Thursday, 23 June 2022

Fiji is Looking to Build Upon its Success of 4G and Fibre

Fiji is a small country, slightly smaller size than that of New Jeresy, USA or Wales, UK and has less than a million people. With well-developed infrastructure, Fiji has become a hub for the Pacific, hosting the secretariat for the Pacific Islands Forum and the main campus of the University of the South Pacific. In addition, Fiji is a center for Pacific tourism, and Nadi International Airport is by far the busiest airport in a Pacific island country.

Fiji has a relatively sophisticated communications infrastructure with the highest mobile and internet penetration in the Pacific Islands. It is the leading market to watch in terms of both LTE and 5G development in this region.

LTE, LTE-A, and fibre technologies have received the most investment by the Fijian mobile operators, which include Digicel Fiji, Vodafone Fiji, and Telecom Fiji. Notably, LTE now accounts for the largest share of connections in the mobile segment. Concentrating on the more highly populated areas, the operators are preparing for the next growth area of high-speed data. They also have 5G in mind, and are preparing their networks to be 5G-ready, anticipating an easier migration to the technology based on the relatively high LTE penetration rate. The sale of Digicel to Telstra also passed a major hurdle when the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission approved the transaction in March 2022.

Fiji presents a challenging geographic environment for infrastructure developments due to its population being spread across more than 100 islands. However, the majority of Fijians live on the two main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu.

In July 2018, the two islands were linked by the Savusavu submarine cable system, which provides a more secure link in times of emergency weather events such as the regular tropical cyclones that often cause massive destruction to the area, including destroying essential infrastructure such as electricity and telecommunications equipment.

In Fiji, the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the economy that is otherwise reliant on the hospitality and tourism sectors. The country faced strict lockdowns and restrictions on cross-border travel due to the onset of the Delta variant in April 2021. Although the economy is in recovery, these sectors still face an even more challenging business environment.

As mentioned earlier, there are three mobile operators on the islands of Fiji: Vodafone Fiji, Digicel Fiji and Telcom Fiji.

Vodafone is the incumbent operator with the most customers and a slightly better coverage. Digicel has better prices and a still good coverage on the main islands. MVNO Inkk Mobile resells Vodafone at lower rates.

2G is on 900 MHz. 3G on 2100 MHz with Vodafone and 900 MHz with Digitel. 4G/LTE started in 2013 on both operators using 800 MHz (band 20) and 1800 MHz (band 3) and is given out for prepaid.

In 2016 Telecom Fiji, public owner of the landline phone network, switched on its 4G/LTE network. It's branded as Connect 4G+ and uses the 700 MHz frequency (band 28). It's coverage is in major towns on Viti Levu island only. As they market their prepaid plans to residential and business customers as well as students only, it's not (yet) an option for travellers.

Vodafone used to be the only provider on Fiji before Digicel arrived on the scene in 2008. Still, it has the better coverage throughout the archipelago. Its 2G covers all islands up to EDGE, sometimes patchy on the remote islands. 3G is now in the most areas of the main islands. Vodafone claims a 3G coverage of 95% of Fijians, and 4G coverage extends to almost every major city and town in both Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. 

Vodafone Fiji has also become the primary internet provider for Fiji and has over 1 million active connections on the network as customers have multiple data and voice connections. In 2019 the Smartphone Penetration stands at 78% in the Fiji market and this is above the global benchmark of 75%.

The total number of base stations will increased from the 390 to more than 600 base stations in 2019 around the country. Almost all existing and new base stations are providing 4G+ coverage. This made  Vodafone by far the largest 4G+ mobile network in Fiji covering 96% of the Fijian population.

When Digicel arrived in Fiji in 2008, it shook the scene and many customers moved here from Vodafone. It has more aggressive prices, but a weaker coverage. 2G and 3G on 900 MHz are on the main islands only. 4G/LTE has started in 2014 and was extended in 2016 to Nasinu, Ba and Labasa, building on its existing 4G coverage which serves the greater Suva area, as well as Nadi including Denarau Island and the wider Lautoka area. 4G licenses on 800 and 1800 MHz (B20, B3) are used and 4G is open for prepaid.

In 2020 Digicel Fiji unveiled a major network upgrade initiative in the country to improve the lot of customers on the island nation. Digicel Fiji chief executive officer Farid Mohammed confirmed the FJD30 million (USD13.9 million) network upgrade to increase LTE coverage and develop its ‘Digital Lifestyle’ partnership with customers across Fiji. Mohammed said that in phase one of the project, the cellco had spent more than FJD14 million since late 2019 to add capacity to the LTE network, while also upgrading most of its cell sites in main urban centres to 4.5G LTE-Advanced Pro technology (Pre-5G) in Suva, Nausori, Nadi and Lautoka. He further stated Digicel has increased their LTE coverage in maritime areas and Vanua Levu, partly to meet a 40% rise in data traffic demand during the COVID-19 lockdown. Going forward, the remaining funds will be spent to further improve LTE coverage across Fiji with the ultimate aim of upgrading ‘almost all’ of the remaining sites to LTE. What this means is that they will provide LTE/4G on the remotest areas of Fiji like the Lau Group, Koro Island, Taveuni and Vanua Levu.

