Monday, 18 September 2023

Lack of 4G Coverage, Low Data Rates and High-Costs is Impacting Equatorial Guinea Web Experience

Equatorial Guinea is located on the West coast of Africa with about 1.7 million inhabitants. It is a different country to Guinea (aka Guinea-Conakry) or Guinea-Bissau.

Two GSM-based networks are operating in Equatorial Guinea :Getesa (formerly: Orange, Getesa-Orange) and Muni.

There is also a CDMA-based provider that is not compatible with usual GSM-devices called Gecomsa.

Mobile phone adaption was rather slow in this country, but they now have more than 800,000 mobile connections. 2G and 3G are available on 900 MHz and 1800 MHz. 

Equatorial Guinea is next to the ocean, which means it is connected to several submarine cables. This is essential to know because most landlocked African countries have slow speeds and bad connections because the country has to rely on neighbouring countries for fibre bandwidth.

The issue is that there is massive inequality in terms of internet access in Equatorial Guinea. Although internet services are widespread throughout the country, the quality of service is lacking due to the lack of proper broadband infrastructure. A country can have access to multiple submarine cables. However, if the domestic internet infrastructure is lacking, then the locals cannot take advantage of the connection.

According to a study done by, the mean download speed in Equatorial Guinea is less than 1 Mbps. In other words, it would take more than 22 hours to download a 5 GB file. This study focused on broadband speeds. Mobile speeds are often slower than broadband speeds, so one should not expect fast speeds in Equatorial Guinea.

The Getesa network was called Orange until 2018. The French operator left the country in a long legal dispute 2014-18.

Equatorial Guinea’s government lost a Paris Court of Appeal case against a fine imposed in 2014 by the International Court of Arbitration for reneging on a 2011 agreement to buy Orange’s Getesa 40% stake in the event of a new entrant launching (a clause it failed to honour after the 2012 launch of majority state-owned cellco Gecomsa). In October 2016 the government finally agreed to pay a total amount of EUR 150 million including interest to Orange.

Orange was soon rebranded first to Getesa-Orange and in 2018 to Getesa, that is now fully state-owned. It's still considered the best operator in the country.

Getesa switched on its 4G LTE smartphone network in January 2021. The operator encouraged users to ‘Use your 4G to stay connected with your family, friends, clients and with the whole world’, following its initial post announcing 4G’s availability on 24 December 2020, which stated: ‘4G arrives at Getesa’ alongside a picture of a smartphone user. 4G coverage or other details were not provided.

 TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Getesa had previously claimed that it would be able to launch 4G in main cities by end-2019 supported by fibre backhaul/backbone availability, having held a demo of LTE technology in May that year, but a launch took a further year to materialise, whilst in the meantime Getesa repeatedly claimed in its marketing that its 3G network offered faster data speeds than some 4G operators.

Muni is the only private competitor to the state-owned networks. It's no.2 behind Getesa with a lower coverage/speed. Muni launched 4G LTE services in Equatorial Guinea in June 2019, although initially aimed at home internet modem users rather than mobile phone subscribers.

Gecomsa is another state-owned provider however its CDMA-only which is not compatible with usual GSM devices and hence not suitable for travellers. It started in 2012 as joint venture between the Guinea government and the state-owned ZTE manufacturer from China. Gecomsa also introduced LTE technology in December 2020 but strictly for fixed residential/office broadband services (initially covering Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo and adjacent districts.

The Equatorial Guinea government and operators signed an agreement to slash telecom tariff prices by 50% on May 1 2022, as the government looks to permanently reduce sky-high prices in the country. 

Equatorial Guinea is widely known for having the highest prices for connectivity globally. The 2021 study from also found that 1GB of data in Equatorial Guinea cost around US$46.97.

The nation’s vice president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue stressed the discount is temporary and will continue as a permanent structure to pricing is agreed upon, reported Ecofin Agency. 

Operators that do not comply with the slashing of prices will lose their telecom licenses, warned Mangue.

Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Belize Mobile Operators Have Many Challenges and No Plans for 5G

One of the smaller countries in Central America, Belize in many respects has closer ties to English speaking countries of the Caribbean than with its immediate neighbours. Prior to independence, Belize had been a British colony since 1862, only changing its name to Belize from British Honduras in 1973.

In Belize, the telecommunications market is predominantly served by two major mobile operators: Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) is a government-owned telecommunications company that provides mobile, landline, and internet services and operates as Digi (formerly DigiCell). It has a significant market share and has invested in expanding its infrastructure and services. The second operator is SpeedNet Communications operating under the brand "Smart," is the primary competitor to BTL. It offers mobile and internet services, providing consumers with choices in the market.

GSM users don't have much choice as the only GSM-based operator in the country used to be Digi (DigiCell). 2G/EDGE is on 1900 MHz and 3G/HSPA which is still marketed as "4G" is on 850 MHz. Real 4G/LTE started in 2016 on Digi and Smart! on the 700 (B13) and 1900 (B2) MHz bands. Smart! has become an alternative soon as it's moved from CDMA to 3G on 850 MHz.

