscribers as of December 2020, Tigo held a 25 percent subscription share in a market. 

Axian Telecom and local businessman Rostam Azizi closed the acquisition of Millicom International Cellular’s operations in Tanzania (Tigo) and Zanzibar (Zantel). The consortium says its growth plan includes significant investment in Tanzania over the next five years to strengthen the network coverage and quality of service of the merged entity. 

  
Zantel used to be the local provider on the island of Zanzibar. That's why it has a good coverage there, but had almost no coverage on the mainland. The merger of Zantel with Tigo earned the latter another one million subscribers.


According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Airtel is the country’s second largest mobile operator with 14.70 million subscriptions at the end of 2021, representing a market share of 27.2%.

Airtel Tanzania has so far upgraded over 80% of its mobile sites to LTE-A technology, after launching the new high speed ‘Supa 4G’ network in February last year, reports IPP Media. The network, which utilises spectrum in the 700MHz and 2100MHz bands, support speeds of more than 40Mbps and is being rolled out nationwide. ‘We have also significantly increased our coverage by increasing the number of sites in rural areas as our commitment to provide affordable mobile services to all Tanzanians,’ commented the firm’s Managing Director Dinesh Balsingh. 

By improving the quality of its 4G services, Airtel Tanzania aims to build customer loyalty and attract new clients, therefore increasing its market share and outrunning Vodacom, the current leader of the Tanzanian market. 

  

Viettel Tanzania, which operates under the brand name Halotel, is aiming to reach the milestone of ten million mobile subscriptions by the end of 2023. In order to attract the additional three million new subscriptions over the next two years, the Vietnamese-owned cellco’s Director of Business Abdallah Salum said it will invest in upgrading network infrastructure, improving service quality and expanding network coverage, particularly increasing the availability of 4G services in more rural areas. At present, the firm’s combined mobile network coverage reaches 95% of the population. In addition, Halotel says it aims to increase the number of its ‘Halopesa’ mobile money subscriptions to five million by the end of 2023.

According to Ookla Halotel offered by far the fastest median download speed in Q1 of 2022 at 17.84 Megabytes per second (Mbps) followed by Vodacom (12.09 Mbps), Airtel (10.6 Mbps), TTCL (10.4 Mbps).

Tigo Tanzania and its sister company Zantel were revealed to have a median download speed of 5.99 Mbps and 4.31 Mbps respectively.

Halotel’s business director Abdallah Salum has attributed the telco’s internet speed to the investment and thought-out strategies. “We have for the past three years directed focus and strategies into expanding internet services coverage in Tanzania,” he said. Mr Salum said with nearly 30 percent of the customers using 4G the company plans to increase the numbers to at least 60 percent by the end of the year.

TTCL for Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd. is the state-owned monopoly landline provider in the country. TTCL launched its 4G/LTE mobile data network in 2015 with a five-year rollout plan to cover all regions and main roads in the country called T-Connect. It started in Dar es Salaam on 1800 MHz FD-LTE (band 3) and 2300 MHz TD-LTE (band 40)

In 2016 they announced to deploy 4G/LTE services countrywide by 2018, as the operator intends to accelerate coverage. A number of regions that will benefit from the initiative in phase one: Arusha, Iringa, Mbeya, Dodoma, Morogoro, Mtwara, Mwanza, Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Unguja.

Smile by Smile Communication Tanzania Ltd (Smile TZ) began commercial operations in 2013. The company is a subsidiary a South African telecommunications conglomerate, who has networks in Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda too. Smile Tanzania was the first operator to launch commercial 4G/ LTE services in Tanzania using the 800 MHz frequency (band 20).

Smile recently expanded its 4G LTE mobile broadband services to Zanzibar last month, with customers on the island now able to access maximum speeds of 50Mbps. ‘Following Smile Tanzania’s recent investment in network expansion, we are excited to bring the best 4G LTE broadband internet services to customers in Zanzibar,’ said Smile’s Country Manager Zuweina Farah, adding: ‘The investments have laid a foundation for a more digitally enabled economy, in line with the government’s digital transformation strategy.’ By the end of 2021 Smile’s network reached seven regions of Tanzania but the start of 2022 has seen services enhanced and expanded in locations including Zanzibar, Pwani, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Dodoma, Mwanza, Mbeya, Kilimanjaro and Arusha, with more cities and regions scheduled to be switched on in the coming months.