In October 2021, Australian MNO Telstra said that it has agreed to buy the Pacific operations of Digicel Group in a $1.6 billion deal largely funded by the Australian government and seen as a way to contain China's rising influence in the region. Digicel Pacific would continue to be run as a separate business within Telstra’s ‘International division’, while ‘maintaining separate P&L and IT systems’. Digicel Pacific has around 2.5 million subscriptions on its books across Papua New Guinea(PNG), Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.

In 2016 Telecom Fiji, public owner of the landline phone network, switched on its 4G/LTE network. It's branded as Connect 4G+ and uses the 700 MHz frequency (band 28). It's coverage is in major towns on Viti Levu island only. As they market their prepaid plans to residential and business customers as well as students only.

Telecom Fiji is currently going through a large transformation to deliver a fully digital experience to customers and offer new, customized services. Oracle Communications Policy Management running on Oracle Private Cloud Appliance infrastructure will support these efforts by enabling Telecom to provide flexible service plan and pricing options to customers. 

Oracle Policy management tells Telecom’s network how to treat the customer’s data flows across its 4G and fixed broadband network based on the specifics of their service plan. This ensures an enhanced and consistent experience for Telecom’s customers, regardless of the network they are on, and lays the foundation for a seamless transition to 5G.

Telecom Fiji has also revealed that as part of its ongoing rollout of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) technology more than 5,000 homes in Suva, Nadi and Lautoka now have access to its ultra-fast fibre broadband services. Chief executive Charles Goundar said that his company is investing FJD180 million (USD87.1 million) over the next five years and accelerating deployment in the face of rising demand – compounded by the need for people to work from home during the pandemic.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Iran Overcoming Barriers to Launch 4G and 5G

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s telecom infrastructure has suffered from sanctions in recent years, which prevented the import of equipment and devices and encouraged widespread smuggling, with a consequent loss of tax revenue. To address this, the government introduced a device registration scheme, and bolstered the capacity for domestically manufactured mobile phones.

Operators have invested in broadening the reach of their LTE networks, which has increased network capacity and improved the quality of mobile broadband services. The country is also looking to 5G, with services having been launched by MCI and MTN Irancell in early 2021. The sector is still hamstrung by the paucity of spectrum, though the government is addressing this with plans to auction spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for 5G use.

Iran is keen to grow its Iran’s digital economy and the National Internet Network (NIN) is pivotal to Iran’s fixed broadband infrastructure plans and overall Smart City progress.

From a broad perspective, Iran offers significant opportunities for growth in the telecoms sector. The country has one of the largest populations in the Middle East, and there is a high proportion of youthful, tech savvy users having considerable demand for both fixed and mobile telecom services.

Currently Iran has 3 major GSM operators: Hamrah-e-Aval = 'the first operator' or MCI (2G, 3G, 4G), Irancell (2G, 3G, 4G) and RighTel (3G, 4G).

With all 3 featured operators 2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started with Hamrah Aval, Irancell and RighTel on 1800 MHz. According to user experience the GPRS service was unreliable and download speeds pretty slow. As a general rule, 4G is available in big cities and 3G in mid-sized ones, while there's very basic coverage in rural places, if at all.


Irancell is an Iranian telecommunications company that operates Iran's largest 2G-3G-4G-4.5G-5G mobile network, and fixed wireless TD-LTE internet services. It is the first provider of 5G internet in Iran.  It is the 32nd largest company in Iran. Currently, MTN Group holds a 49% percent stake in the Irancell consortium, while Kowsar Sign Paniz (KSP) holds the other 51% of shares.

On 3 December 2014, Irancell officially launched Iran's first 4G LTE network in nine cities. The License was granted as on a national basis and includes the overall geographical coverage of Iran.
Irancell made countrywide coverage with FD-LTE and TD-LTE. As of December 2021, Irancell has 50.4 million active subscribers.

MTN Irancell has launched the country’s first commercial 5G service, though it is currently only available in one area of Tehran. The firm had previously been testing 5G services at three locations in the capital. A report from PressTV says Irancell is planning to expand network coverage to the cities of Mashhad, Shiraz and Kish ‘in the next few weeks’. Iran’s Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) recently announced plans to award 5G licences in the 3.5GHz band, while rival MNO Mobile Communication Company of Iran (MCI) is expected to announce its own commercial 5G launch in the near future.

MTN Irancell has admitted having difficulty taking money out of Iran due to the sanctions, but it says it is able to convert earnings to loans to MTN Irancell, which is allowing Iran’s second largest mobile operator to continue investment in its fixed and wireless networks.


Hamrah-e-Aval, in Farsi: همراه اول‎, in English: the first operator, is still the market leader in Iran. It is owned by the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran, better known as MCI. In 2015 they began with their 3G network, that they call Notrino. Though being still number one in the country, they lag behind Irancell in 3G/4G coverage. In late 2015 they started with 4G too, being only available to 10% of MCI customers so far.

State-owned MCI  has expanded its 5G coverage with a launch on the island of Kish, off the coast of southern Iran. The launch coincided with the KITEX 2022 International Exhibition which has been taking place this week on the island. MCI first introduced 5G services in Tehran in March 2021.

MCI is the longest-established and biggest mobile operator in Iran, claiming some 60 million subscribers or about 71 percent of the country.

RighTel is the 3rd operator in Iran. It was granted a 3G license in 2011 and it had a monopoly on 3G 2011-2014 in the country. Rightel works great in certain parts of large cities, but has horrible (or non existent) coverage in smaller cities and many rural areas. Many people thought its prices were too high, and the speeds given were much slower than what was advertised. High speed internet also caused some cultural controversies, leading RighTel to restrict selling its SIM cards to those 18 and older.