Belize’s fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration remain lower than average for the region, a legacy of insufficient market competition and underinvestment in telecoms services, exacerbated by lax managerial standards within the incumbent operator Digi. 

However, Digi has recently adopted a reforming strategy, partly expressed by its rebranding in August 2018 as it aims to transform itself at all levels into an effectively competitive operator more commercially minded and focussed on cheaper pricing and customer retention. The company has undertaken significant investment in infrastructure, launching an LTE-A service at the end of 2016 and in mid-2017 completing a submarine cable to Ambergris Caye, enabling it to launch an FttP service in San Pedro. Loans secured since 2017 enabled the company to migrate its infrastructure from legacy copper to fibre. BTL invested BZ$93 million dollars to provide high speed broadband to 80% of residences across Belize.

Digi has provided fresh details regarding its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) rollout in its published 2021-22 Annual Report

The FTTH infrastructure now passes 90% of Belizean homes, after being extended to an additional 1,200 homes in Corozal Free Zone, Central Farm, Consejo Shores, Spanish Lookout, San Pedro South and Caye Caulker North. In terms of mobile upgrades, new 4G cell sites were deployed on Coco Plum Island and Manta Island in Southern Belize and the telco now operates ‘over 150 mobile sites’.

As of 31 March 2022 BTL claimed 204,000 mobile subscriptions (up from 194,000 year-on-year), 31,000 fixed broadband subscriptions (unchanged y-o-y) and 13,500 fixed voice lines (down from 15,700).

Smart launched the first LTE network in Belize in December 2015 over the B13 (700 MHz) band. Recognising the eventual deprecation of CDMA based networks and after years of delays, the company launched its 3G UMTS network in June 2017 over the B5 (850 MHz) band. 4G/LTE is on Band 13 / 700 MHz.

Smart now claims to operate the largest, fastest network in Belize, providing mobile, home and Internet service to over 100,000 customers.

The operators in Belize face several challenges for example: limited infrastructure, Belize's geography, with dense forests and low population density, poses challenges for building and maintaining a robust telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural areas. Also the cost of service, Belizean consumers often grapple with high mobile service costs, including data charges. Balancing affordability with quality service remains a challenge for mobile operators.

A modern 5G network does not yet exist in Belize. The penetration rate of 4G, i.e., mobile communications with at least LTE speed, was recently 70 percent. In other words, 121,581.60 people in the country had to make do with a maximum Internet speed of the outdated UMTS standard (or even less).

A great deal more investment, collaboration, and a focus on meeting the evolving needs of consumers, However, with investment, collaboration, and a focus on meeting the evolving needs of consumers by Belize's mobile operators is needed to further improve and develop the mobile landscape. 

Thursday, 31 August 2023

United Arab Emirates has a Fantastic 5G Experience but Coverage Needs to Improve

The UAE has a strong mobile market, dominated by Etisalat and du. Both are majority-owned by the government. In a bid to attract additional foreign investment, it was resolved in early 2021 that the stake held by foreigners in the two companies could be increased.

The U.A.E. was the fastest 5G market globally in Q2 2023 according to Ookla's Speedtest Intelligence data, with growing competition between the nation’s two network operators helping to drive overall performance in the market to reach a median download speed of 557.63 Mbps. etisalat by e& was the fastest 5G operator globally with a median download speed of 680.73 Mbps.

Etisalat and du have deployed LTE networks providing national coverage, while the 5G penetration rate is the second highest globally after China. This has underpinned growth in the mobile broadband sector, and has enabled the strong development in the take-up of rich content and applications, as well as m-commerce. To help increase the capacity of 5G networks in coming years, and so keep up with data demand, the government has allowed for the GSM networks to be closed down and for spectrum and other assets to be re-purposed for 5G by the end of 2022.

According to the most recent Open Signal report  Etisalat remains top for award hauls. The operator takes home the greatest number of award wins, with nine outright victories and one shared win, a change from the last report when it was the sole victor in seven categories and shared first place with du in a further four. Du manages a respectable six first place finishes, five outright wins and its shared win with Etisalat for 5G Voice App Experience.

There has been a lot of focus on 5G in the United Arab Emirates, with both operators announcing partnerships with equipment vendors in February 2023. Du has partnered with Huawei to develop 5.5G (or 5G-Advanced) technology. They are expecting it to offer greatly improved data speeds, lower latency and increased energy efficiency. Not to be outdone, Etisalat has chosen Nokia to upgrade its existing 5G network, with the vendor providing services for replacing existing equipment and implementing automated transport slicing. Along with this, in late February 2023 Etisalat launched its commercial 5G standalone access (SA) network. The operator expects that the SA network will offer enhanced performance for business and residential customers

Both Emirati national operators have turned their attention to satellite connectivity, with du demonstrating what it claims to be the first satellite-enabled 5G backhaul in the Middle East, using SES's satellites in January 2023. Since then, Etisalat announced that it has launched a 5G satellite solution, partnered with Eutelsat. Using satellite technology would bring access to remote areas with low terrestrial connectivity, and it will be interesting to see how these technologies develop.