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Thursday, 8 September 2022

Sri Lanka Mobile Operators struggling in face of Rising Operational Costs and Inflation

Sri Lanka’s fixed-line telephony market was one of the very few in the world to experience a significant upsurge in subscriptions in 2020. While the country suffers from a relatively poor fixed-line infrastructure and a correspondingly strong mobile sector, demand for traditional phone services increased 14% in 2020.

Preliminary results suggest a further jump of up to 13% can also be expected in 2021. This will take Sri Lanka’s fixed-line penetration to levels not seen since 2013.

The most likely reason behind the market’s reversal of fortunes is the Covid-19 crisis and Sri Lanka’s ensuring lockdowns. These forced much of the population back inside and reverting to ‘traditional’ methods of communication for both voice and data services. The fixed broadband market was equally robust, growing 20% in 2020 alone. Sri Lanka possesses a relatively low number of computers per household, however, so the fixed broadband market’s success comes off a small base.

The one area of the telecommunications market that experienced a fall was the mobile segment. Up until the start of the pandemic, Sri Lanka had a very high mobile penetration rate of 155%. This near-saturation level reflected the preponderance for subscribers to carry multiple SIM cards to take advantage of cheaper on-net call rates. The reduction in demand and traffic because of the pandemic led to a sharp drop in the number of active subscriptions, down to just 135% – a 17% decline in just one year.

The market was expected to bounce back again quickly, just as soon as the country eases back on its lockdown measures and reduces travel restrictions. It will also be boosted, in 2022, by the anticipated launch of commercial 5G mobile services.

Recently, The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) has approved a 20% hike in mobile, fixed voice, fixed broadband plans and VAS services, covering both pre- and post-paid customers, even though the move will up the pressure on millions of struggling Sri Lankans amid the country’s ongoing financial crisis.

This is not the first time the authorities have increased charges. In June this year, the government implemented a wave of tax reforms including a rise in VAT from 8% to 12% and an increase in the Telecommunication Levy from 11.25% to 15%.

Sri Lanka has 4 network operators:
  • Dialog (owned by Axiata)
  • SLT-Mobitel (owned by Sri Lanka Telecom)
  • Hutch (owned by Hutchison Whampoa) merged with Etisalat
  • Airtel (owned by Bharti Airtel)
2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz up to EDGE, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz up to DC-HSPA+ and 4G/LTE started on Dialog, SLT-MOBITEL and Hutch on 1800 MHz (B3). Now 900 (B8) and 2100 MHz (B1) is also refarmed for 4G/LTE.




Dialog Axiata, formerly known as Dialog Telecom, is the biggest mobile provider in Sri Lanka. It has the best coverage in the country at the highest rates. 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (B3) is given out on prepaid where available without surcharge.

It's the biggest provider with almost half of the subscribers in the country. In 2020 it has covered 92% of the population with 4G/LTE and started 5G on n78 in the capital.

In March 2022 Dialog Axiata trialed a 5G Standalone (SA) network, claiming a first in the South Asian region. Having demonstrated the capabilities of the technology back in 2018, the operator has now moved to the trial phase and claimed that the deployment of 5G SA will ‘open up innumerable next-generation opportunities for enterprises and bring forth the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) that will catalyse ground-breaking innovations’.


SLT-Mobitel (formerly Sri Lanka Telecom) has a history of over 160 years, having started its operations in 1858 with the establishment of the first Telegraphic Circuit between Galle and Colombo. In the same year it established its first international Telegraph Communication between then called Ceylon, and India. 

SLT-Mobitel has expanded the footprint of its pre-commercial 5G network to the cities of Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Galle and Jaffna, offering end-users access to both mobile broadband and fixed wireless access (FWA) services.