RighTel has just over 5 million subscribers

A report from Iran’s official IRNA news agency says that more than 35,000 villages have been connected to high speed internet networks over an eight-year period under a project to improve rural services. PressTV cites IRNA as saying that 35,519 remote villages had access to broadband services as of March 2020, up from virtually zero eight years before. A further 17,000 villages have received internet access but at lower speeds. The government introduced legislation in 2017 requiring the country’s two main cellular operators, MCI and MTN Irancell, to expand their networks to more rural regions. Landline phones have reached four million households in 47,000 villages, according to the report.

Iran’s Minister of ICT says he expects the country’s National Information Network (NIN) project to be complete within four years. A report from the Financial Tribune cites Isa Zarepour as saying: ‘After around two decades of foot-dragging, it is finally time to give the initiative one last push.’ The NIN scheme was first proposed by the government in 2005, but work did not start until 2013. The aim is to establish a closed national intranet of locally made, government endorsed Islamic content, which will sit alongside the World Wide Web. Critics say, however, that the government could use it to replace the wider internet, effectively cutting off many citizens from the outside world.

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Wednesday, 8 June 2022

5G in Philippines is Gaining Momentum but still Long Way to go

Philippine’s telecom sector in 2020 suffered only minor impact as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Subscriber numbers fell in some areas, but this was offset by strong growth in mobile data and broadband usage since a significant proportion of the population transitioned to working or studying from home. Major investment programs covering LTE, 5G, and fibre broadband networks suffered slight delays due to holdups in supply chains, but activity has since ramped up in an attempt to complete the rollouts as per the original schedule.

Currently there are four mobile operators in the country. The major telecom operators had mixed financial results during the Pandemic. PLDT reported record revenues, whereas Globe Telecom’s performance dropped below 2019 levels. Shifts in customer behaviour during the enforced lockdown bolstered mobile data and broadband, whereas Globe Telecom’s leadership of the mobile market saw it suffer to a greater extent overall, as the total number of mobile subscribers fell in the first quarter of 2021. In spite of the setback, both companies predicted a positive outlook for growth through the rest of 2021 and into 2022. 

PLDT and Globe Telecom have maintained their dominance of the Philippines telecom market, despite having their duopoly status removed by the government as far back as 2017. Two new entrants – DITO Telecommunity and NOW Telecom – have since become the third and fourth operators, but delays in their respective launch programs have caused minimal impact to the leaders’ market share. The government remains keen, and committed, to seeing strong competition, growth, and service excellence in the telecom sector, so there is likely to be continued support (financially as well as through legislation such as enabling mobile tower sharing and number portability) to ensure that the sector remains viable for emerging players.

The mobile sector will remain the Philippines’ primary market for telecommunications well into the future. The unique terrain and resulting challenges associated with accessing remote parts of the archipelago means that in many areas fixed networks are neither cost-effective nor logistically viable. Both PLDT and Globe Telecom continue to roll out fixed networks in some urban areas where it remains feasible to do so (primarily to support fixed broadband or — in Globe Telecom’s case — fixed wireless services). However, the bulk of telecoms investment over the coming years will continue to be in 5G and 5G-enabled LTE networks. Coverage of LTE and 5G networks extends to over 95% of the population, and for the vast majority of people mobile will likely remain their only platform for telecom services.

In their most recent report on The Philippines, Open Signal have directly compared for the first time, the mobile network experience and the 5G experience of Filipino users in the same report and in another first they have also analyzed the consistency of users’ experience. Smart is once again the operator to beat in the Philippines. This time around it has snapped up 11 out of a possible 16 awards including all those for download speed and users’ experience when playing multiplayer mobile games or using over-the-top voice apps on cellular connections. DITO comes top for both Upload Speed Experience and Availability, while Globe wins the 5G Video Experience award and both awards for consistent quality.

Smart Communications by PLDT Inc, on of the two leading providers in the Philippines, as of end June 2021, had a total of 71.68 million mobile subscribers.

Smart announced they were teaming up with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics to accelerate the deployment of 5G Standalone (5G SA) technology in the Philippines. The pair recently activated commercial 5G SA sites in Makati City in the wake of Samsung’s successful Voice-over-New Radio (VoNR) tests at the PLDT-Smart Technolab in the city. 

To support growing mobile data traffic, Smart has deployed base stations nationwide as of end-December 2021, supporting its 4G/LTE and 5G subscribers from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi. This includes around 16,900 3G base stations, 38,600 4G/LTE base stations and 7,200 5G base stations.

Smart is the outright winner of all four Open Signal awards for users’ experience when playing multiplayer mobile games and using voice applications over cellular connections. Smart’s margin of victory is impressive for both Games Experience and 5G Games Experience for the former, its score of 54 points is 12.9 points (31.5%) higher than that of second placed DITO. Smart wins 5G Games Experience with a score of 68.1 points, ahead of Globe’s score of 56.8 points by an impressive 11.3 points.

Globe Telecom, the other major telecommunications provider in the Philippines, had the majority of its customer base in its mobile segment. In 2021, the company had around 87 million mobile subscribers, including postpaid and prepaid. In addition, Globe Telecom had around 3.7 million home broadband subscribers and 1.3 million landline subscribers.