The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced the completion of the second phase of testing of 5G-Advanced services in the 6GHz band. The regulator is working with local service providers Etisalat and Du on the trial, with the aim of achieving 10Gbps download speeds using 400MHz of spectrum in the 6GHz range. The TDRA’s director general, Majed Sultan al-Mesmar, commented: 
‘The exponential number of internet users, and the scientific advances witnessed by the world today, require new speeds to accommodate the increasing load on networks and keep up with the high specifications of emerging technologies on the world stage such as metaverse applications, to name a few. Having attained a speed of 10Gbps … this new, globally unprecedented speed will lead to faster data transfer, ushering in a new era of high-quality streaming and seamless cloud services. The trial will also enhance the IoT by providing the infrastructure necessary to simultaneously handle multiple connected devices, while ensuring seamless and reliable connectivity.’

Meanwhile in May 2023 Du completed a successful demonstration of 5G Voice over New Radio (VoNR) technology to showcase its 5G Standalone (SA) capabilities. The trial was carried out in conjunction with equipment partners Huawei and Nokia.

Saleem AlBlooshi, Chief Technology Officer at Du, said: 
‘The successful demonstration of 5G network VoNR capabilities represents a significant milestone at a time when the digital sector is entering a new era. It enables unprecedented simultaneous voice and data transmissions and provides incredibly rapid connectivity transmission rates.’

Du claimed eight million mobile subscriptions and 559,000 fixed broadband subscriptions at the end of June 2023, up 8.0% and 18.3% year-on-year, respectively.

While 5G speeds, rollout and adoption increasing rapidly, according to OpenSignal, 5G availability is still low for both the operators and has a lot of scope for improvements. With the rapid rate of deployment, this number is surely bound to go up in the coming years.

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Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Bulgaria Enjoys a Fantastic 5G Experience

Bulgaria’s telecom market was for some years affected by the difficult macroeconomic climate, as well as by relatively high unemployment and a shrinking population. These factors continue to hobble investment in the sector, though revenue growth has returned since 2019. There still remains pressure on revenue growth, however, with consumers migrating from fixed-line voice telephony to mobile and VoIP alternatives, while the volume of SMS and MMS traffic has been affected by the growing use of alternative OTT messaging services.

The mature mobile market has effective competition between A1 Bulgaria, Yettel (branded as Telenor Bulgaria before March 2022, the Telenor Group’s local unit that had been sold to the PPF Group in August 2018), and the incumbent operator Vivacom. Competition intensified following the implementation of a streamlined mobile number portability process. In addition, customer preference for bundled services has put pressure on pricing and encouraged operators to offer generous voice and data packages. This in turn has impacted on operator revenue.

Vivacom was sold to United Group in April 2020, following European Commission approval. The company is investing in network upgrades and its development of services based on 5G have stimulated other market players to invest in their own service provision. A1 Bulgaria and Vivacom both launched commercial 5G services in 2020.

All three operators have a good 2G and 3G coverage over 95% of the country. 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz like in most of Europe. 4G/LTE is supported by all operators on 1800 MHz (B3) only, added now by 2100 MHz (B1) and 900 MHz (B8).

According to the most recent Open Signal report  A1 wins 12 awards out of a possible 13 — nine shared victories and three outright wins. A1 notably comes at least joint first in every single award category for overall and 5G experience, winning three speed awards outright (Download Speed Experience, 5G Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed), and shares Consistent Quality with Yettel.

A1 reported on its website that it has completed the integration of a Standalone (SA) 5G network consisting of a Nokia-supplied Radio Access Network (RAN) and Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core backbone network, with the latter vendor taking a lead role in the integration project. Todor Tashev, Network & Services Senior Director at A1 Bulgaria, confirmed that 5G SA solutions are now available for B2B customers, who can ‘take advantage of the new technology to automate processes and solve complex problems’. The operator also highlighted the development of Private 5G SA network services as a key element of the Industry 4.0 concept, alongside massive machine-to-machine/IoT connectivity and ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) supported by 5G SA’s near-real-time transmission.

Vivacom  claim to own the best developed network in Bulgaria. They are the only telecom operator in the country that provides converged solutions through terrestrial, copper and satellite infrastructure, a mobile network and public Internet. They maintain the only networked international networking center in Bulgaria, the network management center and the largest real-time data storage and booking center. Vivacom owns its own infrastructure, which includes: a 5G network, they launched the first Bulgaria 5G network in all 27 district centers of the country in September, 2020. The fifth-generation network provides higher speed, lower latency, and more connected devices, which is an important condition for the development of areas such as telemedicine, digital education, gaming, automated production, and others.  According to the most recent Open Signal Report  Vivacom was the outright winner for 5G availability. 