In 2021 Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) Group Chief Executive Officer Lalith Seneviratne confirmed that the operator was preparing to launch a ‘pre-commercial’ 5G service in mid-2021 – under the SLT-Mobitel brand – ahead of the planned allocation of mobile spectrum to support a full-blown commercial launch – which is still pending. Confirming that it is using spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, allocated by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), for the pre-commercial launch phase, Seneviratne confirmed at the time: ‘By the middle of this year, we will have pre-commercial application of 5G perhaps with few industrial vertical applications as well’. However, the official went on to stress that as the TRCSL has not yet published any details of the allocation process, the timetable is fluid. ‘The exact time of our 5G rollout will depend on the time when the telecom sector regulator issues the licence allocating spectrum. Once the licence is issued, we will invest. We will need around one year to develop the commercial application,’ he explained. SLT-Mobitel has earmarked USD100 million for its 5G rollout in the coming years, on top of a further USD15 million to acquire the spectrum.

Hutch by Hutchison Whampoa is the 4th provider in the country giving the lowest rates for data on a reasonable coverage in the populated areas mainly. In 2018 4G/LTE was launched in the Western Province to be spread nationwide.

Hutchison has bought Etisalat in 2018 and has merged the two networks. The new entity has a combined mobile subscriber market share of around 26% making it the third largest provider in Sri Lanka slightly behind SLT-Mobitel.

Hutch has held its first 5G trial event in March 2021 at HUTCH One Galle Face Premier Experience Center, achieving a data transmission speed of 1.8Gbps, which it claims is the ‘fastest’ in Sri Lanka to date, while also achieving an extremely low latency rate. Hutch, which secured a license from the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) in February 2020 for 5G trials, is working with Chinese equipment manufacturer ZTE on the next generation platform. The ‘ground-breaking’ trial reportedly included ‘several demonstrations and use cases of 5G’, such as gaming, remote meeting, and high definition video playback.

Airtel a.k.a. Airtel Lanka, by Indian Bharti Airtel is the smallest provider in Sri Lanka and started in 2009. It has a rather limited coverage in populated areas.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) approved Bharti Airtel Lanka’s request to shut down its 3G mobile network from 26 June 2022. In a brief statement, the industry regulator said that any Airtel customers still using a 3G-enabled device would be automatically disconnected after that date. The mobile network operator (MNO) is reportedly shuttering the network to free up precious spectrum bandwidth to further develop its 4G LTE infrastructure on the island. TRCSL has given the MNO 15 months to implement the transition smoothly, noting that Airtel must ‘absorb at least 90% of its 3G subscriber base into their 4G network during the transition phase’ subject to it. They have been conducting public awareness campaigns to encourage Airtel subscribers to migrate to the 4G network ahead of 3G shutdown and taking every endeavor to provide 4G handsets for its 3G subscribers at subsidised rates payable by instalment.

Bharti Airtel Lanka has also held its latest trials of 5G technology over its commercial network, achieving download speeds of over 1.9Gbps – the highest recorded in the country to date. The MNO’s managing director and CEO Ashish Chandra noted that the operator is ramping up its 5G capabilities in Sri Lanka and added that its 4G infrastructure around the island is fully 5G ready, allowing for ‘a seamless transition to the next generation of networking’. Airtel Lanka is using trial frequency allocations in the 3500MHz band utilising 5G Non Standalone (NSA) network technology.

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Friday, 2 September 2022

Hong Kong Providing Great 5G Experience


Due to the combination of having a highly liberalised regulatory environment, very high-density housing spread across a small geographical area, and its strategic location at the southern tip of China, Hong Kong’s telecommunications sector continues to stay near the top of world rankings for the industry. It has kept its #1 spot in the Asian region in terms of the maturity of its telecom market – a reflection of the high penetration rates across mobile, mobile broadband, and fixed broadband. Even fixed-line teledensity in Hong Kong is impressive at over 50%, although it too has started a gradual decline in keeping with most other telecom markets around the world, as consumers slowly transition over to the mobile platform for all of their communication needs.

However, as China tightens its grip on the sovereignty of the territory and imposes political, commercial, and social restrictions that were absent during the British Colonial era, Hong Kong is starting to see its potency as a regional if not global force being eaten away by countries such as Singapore that now offer much greater freedom to operate.

Concerns over national security prompted the US Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense to prevent the branch line of the newly completed Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) linking Los Angeles with Taiwan from being lit. And ongoing issues with the deployment of Huawei technology inside the core infrastructure of telecom networks (something that has been done extensively in Hong Kong, including in its 5G networks) means that the territory – along with its telecom sector – may become increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. Consequently, Hong Kong is likely to drop back from its position as a regional and global leader in the telecom market.