It has now been over a year since DITO entered the market as the Philippines’ third mobile operator and it announced in March 2022 that its customer base had grown to seven million active mobile subscribers and that it was close to hitting its year three commitment to provide 70% population coverage, having deployed more than 4,000 cell towers.

DITO has recently launched a 5G home broadband service in some areas of the National Capital Region (NCR), it has yet to commercially launch a 5G mobile service.

The Philippines now also has a fourth major commercial mobile operator, with Now Telecom set to launch 5G services and build out a backbone network across the country.

With an enterprise offering that includes wireless broadband and cloud services, Now Telecom is well positioned to enter the consumer market in the Philippines as it holds both a congressional franchise for telecom services valid for the next 25 years as well as a mobile telecoms licence.

With the new provisional license Now Telecom can use 220MHz of spectrum in the 1,970MHz-1,980MHz, alongside 2160Mhz to 2170Mhz and 3.6Ghz to 3.8Ghz, including 5G frequencies for mobile and fixed wireless.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Vodafone UK Bares Its Vision and European Strategy

At Telco to Techco 2022, Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK’s Chief Network Officer gave a keynote presentation on 'Transforming Vodafone's network and operations to support the journey to Techco'.

He started his talk by referencing the Vodafone Technology’s Tech 2025 strategy that was launched last year. A video of this strategy is as follows:

Vodafone has formed a pan-European R&D unit called Vodafone Technology that, as part of the operator’s plans to “transform from a traditional telecommunications company to a new generation connectivity and digital services provider of scale across Europe and Africa,” will add 7,000 software engineers to its roster by 2025. 

But not all of those 7,000 will be new recruits – more than half will be existing Vodafone staff who will be retrained, while the rest will be either insourced (bringing in-house some tasks that have been done by external partners) or join as new recruits. 

Those 7,000 roles will be added to the existing 9,000 software engineers Vodafone already employs and, by 2025, at least half of the Vodafone Technology R&D team will be software engineers, up from about 30% currently.

The operator believes the move makes business sense as it will be able to develop more of its own unique, differentiating applications (for which it will own the IPR) and at a lower cost than outsourcing the development (Vodafone estimates that ‘insourcing’ is about 20% cheaper on average).

During the talk, Andrea referred to having access to the skills anywhere on their footprint in Europe and other parts of the world, which is central to their vision. 

Here is the video of his talk:

In case you were wondering how big is Vodafone's footprint, here is the latest stats from FY22 presentation.

Recently, the UAE state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications Group, which recently rebranded from Etisalat to e&, is now Vodafone’s biggest shareholder after confirming a £3.3bn investment on the UK group:

E& said it had made the investment “to gain significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services” and did not intend to launch a takeover bid, a statement which blocks the company from making such a move for at least six months.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Fantastic 4G Experience in Morocco is Setting Stage for 5G

Morocco’s mobile market is one of the more mature in the region, with a penetration rate of 137.5 percent.  The three mobile network operators – Maroc Telecom, Orange, and Inwi, offer fixed-line and fixed-wireless services. They have developed mobile data services based on the extensive reach of LTE infrastructure.  Growth in mobile data traffic is supported by the popular use of smartphones, which account for about 80 percent of all mobile phones in use.

The three mobile operators are the main providers of internet services, accounting for the great majority of all internet connections.  The issuing of LTE licenses in 2015 included conditions to ensure that services covered at least 65 percent of the population by 2020, while the promotion of broadband accessibility nationally is also supported by the National Broadband Plan through 2022 and by the Maroc Digital 2020 strategy.  The extensive deployment of mobile broadband infrastructure will further consolidate the dominance of mobile players in the broadband sector in the coming years. 

To establish itself as a leading hub in the field of digital technologies on the African continent, Morocco is encouraging foreign direct investment in the telecommunications sector, especially as it seeks to accelerate its whole-of-society digital transformation, promote new technologies, and develop telecommunications services.  All three telecom operators have successfully completed their pilot tests for 5G and stand ready to deploy their own 5G networks in Morocco. 

The three major telecoms operators are preparing for their transition to 5G, expected in 2023. For the next two years, they intend to invest in strengthening the coverage of mobile networks, the national backbones of telecommunications and infrastructure. Maroc Telecom had announced that it will invest $1 billion between 2019 and 2021.  Morocco’s telecom service providers consider data management and security when reviewing proposals for equipment and services. The 5G market offers good opportunities for U.S. technology companies.

In the latest Open Signal report, Maroc Telecom once again wins the lion's share of the awards, successfully defending its six outright wins from the previous report. In addition, this time around, Maroc Telecom also ties with inwi in 4G Availability. Meanwhile, Orange did not secure any win across the seven award categories.

In this report, the mobile network experience of users on the three nationwide mobile operators  Maroc Telecom, inwi and Orange is examined over a period of 90 days beginning on November 1, 2021, and ending on January 29, 2022, to see how they fared.

Maroc Telecom, a.k.a. IAM is the biggest mobile provider, mostly owned by UAE-based Etisalat, with the best coverage. In 2015 they have started with 4G/LTE with speeds up to 225 Mbps in major to minor towns that is available for prepaid without surcharges.