Yettel  has over 3 million subscribers in Bulgaria, they believe in putting the customer first, Yettel's mission is clear: to help people achieve balance in life. During its 20-year history in the Bulgarian market, the company (operating until March 2022 under Telenor brand) has built a strong reputation as a pioneer in the field of wireless networks and beyond, launching the first commercial 4G network in Bulgaria in 2015, the first VoLTE service in 2018 and paving the way for the development of 5G with the first test of a 5G network in the country.

Monday, 31 July 2023

Over 21 Trillion KPIs per Week

Earlier this year in May, Thomas Hodi, Senior RAN Expert & AI Product Owner, A1 Telekom Austria, while speaking in FutureNet World conference highlighted 

At FutureNet World conference earlier in May this year, Thomas Hodi, Senior RAN Expert & AI Product Owner at A1 Telekom Austria explained the KPIs challenges faced by operators. Austria, which is one third the size of UK, roughly has around 7,000 mobile base stations. Since A1 operates in different countries, they have roughly 50,000 mobile base stations. 

Each base station generates roughly 3,000 KPIs/hour. This means that the 50k base stations will generate three billion, six hundred million KPIs per day. Adding the KPIs for hundred million subscribers results in a massive 21 Trillion, 25 Billion, 200 Million KPIs per week. This is a massive number that provides an insight into one of the challenges faced by the operators. 

While the talk by Thomas is not available, you may be interested in the Panel on 2Autonomous Operations – Enabling the future of the telco industry?", available here.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2023

5G Coverage in Portugal has Increased Significantly

Portugal has a well-developed mobile network. Population coverage by 3G infrastructure is universal, much of the country have access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity. This includes the island communities of Madeira and the Azores. Furthermore, 5G is increasingly available in Portugal, although for now, this is limited to the largest cities.   

Despite its relatively small size, the Portuguese mobile phone market is an increasingly competitive place. There are three network operators to choose from: MEO, Vodafone, and NOS. 

When it comes to subscribers, MEO leads the way with around 42% of the market share. Operated by the former state-controlled Altice Portugal, MEO has historically been dominant in the Portuguese market. However, other operators, such as Vodafone (30%) and NOS (24%), are closing the gap.

In the most recent Open Signal report all three operators performed very well, although NOS did best with three outright wins (Download Speed Experience, Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality) and 11 shared victories. 

Market leader MEO  owned by Altice Portugal launched its 5G network on January 1 2022. 5G is now available in all district capitals. The operator also says its 4G network now covers 99.7% of Portugal’s population. 

Earlier this year the National Communications Authority (Anacom) imposed a fine of 2.5 million euros on MEO, Altice Portugal, for "violation of the rules applicable to the termination of contracts".

NOS is the smallest operator in terms of subscribers but is quickly gaining ground due to its excellent coverage and services. 

As of April 2023 their 5G network covered 88% of the population, with 3,441 base stations reinforcing its market leadership in the technology.

Vodafone  the second largest operator acquired Nowo which had been the fourth operator  in Portugal, last year. Vodafone also recently signed European solar power purchase agreements with Iberdrola to deliver clean energy for Vodafone customers in Germany, Portugal and Spain. For Vodafone Portugal, the power purchase agreements (PPA) will provide the energy from the newly built Velilla solar photovoltaic (PV) plant located in Palencia, Spain.

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Tuesday, 4 July 2023

Operators in Kyrgyzstan Cautiously Test 5G!

The Kyrgyz Republic, known as Kyrgyzstan, has the highest levels of mobile penetration across Central Asian (CA) countries — 159.9% with 2.94 SIMs per unique mobile subscriber, according to GSMA Intelligence. Despite being the second poorest country across CA, Kyrgyzstan came first regarding 4G Availability (the proportion of users of 4G-capable devices who spend most of their time on 4G networks). The National Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic 2018-2040 is one initiative that facilitates digital transformation to hasten the country’s economic development. The State Communications Agency (SCA) stated in its annual report for 2021 that a total of 2,049 settlements across the country were covered by 4G LTE mobile networks at the end of 2021, equivalent to 96% of the country’s 2,130 officially registered cities, towns and villages. 2G mobile network technology extended to 2,088 locations (98%), while 3G networks were present in 2,081 (97%). Overall, 42 settlements (1.9%) were outside mobile network coverage, some due to a lack of power transmission lines.

Beeline Kyrgyzstan, Megacom,  and O! (Kyrgyztelecom) are the major mobile operators in the country. Megacom Kyrgyzstan, run by the state-owned Alfa-Telecom has started its rebranding campaign to MEGA following Megacom ownership transfer to the state-owned Kyrgyzstan State Development Bank. The operator announced that it expanded and upgraded its 2G, 3G, and 4G networks in seven regions and the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic. It plans to continue network coverage expansion across remote areas of Kyrgyzstan.