Mobile networks in Hong Kong are independent from those in mainland China. Unlike there, in Hong Kong only GSM-operators are on the air if you buy a prepaid card there. Although HKT runs a CDMA network, there are few coverage spots and open for roaming only. The number has gone down to 4 in 2014 when CSL merged under the roof of Hong Kong Telecom: csl. (formerly CSL and PCCW Mobile, by Hong Kong Telecom), China Mobile Hong Kong (CMHK), Three (3, by Hutchison Whampoa) and SmarTone.


Main bands are marked in bold numbers. As many operators are refarming the 2G frequencies to 4G or 3G, only few resources remain for 2G. The major 3G frequency for all operators is on 2100 MHz and have very good coverage in the city. For 4G/LTE: the additional 2100 MHz band has been added firstly in MTR (metro) tunnels from 2016.

For the first time, Opensignal reported on both the 5G Experience and the overall mobile experience of all Hong Kong users its most recent report. Also two new award categories have been added that quantify the consistency of the mobile network experience.



Hong Kong Telecom merged the two smaller networks PCCW-HKT and one2free to the new provider called csl. after Telstra from Australia sold their shares in 2014. It has become the new market leader in Hong Kong on its combined network.

As the first mobile operator to launch a true 5G network with differentiated value-added services, csl identified a need to educate the market on how this new technology could change the way citizens perceived the world around them, and to show consumers how the technical attributes of 5G – such as low latency, high bandwidth and massive connectivity – were relevant to their everyday lifestyles.

A thematic TV commercial was created to demonstrate how 5G would change the way everyone perceives the world, and show it was about so much more than just speed. At the heart of the campaign was the notion 5G would improve people’s lives, and how it could transcend the limitations of space and time, while tearing down traditional human barriers such as age, physique and stamina.


China Mobile from mainland China is the biggest network provider of the world as far as the number of customers is concerned. It operates a network in Hong Kong too. Unlike in mainland China its 3G and 4G is fully compatible with GSM-devices from all over the world and data are not censored on Hong Kong SIM cards. Their 2G SIM cards have been discontinued, but may be still available and work as usual in the market.


China Mobile Hong Kong (CMHK) has reached one million 5G mobile subscriptions, accounting for around one-fifth of its overall customer base. The firm launched Hong Kong’s first commercial 5G service in April 2020. Last month it won additional 5G-capable spectrum in the 700MHz, 2.6GHz and 4.9GHz bands, having previously been awarded frequencies in the 3.3GHz, 3.5GHz, 4.9GHz and 26GHz ranges in 2019.


Although SmarTone is the smallest operator in the city by market share, it constantly gets good reviews for its 3G and 4G service.


SmarTone has announced that it will close its GSM network on 14 October 2022, saying the move was ‘in response to the massive growth of mobile data usage in recent years and the decreasing market demand for 2G services’. According to the operator, as of April 2022 the number of customers using 2G handsets or devices accounted for less than 0.1% of its total mobile subscriptions. Confirming its plans, meanwhile, the operator noted that the 900MHz and 1800MHz spectrum resources currently deployed for its 2G infrastructure will be reallocated for use in its 4G and 5G networks.

To facilitate a smooth migration from 2G to more advanced mobile networks, SmarTone said it has been working with customers to upgrade 2G handsets or devices to those that support a higher generation mobile network since early 2021.


Three offers 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE mobile telecommunications and Wi-Fi services in Hong Kong. The MTR (metro, subway) is fully covered by LTE now. 

3 Hong Kong has extended its 5G coverage at all station concourses, platforms and tunnels throughout the East Rail Line cross-harbour MTR link. Since 2019, 3 Hong Kong has invested more than HK$3 billion in mobile network expansion and 5G network development.


With its effort and planning, the network team has been optimising its network covering newly-built transport infrastructure and public places. In addition to attaining 99% territory-wide 5G coverage at the end of 2020, 3 Hong Kong said it had become the first operator to build over 1000 golden spectrum band base stations in 2021, offering abundant network capacity. In the same year, 3 Hong Kong was ranked first in 5G availability in Hong Kong by an international organisation, indicating that customers are provided with the most reliable 5G experience.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Qatar Continues its Regional 5G Leadership


Qatar is considered one of the regional leaders in terms of its telecoms maturity; having one of the highest fixed and mobile penetrations in the Middle East region. Qatar has also become one of the more progressive countries globally in terms of its progress towards 5G.