Mobile subscribers for Maroc telecom grew by 2.8% to 19.86 million in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period the year before. However, mobile revenues in the country fell by 5.1% over the same period. The average revenue per mobile customer in the first quarter of 2022, totaled MAD 44.9 per month ($4.59 per month). This is a decline of 7.9% from the first quarter of 2021.

Orange is the second provider in the country and mostly owned by Orange in France (formerly called France Télécom). That's why it was decided to rebrand it from the original brand of Méditel to Orange starting in 2016.

Inwi is the smallest provider in Morocco but with good coverage, if you stick to the towns mainly. Make a network scan, if you want to use it at a particular place. 4G/LTE has started in 2015 in 26 cities.

However it claims to be the fastest growing wireless provider in Morocco at the moment. Headquartered in Casablanca, its nationwide mobile/fixed network serves more than 12.5 million users with a mix of 2G/3G/4G and fixed wireless access (FWA) services. Since its founding in 1999, inwi has earned a reputation as a technology and innovation pioneer. Since 2017, the carrier has been rated the number one Internet provider by nPerf. Significant investment in fixed wireless service and a optimised TDD radio deployment have established inwi as the innovator of Internet and data services. Most recently, it became the country’s first to deploy an innovative 28-port, all-in-one antenna from CommScope, streamlining its network and paving the way for 5G.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

EE Combines More 4G and 5G Spectrum for Even Higher Data Rates

You may be aware that the most common flavour of 5G in use today is known as 5G Non-Standalone (NSA). This allows the operator to combine 4G and 5G spectrum to achieve higher data rates. EE is one such operator in the UK. 

In a recent announcement, EE said that it has become the first European network to successfully aggregate a 5G signal using seven different spectrum carriers, including its existing 3.4GHz and new 3.6GHz 5G channels. The press release said:

This breakthrough will deliver new benefits for EE customers, with 5G data speeds topping 2.2Gbps in lab testing and expected real-world speeds of over 1.7Gbps on the network. The innovation means a major boost in 5G network capacity, using a total of 170 MHz of Bandwidth, and could deliver the fastest available 5G in some areas of the UK.

Working in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies at BT’s Borehamwood lab, the EE network can now deliver a 5G signal using seven radio carriers, including some spectrum EE acquired in Ofcom’s spectrum auction last year. Using five 4G (LTE) carriers and two 5G (New Radio), it is the first time any European network has achieved this feat. A mobile test device featuring the Snapdragon® 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform with Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF System was used to achieve the milestone.

While the press release doesn't detail the exact spectrum quantity in each spectrum, it specifies:

5 x LTE carriers = 1.8GHz (2 carriers), 2.1GHz (1 carrier) and 2.6GHz (2 carriers)

2 x NR carriers = 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz

Based on the spectrum holding, it can be assumed that 2x20 MHz was used in 1.8 and 2.6 GHz and 10 MHz in 2.1 GHz band was used. All these 5 carriers were carrier aggregated in LTE. 40 MHz of 3.4 GHz and 3.6 GHz was carrier aggregated in 5G. These were both used with dual connectivity to achieve the data rates specified above.

BT / EE has many firsts in the UK to their name so it's no surprise that their users will be able to enjoy top speeds going further. One final note is to point out that for the consumer segment, BT will use the EE brand as can be seen in the Tweet below.

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Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Algeria to Launch 5G but Prioritise 4G Infrastructure Upgrades

Algeria has a well developing telecom infrastructure with growth encouraged by sympathetic government policies and regulations aimed at delivering serviceable internet connections across the country. However fixed internet speeds remain slow, and the country ranks poorly in international tables. Some efforts are ongoing to address this, with the government having pressed Algérie Télécom in early 2021 to increase the minimum rate available from 4Mb/s to 10Mb/s.

Mobile broadband is largely based on 3G and LTE, and the data rates are also low in global terms. Although LTE is available in all provinces, much investment is required from the MNOs to improve the quality of service. The government is encouraging the MNOs to undertake upgrades to LTE infrastructure before investing in commercial 5G services.

Intensifying price competition between the three MNOs: Djezzy, Mobilis and Ooredoo Algeria – together with increases in taxes on voice and data services, have had a negative effect on operator revenue. The difficult operating climate encouraged VEON to sell its entire share in Djezzy in mid-2021, allowing it to focus on its more profitable markets.



Djezzy is the brand under which Optimum Télécom is marketing its mobile offer. 

Djezzy broadcasts 2G on 900 MHz and 3G up to HSPA+ on 2100 MHz in 48 Wilayas. 4G/LTE was launched in 2016 on 1800 MHz (band 3) and is available in most Wilayahs. Djezzy is the most popular brand amongst young people with the most aggressive marketing and generally on par with Mobilis.

Coverage in cities is good, while outdoors on 4G/LTE, but often falls back to 3G indoors. Rural coverarge ranges from 3G to sometimes EDGE or no service. Speeds on 4G/LTE ranges between 10 and 20 Mbps to occasionally poor or trouble connecting to some websites. Overall, connectivity is fairly reliable, though.

Mobilis is the brand under which the mobile subsidiary of state-owned Algérie Télécom is marketing its mobile offers. Based on the number of subscribers it's currently the market leader in the country and was launched in 2003.

Mobilis has been offering 3G connection in basically 80% of all the cities and towns since 2012. 4G/LTE was launched in October 2016 on 1800 MHz (band 3). 4G/LTE is available in the Wilayas of Tlemcen, Constantine, Batna, Bordj Bou Arreridj, El Oued, Biskra, Boumerdès, Tipaza, Blida, Tizi-Ouzou et Sidi Bel-Abbès. 