MEGA currently claims roughly three million mobile subscriptions, and its CEO Nurlan Mamytov stated that its strategic goals for 2023 include expanding the active user base, deploying at least 200 additional base stations in twelve months, upgrading network quality and data/internet speed, modernising existing technical infrastructure, further expanding the distribution/sales network, developing fintech services, and ‘creating favourable conditions for attracting large investments’.

In April of this year Mega launched Kyrgyzstan’s first VoLTE calling service. The IP-based 4G mobile voice service is available to compatible handset owners in all areas covered by MEGA’s LTE network, its press release claimed. VoLTE calls are provided at no extra charge to the user, with the cellco highlighting the technology’s benefits including fast call set-up time, high-definition sound quality and simultaneous high speed 4G mobile internet/voice connections.

Beeline is the biggest competitor of MegaCom in the country. They recently announced plans to leverage its parent group VEON’s partnership with satellite provider OneWeb to ‘become the first mobile operator in Kyrgyzstan capable of providing continuous communication and high speed internet to the most remote areas of the country, even those areas that have not had access to the network until now.’ Beeline said that the partnership with OneWeb will enable the elimination of digital inequality, ensure continuous communication in emergency situations ‘and increase the rate of economic growth of the population’ using high speed, low-latency satellite internet connectivity.

O! by Nur Telecom is the smallest of the three operators. Starting in Bishkek, Osh and Jalal-Abad, it offers 4G/LTE on 800 and 2600 MHz (B7 and 20). This has now spread to the country side and 97% of the population are covered in 2020 by LTE.

O! reported in August 2022 that they had conducted measurements of 5G data speed ‘which for the first time in Kyrgyzstan accelerated to 1.5Gbps.’ The company’s technical director Anton Kovalenko noted that ‘the launch of 5G into commercial operation is not far off, but it is too early to talk about a mass commercial launch, the transition will be phased.’ He added: ‘If [customers] are looking for a new smartphone, then in my opinion, it already makes sense to turn your attention to devices with support for the latest technology.’

5G in Kyrgyzstan is being tested in the n77 and n78 (3400MHz-3800MHz) frequency ranges, and will initially be integrated with existing 4G networks. O! expects its eventual 5G network to provide data speeds around ‘ten times faster than 4G’ with ‘average speed of 150Mbps-200Mbps.’

The mobile telecommunications sector in Kyrgyzstan is experiencing a dynamic phase with continuous efforts to improve network coverage, enhance service quality, and offer competitive pricing, mobile operators are striving to provide residents and visitors with an excellent mobile experience. As the industry evolves, customers can expect more advanced services, increased connectivity, and a vibrant mobile ecosystem in Kyrgyzstan.

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Wednesday, 14 June 2023

Everything is Hunky-Dory in Austria as 5G Rollouts Gather Momentum

Austria has a highly developed telecommunications market, with a wide range of mobile operators offering services to consumers. The market is dominated by three major operators: A1 Telekom Austria, T-Mobile Austria, and Hutchison Drei Austria. These three companies provide the majority of mobile services to consumers in Austria. 

In common with other countries in the region, the operators as well as the government and regulator have focused on delivering improved telecom infrastructure. The government has a program to provide a national gigabit service by 2030, delivered by private enterprise though with some state funding. This is based on fibre networks supported by 5G, with the MNOs able to expand the reach of their 5G services following auctions held in March 2019 and September 2020. More recently, a plan has also been developed through to 2026 which would release additional spectrum in several bands to help increase network the capacity, and so improve the quality of services offered.

According to the most recent Open Signal report on Austria it was a two-horse race in the award table in Austria, with A1 and Magenta winning 10 and nine awards, respectively. A1 claims five awards outright — both overall speed and both consistency awards, along with Video Experience. Magenta is the sole winner of Games Experience, Voice App Experience, 5G Upload Speed and Availability — while operators jointly win the remaining five awards. 

The results in this report were based on measurements collected across all major mobile operators in Austria – 3, A1 and Magenta – over the period of 90 days between June 1, 2022 and August 29, 2022.

A1 has announced that they will shut off their 3G network on band 1 (2100 MHz) from Februrary 2023 (starting in Carinthia and Salzburg). The band 1 spectrum will be refarmed for 5G (going from 20 to 25 MHz of 5G on n1). The 3G network on band 1 (2100 MHz) and band 8 (900 MHz) will be shut off until the end of 2024. Drei has not made any indication yet about a 3G shutdown. A1 and Magenta agree that 2G will not be going anywhere any time soon.

A1 Telekom Austria is the market leader in Austria. The company was formed in 2010, following the merger of A1 Telekom Austria and mobilkom Austria. The company offers a wide range of mobile services, including voice, SMS, and data services, and has invested heavily in 5G infrastructure. A1 Telekom Austria also offers fixed-line services, including broadband and IPTV.

 4G/LTE is available on band 20 (800 MHz) nationwide, band 3 (1800 MHz) in smaller and bigger cities as well as band 7 (2600 MHz) in bigger cities, covering 98% of the population. 4G+/LTE-A carrier aggregation is available on cell sites which broadcast multiple 4G/LTE bands. 