Due to its mature telecom sector Qatar has been able to absorb the additional data demands made on it during the pandemic. Mobile services based on LTE are universally available, and this has helped the two operators Ooredoo Qatar and Vodafone Qatar to migrate to 5G. In combination with a strong fibre rollout, the country is aiming to provide gigabit services nationally.

A desire to rapidly transition their customer bases to 5G has boosted 5G Availability in the market, and has helped Qatar climb to second place in Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index™ as of July 2022.

5G services are largely based on 3.5GHz spectrum made available following an auction in early 2019.

In Opensignal's latest Qatar Mobile Network Experience report  both the 5G experience and the overall experience together are analyzed for the first time in one report. Also, two new awards were added that quantify the consistency of the experience on both Qatar's national operators.

Ooredoo leads across most mobile experience categories in Qatar based on Opensignal’s awards table as it wins eight awards outright — four awards in the Overall Experience section, 5G Download Speed, 5G Availability as well as both Consistent Quality awards — compared to Vodafone’s sole outright win in 5G Voice App Experience. The two Qatari operators share the remaining five awards, including 5G Video Experience and 5G Games Experience.

Qatar’s mobile operators continue to explore innovative 5G solutions to improve the mobile experience of their users. In December 2021, Vodafone trialed its mmWave spectrum-based 5G network services with the aim of unlocking new functionality for consumers and businesses, while Ooredoo in March 2022 announced the successful implementation of a ‘world first’ 5G Indoor shareable solution using Ericsson’s kit aimed at enhancing the immersive experiences at stadiums and venues.


 

Ooredoo (Arabic 兀乇賷丿賵), formely Qtel, is the market leader in Qatar with more than 2/3 of all customers in the country. It has the best coverage and speeds in the country.

Ooredoo Qatar and Ericsson have announced the successful implementation of a ‘world first’ 5G Indoor shareable solution, achieving data speeds of 1.5Gbps. The Ericsson Indoor Connect 8855 solution, part of the Ericsson Radio Dot System, has been commercially deployed in stadiums across Qatar ‘to enhance the immersive experiences of international tournaments’. The multi-operator, multi-vendor solution has full band support and 4×4 MIMO capability, enabling several communications service providers to deliver indoor 5G experiences to their subscribers with beyond-gigabit speeds. Ooredoo is an official service provider for the upcoming FIFA men’s football World Cup in Qatar in November-December 2022.


Vodafone is the no.2 in Qatar, but as long as you stay mainly in centers, it's the slightly cheaper alternative. 4G/LTE is available in Doha, Pearl and West Bay. In 2018 Vodafone sold its Qatari branch to its joint venture partner Vodafone & Qatar Foundation. The now Qatari operator has the approval to stick to the Vodafone brand for at least 5 more years.

Ookla reported that Vodafone Qatar’s resurgence as a stronger competitor to market leader Ooredoo Qatar has taken place at a key juncture for the Qatari market — the arrival of 5G. Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) amended the mobile licenses held by Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar in early 2019. The new licenses included harmonized terms and conditions for both companies, authorizing each to utilize 100 MHz of C-band spectrum (3.5 GHz) and committed them to roll out commercial 5G networks before the end of 2020 in all densely populated areas. It also required they provide coverage of all primary roads and highways as well as all venues associated with the up-coming FIFA World Cup. This was updated in May 2022 to plan the allocation to both operators of additional spectrum in the C-band as well as high frequency (26 GHz) spectrum by 2023, while their license obligations require their 5G networks to cover 99% of Qatar with minimum download speeds of 100 Mbps by 2024.

Vodafone Qatar announced in August 2019 that ‘all Vodafone SIM cards are now 5G-ready’. All Vodafone customers, on any of its prepaid or postpaid mobile plans, have the chance to access 5G mobile connectivity with a compatible device. Currently, two compatible smartphones are available in Vodafone stores, namely the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and Xiaomi Mi 5G. The operator’s 5G network is live in dozens of residential locations across Qatar including Al Waab, Abu Hamour, Al Azizya, Al Mamoura, Al Rayyan, Umm Salal Muhammed, Khartiyat, Al Hilal, Muntazah, Muraykh and Al Sadd.