The third operator in number of users in Algeria is Ooredoo and used to be called Nedjma before. It's now owned by an international telco based in Doha, Qatar.

Just like the other Algerian operators they operate 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz and since end of 2016 on 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (band 3) as well. Ooredoo covers with 3G most populated areas in Algeria and 28 out of 48 Wilayahs are covered with 4G so far.

Algeria’s telecoms regulator has issued additional spectrum in the 900MHz band to the country’s three mobile operators. ARPCE (Authority for Regulation of Post and Electronic Communications / Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Communications Electroniques) granted spectrum in the E-GSM band (880MHz-890MHz/925MHz-935MHz) to Djezzy, Mobilis and Ooredoo.

In a statement, the regulator said that the spectrum was to be used for “improving the quality of service of mobile telephony networks”, and noted that it would “continue its efforts in the planning and assignment of frequencies, in order to offer the best quality of service to users.”

The Algerian government said earlier this year they aim to ensure the launch of 5G mobile networks ‘soon’ and is currently working on freeing up and optimising the requisite radio frequency spectrum. Telecoms minister Karim Bibi Triki announced that the 5G initiative – forming part of efforts to meet growing demand for broadband connectivity – was not previously prioritised by the government due to more pressing needs to improve poor 4G coverage and service quality in some parts of Algeria, but he indicated that the telecoms sector could now be aiming for a commercial 5G launch by the end of 2022.

Since 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic influenced all Algerian operators to bolster their networks to cope with greater internet traffic demands, leading to ‘5G-ready’ technology deployments, with state-backed operator Mobilis having begun 5G testing and rollout of 5G-ready infrastructure in partnership with Huawei, whilst rival operators Djezzy and Ooredoo have formed respective next-generation technology partnerships with Nokia and Ericsson. Furthermore, high speed fibre-optic backbone expansions in the country will help support the introduction of fifth-generation mobile services, with an existing 200,000km of state-owned fibre cable alone. During 2021 Algerian operators requested that the government clarify its 5G strategy to allow them to plan their future investments.

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Monday, 2 May 2022

Swisscom Outlines Challenges and Plan to Transition to a Software Company

In a recent keynote at Mobile Europe's Telco to Techco, Christoph Aeschlimann, CTO & CIO, Swisscom gave a presentation on 'Redefining telco for the digital age'. During the presentation he highlighted the challenges of being a 170 year old operator, from infrastructure to processes and mindset.

To overcome these challenges, Christoph believes that a three pronged approach will be needed as highlighted in the image below:

  1. Disaggregation of Hardware and Software
  2. Telcos need to be become software companies
  3. AI and automation to create new opportunities

The current CEO of Swisscom, Urs Schaeppi, is stepping down from his role as a CEO and the Board of Directors has elected Christoph Aeschlimann as the new CEO of Swisscom. This will allow him to implement his vision of transitioning to a software company where many of the tools will be developed in house.

The presentation below is definitely worth listening to, along with the interesting Q&A at the end. Kudos to him for tackling all difficult questions on how they plan to transition to a software company going forward and how they will operate.

Interested in knowing your thoughts.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2022

4G and 5G to Power Kenya's Broadband Ambitions

Kenya’s telecom market continues to undergo considerable changes in the wake of increased competition, improved international connectivity, and rapid developments in the mobile market. The country is directly connected to a number of submarine cables, and with Mombasa as a landing point for LIT’s newly completed East and West Africa terrestrial network, the country serves as a key junction for onward connectivity to the Arabian states and the Far East. The additional internet capacity has meant that the cost of internet access has fallen dramatically in recent years, allowing services to be affordable to a far greater proportion of the population. In parallel, the sector’s regulator has reduced interconnection tariffs and implemented a range of measures aimed at developing further competition.

Numerous competitors are rolling out national and metropolitan backbone networks and wireless access networks to deliver services to population centres across the country. Several fibre infrastructure sharing agreements have been forged, and as a result the number of fibre broadband connections has increased sharply in recent years.

Much of the progress in the broadband segment is due to the government’s revised national broadband strategy, which has been updated with goals through to 2030, and which are largely dependent on mobile broadband platforms based on LTE and 5G.

Kenya has currently has four network operators: Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom and Faiba 4G.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz on all three providers. 4G/LTE has started in 2014 with Safaricom on 800 (B20) and 1800 MHz (B3) and has started with Airtel on 800 MHz (B20).In 2017 Faiba launched its 4G-only network in a very limited area of the country. 

Coverage is pretty good, except for the very remote areas in the north, but mobile towers are sometimes overload, which leads to slow speeds. But the mobile network is rapidly being expanded.

Safaricom has been ranked as having the best network in Kenya – for data and calls – after independent network tests from global company Umlaut.

Umlaut's mobile benchmarking unit analyzed the mobile networks of Kenya to rank their performance. It measured smartphone voice and data performance based on extensive "drive tests" – from major metropolitan areas to smaller cities and connection roads, which it did between September 24, 2020, and October 26, 2020.

Umlaut found Safaricom to be the only mobile operator to deploy voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) services across the country including in rural areas, therefore contributing to the operator achieving the best call set-up time. In the tests, Safaricom achieved average download speeds up to 58.5 Mbit/s and average upload speeds up to 36.4 Mbit/s.