In July 2021 A1 Telekom Austria has announced that its total number of 5G transmitters has increased to 2,000 across the country. The firm’s 5G network now covers almost 50% of the population across the country, including 80% of the capital Vienna.

According to Open Signal A1 has developed an end-to-end 5G network slicing proof of concept with Amdocs, which demonstrated management of 5G network slices and virtualized applications over public/private cloud and edge, along with its monetization potential. 

Magenta Telekom, which was formed in 2019 from the merger of mobile operator T-Mobile Austria and cableco UPC Austria is the second-largest mobile operator in Austria. The operator offers a range of mobile services to consumers, including voice, SMS, and data services. They have also invested heavily in 5G infrastructure, with a focus on providing high-speed data services to its customers.

Magenta has recently upgraded fixed broadband speeds for more than 500,000 existing customers. Through the upgrade, customers on low download rate plans will now be able to access speeds of 100Mbps, which has become the operator’s new entry-level plan, while other upgrades include from 100Mbps and 125Mbps to 150Mbps, from 150Mbps to 250Mbps and from 250Mbps to 300Mbps. The speed upgrade is being carried out on the firm’s HFC network and is at no additional cost for customers.

The operator has enabled 5G access across all of its smartphone tariffs and intended to expand its 5G coverage to 55% of Austrians by the end of 2022 — while also planning to switch off its 3G services from the beginning of 2024.

Hutchison Drei Austria is the third-largest mobile operator in Austria, with a market share of around 24%. The company was formed in 2013, following the merger of Hutchison 3G Austria and Orange Austria. Hutchison Drei Austria offers a range of mobile services to consumers, including voice, SMS, and data services, and has invested heavily in 5G infrastructure. The company also offers fixed-line services, including broadband and IPTV.

Hutchison Drei Austria has announced the commercial launch of 5G Standalone (5G SA) services under the name ‘5G+’. The offering has been made available for 1.3 million homes and businesses across the country, and all of the firm’s existing 5G transmission sites have been activated for 5G+.

Drei has worked with Qualcomm and ZTE to showcase a 5G Standalone network using the 700 MHz band and aggregating a 1400 MHz supplemental downlink band. According to the involved parties, this development will help to improve 5G download speed and coverage in suburban and rural areas. Enhancing 5G experience in Austrian rural areas is important, as there is a notable 5G rural-urban divide in Austria, as recent research has demonstrated.

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Thursday, 8 June 2023

Low Cost Bit Factory as Foundation for Axiata's Telco to Techco Evolution

Last year, Thomas Hundt, chief strategy and technology officer at Axiata Group, outlined the company’s efforts to reduce operating costs, as it grapples with the challenge of managing rising capex at Huawei eMBB Forum in Bangkok. Axiata is one of the largest operator groups in Asia, with 163 million customers in 11 countries including Malaysia and Indonesia. MWL reported:

Hundt insisted operators can better handle the “capex tsunami” by collaborating and sharing infrastructure and offloading tower assets.

He highlighted Axiata’s aim to become a platform company which requires building new technical capabilities. “We are very much engaged in transforming our IT” to improve efficiency.

As data demand grows exponentially, ARPU has been relatively flat and even declining, with sub-$2 ARPU in some of its markets, he said.

The price of a 1GB of data has fallen significantly every year since 2020, but at the same time the yield is declining. “At the end of the day, the yield and the costs are not giving us a fantastic data margin, which we have to address through structural transformation.”

While Axiata has not launched commercial 5G services in markets in Asia, he said it is preparing for rollouts, adding in the next year it aims “to unlock the power of 5G”.

As you will notice from the image on the top, Axiata has set itself a target of driving the bit production cost down to 10 cents per Gigabyte. This will only be possible is they utilise the collective brain of all OpCo leaders coming together to make Group-wide decisions, OpCo resources taking on Group targets, and OpCo resources involved in end-to-end execution. 

The group is go through a number of activities to be able to achieve this very challenging target of USD 0.10/GB. These include:

  • Value-Based Planning
  • 3G Shutdown
  • Moving to Open RAN and Open Networks
  • Spectrum Optimization
  • Improving VoLTE Maturity
  • Transitioning to NFV/SDN/Distributed Network Architecture
  • Harmonization of procurement across the group
  • Squeeze hardware efficiency through software
  • Lean/Autonomous Operations
  • Network De-risking

You can watch the presentation embedded below:

Axiata is in process of evolving from a traditional CSP towards being both a platform play and a digital CSP (DSP).

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Friday, 2 June 2023

Strategic Investments in 4G Networks have set High Expectations for 5G in The Channel Islands

There are three island territories within the British Isles that are known as Crown Dependencies; these are the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey which make up Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. The Crown Dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom, but are self-governing possessions of the British Crown.

The Channel Islands, located in the English Channel between the UK and France, are a popular tourist destination and a hub for offshore finance. While they may be small in size, the Channel Islands have a thriving mobile market, with a range of operators offering services to locals and visitors alike.