Vodafone Qatar has claimed the country’s ‘first successful trial of mmWave spectrum-based 5G network services, displaying peak data speed capabilities of 8.1Gbps (downlink)/734Mbps (uplink), with the aim of unlocking new functionality for consumers and businesses, in areas including mobile broadband, fixed wireless and industrial applications such as IoT and Augmented Reality (AR). CEO Hamad Bin Abdulla Al-Thani said: 
‘The potential of mmWave technology industries and use cases is huge, and it will pave the way for the future of 5G and connectivity. The results of this trial will enable Vodafone Qatar to continue working to roll out mmWave technology for the benefits of its consumer and business customers alike. Looking ahead, one of the most exciting prospects for mmWave is the facilitation of 360 degree streaming of 8K videos around major sporting or entertainment events … We’re always working to make our GigaNet network bigger, faster and stronger than ever before for the benefit of our customers, and mmWave is an important part of this evolution.'

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Monday, 15 August 2022

Colombians Pin Their Hopes on 5G Due to Lacklustre 4G Experience

Despite the harsh impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s population and economy, Colombia’s telecom sector has been recovering due to positive performances in the fixed-line broadband, mobile broadband, and mobile voice and data markets.

Colombia’s fixed-line penetration remained stable by the end of 2020, though began to increase into 2021 as a result of the particular demands on households resulting from government measures associated with addressing the pandemic. However, at less than 15% it is well below the Latin American average. The mobile market, by contrast, reached a penetration rate of 136% (an increase of over three percentage points on 2019) and managed to keep the same upward growth trajectory that it has sustained over the last ten years. The fixed-line broadband market also expanded, with the number of subscribers increasing 11.4%, and with revenue increasing 9.9% thanks to increased data usage as many customers were forced to work or study from home during the year.

The mobile broadband market was the standout performer in 2020, with a 13% increase in the number of subscribers year-on-year, albeit the penetration rate is relatively low compared to other Latin American countries. Most significant of all was the surge in mobile broadband traffic — a 51% increase over the previous year — which was again a reflection of the strict lockdowns that Colombians had to endure for much of 2020.

Market leader Claro continued to expand its dominance of the mobile broadband market, increasing its share over the last decade by 10% to reach 54% at the start of 2021. Tigo, conversely, has seen its share halved over the same period of time, yet its subscriber base has still managed to grow on the back of a strong overall market. Tigo also suffered the most from Colombia’s imposed lockdowns in 2020, severely impacting its retail sales (a 20% decline in revenue) with nearly half of its stores being forced to close.

There are 4 networks in the country: Claro (formely Comcel), Movistar, Tigo Une (Tigo merged with UNE) and newcomer WOM. The three major operators share almost 90% of the market, led by Claro with about the half and followed by Movistar and Tigo with about 20% each.

2G and 3G is on 850 MHz on Claro and Movistar and 1900 MHz on all three majors. 4G/LTE started 2013/4 on 2600 MHz (B7) on Claro and Tigo and 1700 MHz (AWS/B4) on Movistar and Tigo and reaches already most of the population. WOM started as a 4G/LTE network only on 1700 MHz (B4) and roam on other networks for 2G/3G.

The most recent Open Signal report found Tigo to be the best performing operator in most of their categories. 

While Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC) has not yet scheduled an auction of 5G spectrum , in November the regulator announced plans for public consultation on increasing spectrum caps for the frequencies below 3 GHz — up to 50 MHz in the frequency range below 1 GHz and to 95 MHz in the 1710MHz-2690MHz range. The regulator is also considering applying an 80 MHz spectrum cap for the 3300MHz-3700MHz frequencies and intends to make all 400 MHz in this range available for 5G services. Earlier this year, in October, MinTIC renewed Claro and Movistar’s 1900 MHz spectrum licenses, while requiring the operators to update their technology and improve their coverage and quality of services.

In terms of 4G download speeds, Opensignal users on Tigo experienced the fastest average download speeds of 18.7 Mbps. Movistar and Tigo users saw declines in average 4G download speeds, of 0.5 and 2.1 Mbps respectively, while Claro users observed an increase of 1 Mbps. In addition, OpenSignal users on WOM networks enjoyed average 4G download speeds of 14.5 Mbps, which led to a statistical tie with Claro for second place. These changes resulted in Tigo’s lead over second-placed competitors decrease from 6.9 to around four Mbps.

