Tuesday 27 December 2022

Tuesday 20 December 2022

The Maldives - Making Slow Progress with 5G

Due to its economy being so heavily dependent on tourism, the Maldives has suffered heavy economic as well as health casualties during the pandemic. The country had a relatively short period of lockdown and was willing to welcome visitors back as early as July 2020. But the effective shutdown of international air travel for most of the year resulted in the bottom falling out of the Maldives’ tourism industry, taking GDP down 32% in the process. The economy fared better in 2021, with a return to growth, yet it may still be a few years before the country’s key industries can return to the same level of prosperity that they previously enjoyed.

The Maldives’ telecoms market is experiencing a similar level of pain because of the pandemic, due to being overweight in the mobile segment. That is because, historically, the country’s high number of tourists and expatriate workers has inflated the penetration rate for mobile services, making it one of the highest in the world. That rate crashed in 2020 as demand for SIM cards (primarily prepaid) dried up. However, the number of contract subscribers increased as locals took advantage of competitive pricing offers from operators.

Everything now rests on a fast return to normality, with tourists helping to boost the nation’s coffers as well as buying up those prepaid SIM cards. With commercial 5G services already launched and fibre networks rapidly expanding around the country, the Maldives is primed to deliver world-class telecommunications services to its domestic and international customers.

The Maldives has two network operators: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo

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

The recent Open Signal report on mobile network experience in the Maldives, saw a tightly-fought competition between the two national operators across all the categories. Ooredoo won three awards outright, both Consistency awards and 4G Coverage Experience. In the remaining categories, including speed metrics, experiential awards and Availability, there were six statistical ties between Dhiraagu and Ooredoo, which resulted in six joint wins for both of them.

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

In August 2022 Ooredoo Maldives announced that its 5G network was now available across Greater Male. Mobile and ‘AirFibre’ home broadband customers are able to access 5G services in areas including Male, Villimale, Hulhumale and Hulhule. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Ooredoo launched commercial 5G services in select areas of Male in December 2020, targeting key business hubs, hospitals and public spaces. Ooredoo claims that average speeds of 400Mbps-600Mbps can be achieved, with peak speeds reaching above 1Gbps. At the same time, the firm introduced its AirFibre 5G fixed wireless service for home broadband customers.

Dhiraagu is the leading and the largest provider of telecommunications and digital services in the Maldives. It's mostly owned by the Batelco Group from Bahrain and the Government of the Maldives. They have linked the Maldives from north to south through a 1,253 km long fibre optic submarine cable network which supports the nation's largest 3G and 4G/LTE and fixed broadband networks. 4G/LTE started in Male on 1800 MHz (band 3) frequency band and has been expanded in 2015 to a few more islands and the 2600 MHz (band 7).

Dhiraagu was the first operator to launch the first 5G commercial service in Maldives and South Asia.

More recently they have announced the launch of their fibre broadband service in Kandoodhoo, an inhabited island of Thaa Atoll. The latest expansion brings the operator's fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) coverage to a total of 100 islands of the Maldives, representing coverage of 85% of households.

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Wednesday 7 December 2022

Indonesia Joins the Metaverse World with metaNesia

Back in August, the Indonesian government launched its own metaverse platform called MetaNesia as an effort to adapt to the fast-changing digital ecosystem. XinhuaNet reported

The virtual world, launched Sunday, is developed by state-owned telecommunications company PT Telkom Indonesia, and will be the place for Indonesia's small and medium enterprises to promote their goods on an equal footing with larger foreign businesses.

Organizations will also be able to offer crucial social services like online health consultations to more people on metaNesia, according to the State-owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir.

"Don't let our country be left behind other countries. We have to balance the changes in this ecosystem, one of the answers for this is MetaNesia," Thohir said in a written statement.

He also said that MetaNesia services include a Metaverse Mall to feature shops, service centers and entertainment, as well as a Metaverse Concert for events. Furthermore, it will also be made able to host a non-fungible tokens marketplace, virtual meetings, and sport events.