The state of mobile operators in the Channel Islands is generally strong, with reliable coverage and high-speed data services available to residents and visitors. The two main mobile operators are Sure and JT. Both companies offer a range of voice, text, and data services, as well as a variety of plans and packages to suit different needs and budgets. Both Sure and JT, have invested heavily in their network infrastructure and are constantly improving their services to meet the needs of their customers.

Sure, owned by the Batelco Group, offers 2G, 3G, and 4G services across both Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey) and the Isle of Man. They have invested heavily in their network infrastructure to ensure reliable coverage and high speeds. Their 4G mobile network was found to be the fastest for data downloads in both Guernsey and Jersey and averaged more than twice as fast as the other operators in both islands.

JT, previously owned by the Jersey government is now privatized, they also offer 2G, 3G, and 4G services across both Jersey and Guernsey. 

JT has also invested heavily in its network infrastructure and has worked to expand its coverage and improve its services. The company has a reputation for offering competitive pricing and excellent customer service, which has helped it to maintain a significant market share despite the competition from larger operators like Sure.

Airtel-Vodafone is the third mobile phone provider in Jersey and Guernsey and a partnership between Bharti Airtel of India and Vodafone UK. Their coverage is on par with their competitors. 4G/LTE has been started and covers most of the islands now.

Founded in 2007, Airtel-Vodafone claims to have a subscriber base of over 45,000. However Sure are due to acquire Airtel-Vodafone. The acquisition is tipped to bring investment to the Channel Islands, according to Sure's parent company, Bahrain-based telco Batelco. In a press release regarding the matter, Batelco claimed that the merger of the operators would ‘trigger significant investment in the Islands’ digital infrastructure including the introduction of the latest 5G technology to the islands, resulting in the delivery of innovative mobile networks on an accelerated program to provide high-speed gigabit technology’.

As of April 2023 letters have been sent to Ofcom by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority (JCRA) it recommended that each operator be allocated 2×10MHz of 700MHz spectrum, as well as a contiguous 40MHz block in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band. Notably, frequencies in the latter band are expected to be increased incrementally over the duration of the licence to eventually reach 100MHz, subject to a number of factors, including: effective defragmentation of spectrum in the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz range; a 5G service launch within a defined period of Ofcom awarding a spectrum licence and rollout of a minimum stated number of 5G equipped base stations; and demonstrable evidence presented that spectrum already awarded is being efficiently used.

With regards to the JCRA’s specific frequency recommendations, meanwhile, it has suggested that JT be allocated the following spectrum blocks: 713MHz-723MHz/768MHz-778MHz and 3.52GHz-3.56GHz. For Sure, meanwhile, the recommendation is that the operator is awarded the following spectrum blocks: 723MHz-733MHz/778MHz-788MHz and 3.67GHz-3.71GHz.

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Uzbekistan is Toying with 5G

The mobile market dominates Uzbekistan’s telecoms sector in terms of penetration, revenue, and growth. There are four major operators providing a modicum of competition; three of the four are government-owned entities although private operator Beeline Uzbekistan has been able to capture up to a third of the market. The last two Covid-affected years have proved challenging for Beeline, in particular, but its most recent operating results suggest a turnaround in the company’s fortunes is under way. Overall, the mobile market is expected to reach 100% penetration in 2023 – a 50% increase in the last five years.

At the end of 2020, Uzbekistan embarked on a “Digital Uzbekistan 2030” strategy to stimulate the country’s digital transformation across various industries. To achieve this, Uzbekistan is expanding its telecommunication infrastructure to improve communication quality and close the urban-rural divide (50% of the population lives in rural areas) by inking several partnerships. VEON, Beeline Uzbekistan’s parent company, announced in May 2022 that it would invest $250 million over the next five years to develop the communications infrastructure and ecosystem of digital services in Uzbekistan to support Digital Uzbekistan 2030.

Andrzej Malinowski, the CEO of Beeline Uzbekistan, acknowledges that “there is a clear understanding that (mobile) is a driver of the economy and the best way to further improve education level within the country. We want to enable remote education and build an education platform as a social project, make it zero-rated and available to all”.

VEON also announced it would advise and provide digitalization services to the Uzbek government during the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In September 2022, state-backed Uzbektelecom signed eight contracts with Huawei and ZTE worth $506.8 million. The deal, backed by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MITC), to implement a telecommunication network and infrastructure across the western and eastern regions of the country in two phases to deliver expanded population coverage and QoS. Furthermore, Uzbektelecom has also signed a contract with four Japanese companies — NTT, NEC, Toyota Tsusho, and Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) — to deploy a telecommunications infrastructure development project to provide data center and telecommunication infrastructure to enable “Digital Uzbekistan 2030”.

Uzbekistan's 4 national GSM-based network operators are: Mobiuz (formerly UMS), Beeline, Ucell and Uztelecom (Uzmobile).