Safaricom said in a statement that its top performance in mobile data was due to its deployment of 4G carrier aggregation, which made it the only operator to exceed 20MHz in data upload tests.

"4G Carrier Aggregation enables Safaricom to combine its 4G bandwidth on both the 1800 and 800 frequency bands. In turn, this means Safaricom's 4G customers can establish more than one simultaneous connection to network masts thus achieving more than 150% the speeds of a typical 4G connection," 

The mobile operator has been aggressively expanding its 4G coverage with a goal of having 100% of its network on 4G. Safaricom is also by far the biggest operator in Kenya with over 35.6 million customers and about 65% market share at the end of 2020, according to statistics from market research company Omdia.

Safaricom announced the launch of 5G trials in March 2021 for both individual and enterprise customers in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega. As part of the trials, the operator plans to expand the number of 5G sites to more than 150 across nine towns over the next twelve months. The primary objective during the trial period will be to establish if customers can access speeds of up to 700Mbps, with plans to offer speeds of up to 1Gbps in coming months. Nokia and Huawei have been chosen as the two technology partners to implement the rollout of Safaricom’s 5G network.

Safaricom has also signed a multi-year contract with satellite provider Intelsat to modernise its network and expand LTE coverage. Under the deal, Intelsat will provide cellular backhaul and satellite and enterprise connectivity services.

Airtel, owned by Indian Bharti Airtel is the second provider in the country. In 2017 Airtel is set to begin trialling a 4G/LTE network in the capital Nairobi and will be expanded to 45 other sites in major towns, including Mombasa and Kisumu within the year. In 2018 it bought their license on band 20 (800 MHz) and in May Airtel announced the commercial launch of 4G/LTE services.

Airtel Kenya has recently received a ten-year frequency licence comprising 2×10MHz of spectrum in the 2100MHz band. Airtel agreed to pay USD10 million for the licence, which will be valid until 2032. In respect of settlements regarding its 2015-2025 operating and spectrum licence, Airtel will pay a total of USD20 million in four instalments over the next three years.

Established as a telecommunications operator in April 1999, Telkom is 60 per cent owned by Helios Investment Partners, with the remaining stake held by Kenyans through the Government of Kenya. Telkom has 4,152 km of its own terrestrial fibre cabling, serving as a key conduit for broadband connectivity, inland. Telkom Kenya also owns a 22.5% stake in TEAMS, a 5,000km undersea fibre optic cable through Fujairah, UAE, and a 10% stake in LION2, another 2,700km undersea fibre optic cable through Mauritius. It also owns a stake in the East African Submarine System Cable (EASSy) and manages the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI), on behalf of the Ministry of ICT, an inland fibre optic cable network running through Kenyan counties. 

Telkom Kenya has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ericsson and systems integrator NEC XON to deploy an additional 2,000 4G LTE base stations across the country by 2023. In a press release, Telkom Kenya confirmed the USD100 million modernisation project will deliver a four-fold increase in its 4G mobile footprint, reaching ‘the majority of citizens across Kenya’. In so doing, the company hopes to deliver improved service availability as it looks to bridge the digital divide and provide Kenyans with an enhanced customer experience. The nationwide rollout is part of Telkom’s long-term network expansion strategy, announced in August 2020, when it underwent a strategic reorganisation.

Faiba 4G by triple-play provider Jamii Telecommunications Ltd. (JTL) started in December 2017 in a very limited area a 4G-only network on 700 MHz (Band 28). There is no fallback to 2G or 3G and all voice services are provided through VoLTE.

At launch, Faiba boasts of 300 base stations with a target of achieving 1000 stations by 2020. JTL says that Faiba customers can achieve up to 72 Mbps speeds. Faiba is so far available in the following areas: Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Thika.

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Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Telefonica's Vision of Open RAN from MWC 2022

Open RAN is very much work in progress at Telefonica with initial phases about to reach completion and massive deployments about to start. Maite Aparicio is Head of Open RAN and Global CTIO at Telefónica. She leads a team that drives the development of the Open RAN solution for Telefonica with the objective of ensuring that this Open RAN solution fulfils the technical and economic requirements.

At MWC, she gave a talk on Open RAN on their booth. The session covered Open RAN plans and an overview of the main technology elements that Telefónica is developing in collaboration with selected partners of the Open RAN ecosystem. 

The presentation highlighted that Telefonica expects Open RAN to play a big role in their network going forward. From their point of view, Open RAN enables new use cases, and allows new business opportunities. The removal of dependency on vendors is an added bonus. There is still work that needs to be done, as can be seen in the slide above.

The fact that Telefonica has been one of the leaders in the field has provided them with valuable insights on the challenges and concerns that must be solved before the massive adoption of Open RAN

Even though Open RAN vendors have been continuously improving their products and reaching a parity with traditional vendors, there is still room for improvement based on the learnings. 

The video of the presentation is shared below. In this Telefonica shared the main lessons learned from the initial Open RAN pilots and how they plan to progress with Open RAN going forward.

The slides are available here.

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Tuesday, 29 March 2022

3G and 4G form the Backbone for Oman's 5G and Mobile Internet Growth

For many years Oman’s mobile market was a duopoly between the incumbent telco Omantel and its challenger Ooredoo Oman. In February 2021, Vodafone Group and Oman Future Telecommunications consortium secured a license to operate the Sultanate’s third network, with services being under the Vodafone Oman brand. 