In 2013 Claro merged with Comcel, dropping the name Comcel. They are now the market leaders in Colombia with the best nationwide coverage and a 48% market share. 4G/LTE on 2600 MHz (Band 7) is available for prepaid in about 200 towns and 28 capitals served by its network.

In May 2022, Claro Colombia announced its intention to switch off all 2G services by December 2022 in order to re-farm more spectrum for 4G and for a possible 5G launch.

In 2014 the merger of the two smallest networks in Colombia UNE and Tigo was finalised. The new joined network is marketed mostly under the name of Tigo. They remain the smallest major network in the country with slightly less coverage and 4G/LTE is available for prepaid on 1700 MHz (Band 4).

Tigo wins all but one of the Open Signal awards outright. The only exception is 4G Coverage Experience, which Claro successfully defends and claims outright for the fifth time in a row. Tigo increased its lead over its competitors in Upload Speed Experience and 4G Availability categories, but its lead in Download Speed Experience over Claro declined. 

In May 2021 Millicom International Cellular (MIC) announced that its Tigo Colombia subsidiary will become the first operator in Latin America to deploy Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) architecture. The rollout will be carried out in partnership with Parallel Wireless and deliver 4G service coverage at 362 rural sites. 

Telef贸nica acquired the former state-owned Colombia Telecomunicaciones in 2006 and sells it under its brand name of Movistar. It's now the 2nd operator in the country giving good coverage and speed. 4G/LTE has started in 5 main cities – Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga on 1700 MHz (Band 4) and 77 municipalities. 

WOM announced in August 2021 that it signed up one million subscribers since it launched in April 2021. The operator attracted new customers by offering plans, which undercut its competitors’ prices by 40%. With a new aggressive player in the market, managing subscriber churn will become an even greater challenge for the established mobile operators in Colombia. Maintaining high quality of mobile network experience will remain crucial to retain existing customers and attract new ones. 

DirecTV Colombia – a subsidiary of US telecoms giant AT&T – has reportedly switched on a fixed-wireless 5G service in selected parts of Bogota. According to Tecno Movida, the network has gone live in Kenedy and Engativa, and utilises equipment from Ericsson, Qualcomm and Gemtek. The network, which includes a cloud native 5G core and uses Massive MIMO technology, is capable of supporting download speeds of up to 100Mbps.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, satellite pay-TV provider DirecTV Colombia won a 4G concession in June 2013, securing 2×15MHz of FDD-LTE spectrum and a 40MHz block of TD-LTE spectrum in the 2600MHz band. The operator went on to launch its LTE-based 4G wireless broadband service in July 2014 and served 187,322 4G subscribers as of 31 December 2019.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Cambodians are Praying for 5G to Ease Data Congestion and Increase Speeds

Cambodia’s mobile-dominated telecoms sector spent the last couple of years battling two major challenges: the global pandemic, and the government’s retraction of trial licenses for the rollout of 5G.

Citing concerns about wastage and inefficiency occurring if each operator built a separate 5G infrastructure in order to maximise their own network’s coverage (and, presumably, to capture greater market share), the regulator withdrew the licenses that the operators had been using for their 5G trials. This was despite all of the operators having already announced a successful completion of their trials. More than a year later, the market is still waiting on the government to release its 5G policy and roadmap, along with the allocation of spectrum and approvals to permit commercial operation. 

In the meantime, the mobile network operators have maintained their focus and investment strategies on upgrading and expanding their existing LTE networks around the country, and to 5G-enable their base stations. When the 5G market eventually arrives, the underlying infrastructure will at least be ready to support a rapid adoption of the higher-value applications and services.

Overall, the mobile market fell back slightly during 2020 and 2021 (in terms of total subscriber numbers) as the Covid-19 crisis wore on, but it remains in relatively good health as mobile users increased their data usage over the period. Likewise, the mobile broadband market experienced a small but very rare contraction in 2020, although penetration rates were already very high in this area. There is likely to be a quick rebound to previous levels once economic conditions stabilise, followed by a modest rates of growth over the next five years.