Digitimes Reported

PT Telkom Indonesia is aiming to create a platform that features many services such as Metaverse Concert for events and a Metaverse Mall with stores, services, and entertainment. Later this year, the state-owned enterprise hopes to hold a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, online meetings, and even yoga and e-sports events in the second-life world.

Gemini's latest "Global State of Crypto Report," in which 20 countries were surveyed, concludes that 41% of Indonesians aged between 18 to 75 years old with an income of more than $14,000 per year own crypto assets. In addition, 61% of Indonesian respondents agree with the notion that crypto is the future of money, Gemini said.

Indonesia's MetaNesia truly captured the spirit of Indonesian and the metaverse. Not only is it not a replacement for reality, but it also aims to improve equality, inclusivity, and accessibility.

However, PT Telkom Indonesia needs to plan carefully to really achieve this ideal world.

At Telecom Infra Project's Fyuz 22 conference, Muhamad Fajrin Rasyid, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer of Telkom Indonesia gave a talk on metaNesia. His talk is embedded below:

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Friday 2 December 2022

Zimbabweans Still Struggle With Mobile Internet on 3G

Zimbabwe’s mobile operators continue to be affected by the country’s poor economy. This has been exacerbated by the significant economic difficulties related to the pandemic. Revenue has also been under pressure from a number of recent regulatory measures and additional taxes imposed by the cash-strapped government. Inflation has become so high that year-on-year revenue comparisons since 2019 have been difficult to assess meaningfully.

The three MNOs Econet Wireless, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe continue to invest in network upgrades, partly supported by government efforts and cash released from the Universal Service Fund. As a result of these investments, LTE networks have expanded steadily, though services remain concentrated in urban areas.

International bandwidth has improved since fibre links to several submarine cables were established via neighbouring countries. The expansion of 3G and LTE-based mobile broadband services has meant that most of the population has access to the internet. The government has started a national broadband scheme aimed at delivering a 1Mb/s service nationally by 2030. Investment in fixed broadband infrastructure has also resulted in a slow but steady growth in the number of DSL connections, and also fibre subscriptions. During 2021, most growth in the fixed broadband segment has been with fibre connections.

Econet is the market leader in Zimbabwe with over 12.4 million connected customers they have invested millions of US dollars in deploying the widest and most robust 2G, 3G,4G and now 5G networks in the country.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has teamed up with Ericsson to launch 5G services in Harare. The Swedish vendor is providing RAN and 5G evolved packet core equipment, while also providing a Network Functions Virtualisation Infrastructure (NFVI) platform to ensure a smooth upgrade from 3G and 4G technologies. Econet plans to deploy 22 5G base stations during 2022.

NetOne is the 2nd provider in Zimbabwe by user numbers, but they started even before Econet. The state-owned company is co-managed with TelOne, the national landline operator.

In 2021 they announced they were looking to deploy more than 260 new base stations under the third phase of its mobile broadband expansion project, with a focus on rural areas. A report from The Herald quotes Deputy ICT Minister Dingumuzi Phuti as saying that NetOne had already upgraded 75 base stations from 2G to 3G and a further 60 to 4G. The government has also revealed that the operator is expecting to install the country’s first 5G equipment as part of its network expansion. The project is expected to increase the operator’s population coverage from about 75% to 85%, though a completion date has not been given.  NetOne was also working with Huawei on the USD71 million rollout, which is described as a ‘strategic cooperation between China and Zimbabwe’. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, NetOne is the second largest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile network operators (MNOs), with around 3.75 million subscribers and a 29% share of the market at the end of June 2021.

Telecel is the smallest operator in Zimbabwe. It is expected to be placed under corporate rescue, a form of bankruptcy protection, due to ‘serious financial distress’. According to a report from The Herald, David Mhambare, the secretary general of the Communication and Allied Service Workers Union of Zimbabwe, is cited in a high court application as saying: ‘The … conditions indicate the existence of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue operating as a going concern. If the solvency position of Telecel does not receive prime attention, it will inevitably go under liquidation.’ At 31 December 2021 Telecel’s liabilities outweighed its assets by a factor of sixteen to one.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Telecel, by far the smallest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile service providers, has been struggling financially and facing a declining subscription base for some time.

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