Oman has a modern mobile sector which comprises substantial coverage of both 3G and LTE networks. In February 2021 Omantel launched commercial 5G services, while Ooredoo Group has a five-year framework agreement with Ericsson to develop its 5G platform across the Group’s ten markets, including Oman. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a spike in mobile data traffic, which prompted Omantel to upgrade a number of sites from 3G to LTE, as well as build a number of additional 5G sites.

While Oman’s fixed broadband infrastructure penetration is considered low, it is being improved with the building of fibre-based networks as part of Oman’s Vision 2040 program.

Oman has also established itself as an important communications hub in the Middle East, with access to numerous submarine cables including the 2Africa submarine cable, which should become available during 2023-2024. The 9,800km Oman Australia Cable running from Muscat to Perth, with the potential for a branch line to Djibouti, is making progress and is expected to be completed in December 2021. This additional infrastructure will provide considerable additional bandwidth.

Regarding bands: 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 900 and 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE started in 2013 on 1800 MHz (B3) on Omantel and Ooredoo and is available on prepaid. Ooredoo added 800 MHz for FD-LTE (B20) and Omantel started TD-LTE on 2300 MHz (B40) too.

According to the recent Open Signal report (which only surveyed Ooredoo and Omantel), these two operators were joint winners in four out of seven categories due to statistical ties. Of the two, Ooredoo has the most outright wins, being the sole winner of both the Games Experience and 4G Availability awards, while Omantel is the outright winner of the Download Speed Experience award.


Omantel is the Sultanate’s incumbent telecoms operator and primary provider of internet in the country on landline and ADSL. It's mostly state-owned and market leader in mobile networks too. In 2018 it reached 56% of the market. It has the best coverage and speeds and most customers. It's mobile branch is also known as Oman Mobile. Its 4G/LTE reaches most populated areas.

In June 2021 Omantel and Ericsson announced the completion of a 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) proof of concept (PoC) trial that will enable the Omani operator to meet the increasing demand for high-quality connectivity as well as facilitate new use cases. When rolled out, 5G mmWave will greatly enhance the user experience at mobile broadband hotspots and home broadband (fixed wireless access [FWA]), as well as enable low-latency industry applications like Augmented Reality (AR). The trial delivered multi-gigabit speeds with eight cell carrier aggregation functionalities using Ericsson’s Streetmacro 6701 mmWave solution and advanced 5G software features. The trial used a carrier bandwidth of 800MHz at 26GHz, with 5G in Non-Standalone (NSA) mode of operation.

Omantel has also formed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the South Korean operator LG Uplus to expand its 5G offerings using edge technology. Included within the scope of the MoU is Augmented reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Multiview, Timeslice solution and any potential business cooperation opportunities on XR platforms.

Ooredeoo is the 2nd provider in the country still giving good coverage in 3G and 4G: 3G 4G coverage maps. 3G covers 90% of the population and has reached 96% coverage of the Sultanate’s population with its ‘SuperNet’ 4G/LTE mobile network in 2019.

Ooredoo from Qatar has acquired the majority of the operator which was called Nawras before and renamed it to Ooredoo in 2014. It's the no.2 slightly behind Omantel at 46% share of the market in 2018. Generally Ooredoo has lower prices than Omantel at a slightly lower coverage.

In June 2021 Nokia and Ooredoo announced the introduction of super-fast and reliable 4G and 5G fixed wireless (FWA) access throughout Oman. Work to deploy the Nokia FastMile 4G FWA solution throughout the country commenced in February 2021. The scope of work initially saw 15,000 homes and businesses connected. In addition, 3,000 homes in city centers will soon get Nokia FastMile 5G FWA.

Vodafone has become the third operator in the sultanate. Vodafone Oman launched in January 2022. Their plans include bringing a next-generation 5G network and cloud services to Oman and then, its spokesperson said, moving into ecosystems that reach far beyond telecommunications.

Local reports suggest that the government initiated the bid for a new mobile operator to improve communication services, generate fresh job opportunities for Omanis, and enhance the country’s GDP. It’s not too surprising therefore that Vodafone Oman is highlighting a focus on employing Omanis and a local partnership ecosystem across key sectors. Vodafone will provide services through 3,500 authorized distributors and a comprehensive network. 

The entry of a new player could also usher in some price competition, potentially benefiting consumers in a market where, according to some reports, internet access is seen as being high compared to other countries in the region. The country, whose population is around five million, is said to have nearly 1.2 million postpaid and 4.7 million prepaid mobile subscribers.

Vodafone received the licence to operate in Oman in 2019. Formal approval of Vodafone as the third operator was given a year ago.

Vodafone Oman also recently signed an agreement with Ericsson to deploy, operate and maintain a new 4G and 5G core and radio access (RAN) greenfield network.

Ericsson will supply a complete core network solution based on Ericsson Cloud Core, NFVI and Cloud VoLTE as well as an end-to-end transport network solution. The greenfield network includes other Ericsson Radio System products and solutions such as the antenna-integrated radio and Ericsson Spectrum Sharing. The end-to-end solution range will deliver a cost-efficient, energy-efficient, and flexible layered architecture design to support 5G from network launch. Vodafone customers will also benefit from Ericsson Voice over LTE (VoLTE) services.

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