The number of providers in Cambodia has decreased from 9 to 3 in recent years, currently there the main operators are Metfone (by Viettel), Smart (by Axiata) and Cellcard (by Mobitel).

2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE has started on Metfone, Smart and Cellcard so far on 1800 MHz (band 3). 

According to the most recent Open Signal report on Cambodia 5G remains some way off, with a representative of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications saying that both the release of the 5G roadmap and the assignment of 5G spectrum to operators will hopefully occur in 2022. In addition, Cambodia’s mobile networks are struggling under the weight of the nation’s high data consumption. In the Quantifying the Impact of 5G and COVID-19 on Mobile Data Consumption report, it was found that Cambodian users consumed a staggering 15.9 GB of data per month on average in Q1 2021, up from the 13.6 GB/month observed in Q1 2020.

Back in June, Smart Axiata’s CEO Thomas Hundt said that high data consumption had “loaded the 4G network to a level where the operators can’t fully satisfy the expectations from the users in terms of speed anymore”, but he also indicated that this congestion would ease once 5G is deployed.

The market leader Metfone currently has registered up to 9 million subscribers, occupying 50% of the market share. 

Metfone, has recently signed a credit package contract with MB Cambodia for the upgrade and expansion of its telecoms network, reports Khmer Times. Under the agreement, MB Cambodia, a branch of Vietnam’s Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank, will provide a credit package with a limit of up to USD100 million.

Metfone has developed the School Information System (SIS) to promote online learning to ensure students were not deprived of education during the health crisis. The SIS platform is equipped with a range of useful features, with documents able to be stored and retrieved quickly, and its digital archiving system enables school information to be stored securely and safely, unlike in physical form where documents can get damaged. Metfone plans to make the system available for all schools across the Kingdom.

Smart, a.k.a. Hello Axiata and Smart Mobile, is the 2nd provider in Cambodia. They were the first network to have started with 4G/LTE in 2014. 

Smart Axiata has invested more than $90 million in its wireless network in 2021. The operator aims to expand and improve its network to ensure stable and fast mobile broadband connectivity for its eight million subscribers. The main focus of the upgrade will be on enhancing the 4G LTE network. However, Smart also intends to ensure the network is ready for a major 5G upgrade once the government gives 5G the go-ahead. In fact so strong has been the adoption of 4G by Smart’s subscribers, that it has plans to shut down its 3G network over the course of 2021 and repurpose the residual frequency spectrum used for 3G to 4G. Smart currently operates approximately 3,000 network sites across Cambodia, allowing its subscribers to use a 4G LTE network that covers 91.5 percent of the population. By the end of 2021, Smart Axiata had planned to add 350 sites to meet the growing demand for robust and dependable connectivity. Existing network sites will receive substantial capacity upgrades.

Smart Axiata has conducted a live 5G trial in the capital Phnom Penh using a mobile device from Chinese equipment vendor Huawei. The firm said that when commercial rollout begins in the next few years, 5G coverage will initially be centred on ‘hotspots’ in major cities. According to Smart Axiata’s CEO Thomas Hundt:

‘Our mission is to enrich the lives of millions of Cambodians through world-class networks and exceptional digital experiences, which is why we invest USD70 million to USD80 million yearly, primarily in network infrastructure, to improve mobile broadband connectivity across the Kingdom. Trust that we will continue to improve our existing 4.5G service while preparing for future technologies like 5G in parallel.’ 

Cellcard (a.k.a. Mobitel) is the 3rd provider in Cambodia. In 2015 they started with 4G/LTE in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and 5 other towns on 1800 MHz (band 3). They currently have approximately 3 million subscribers. 

During the Pandemic they ramped up efforts to keep communities connected during lockdown by installing more than 169 new 4G LTE sites. The Proudly Khmer and only 100% locally owned mobile communications company. In addition to the new sites, Cellcard engineers installed small cell solutions for indoor coverage at hospitals and community venues and invested in three new mobile Cell on Wheels solutions to add coverage and capacity to outdoor locations to support the Ministry of Health’s response to the pandemic at key treatment sites and test & vaccination centers.

The work is part of Cellcard’s continued long term investment in network expansion which will see a total of 500 4G LTE sites added in Phnom Penh.

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