2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE has started on 2600 MHz (B7) on Ucell and Beeline on 850 MHz (B5, B18) with additional 700 MHz on Ucell, 800 MHz (B20) on, 1800 MHz (B1) on Uztelecom and with EVO using TDD-LTE on 2300 MHz (B40) dubbed as "Super iMAX". For many years Uzbekistan has been struggling to bring its telecommunications system up to the standard found in developed countries. Over the last two decades the situation has been gradually transforming, but coverage and speeds are still quite low outside the major population centers. 

Uzbekistan’s state operator Mobiuz has embarked on a wide-reaching modernisation of its network in order to boost capacity and quality of service.

Mobiuz has begun offering 5G services in areas of Tashkent. All Mobiuz subscribers with 5G-capable devices can activate the service to access data speeds of “up to 300Mbps” free of charge. In addition, the operator has introduced a new 5G tariff priced at a monthly rate of UZS75,000 (US$6.80) that it claims can deliver speeds as high as 1Gbps. Mobiuz has also claimed that 5G users will experience substantial latency improvements.

The network is currently powered by eight 5G base stations located around the city. Mobiuz has received a soft loan of US$150 million from the Chinese state in August 2019 to help the operator invest in its network up until 2023 – including substantial equipment overhauls, nationwide 3G & 4G coverage expansion, internet upgrade and the implementation of 5G - all using equipment provided by Huawei.

The operator also has16 5G base stations operational in test mode in the city of Samarkand. In Samarkand, Mobiuz’s 5G base stations were initially installed at the ‘Silk Road Samarkand’ tourism centre, in central districts of the city, at the main railway station and at the Mobiuz Service Centre.


Beeline is the second provider in the country. It's controlled by Russian-backed Veon (formely VimpelCom). 

Recently Beeline network has launched mobile connectivity across the metro service  in the capital city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The new Beeline Uzbekistan coverage will provide 4G connectivity at all 31 underground stations on the four lines of the metro service. In 2022, the Tashkent metro enabled 220 million passenger journeys or a daily average of around 620,000 riders.

The expansion of 4G coverage to the Tashkent metro is part of Beeline’s ‘4G for all’ strategy, which saw the roll out of 2,300 4G base stations in 2022. The Beeline Uzbekistan network for the Tashkent Metro was developed using the Uztelecom infrastructure based on multi-operator RAN active equipment and sharing technology.

As of late 2021, Ucell has been servicing 7+ million subscribers with its 4G networks covering nearly 75% of the country’s major cities and towns. The company was the first to roll out a 5G network in Uzbekistan in the central business district of the capital city Tashkent on 8 April 2021. The company claimed that ‘real-world 5G speeds are approximately 1Gbps’ from launch, highlighting that ‘the data transfer rate is 10-100 times higher than 4G technology.’ Users can connect to 5G via Ucell sales and service offices in Tashkent or via a call centre.

Up until 31 May 2021 5G-capable device owners can sign up for a promotional Ucell 5G data package valid for five days costing UZS5,000 (USD0.48), allowing unlimited 5G internet usage ‘at up to 1Gbps’ within the central Tashkent coverage area. Ucell’s website confirmed that the new network uses 5G Band 78 (3500MHz) frequencies, with mobile USB/modem/router devices supported alongside smartphones. The website also states that ‘Ucell is developing new territories and very soon the technology will become available in other areas of the city and other cities of Uzbekistan.’

Uztelecom used to be a CDMA-only provider on 450 MHz (CDMA 2000 1x). In 2015 they started with GSM in 2G and 3G in Tashkent. They are the smallest GSM-provider in the country with a limited GSM coverage so far and only 5% of the country's users. Nationwide service extension is under way and 4G/LTE has started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (band 3). It's still the smallest, but fastest growing provider in the country.

In March 2023 Uztelecom began a mobile network upgrade project which includes deployment of 5G technology alongside 4G LTE coverage expansion and data speed improvements. Over 3,000 existing base stations throughout the country will be modernised alongside the rollout of more than 2,000 new base stations under the ‘Season of Renewal’ project.

In the first stage of the project, they plan to achieve ‘full’ 5G network coverage of the capital Tashkent plus ‘partial’ 5G coverage in regional centre cities, following which plans for subsequent stages of 5G expansion across the country ‘will be analysed’. The company also declared that it will be the first Uzbek network operator to provide 5G access on flagship smartphones, including Apple iPhone devices.

Uzbektelecom (Uztelecom) have previously signed deals including a 3G/4G/5G expansion worth over USD500 million with Huawei and ZTE in September 2022. Since July that year the telco operates a limited pilot 5G network in Samarkand.

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Thursday, 18 May 2023

Little Appetite for 5G in Burundi with 4G/LTE Continuing Gaining Ground

Burundi, a small landlocked country in East Africa, has a rapidly growing mobile market with several operators competing for customers. While the country faces some challenges in terms of infrastructure and regulatory issues, the state of mobile operators in Burundi is generally positive, with reliable coverage and a range of services available to customers. 

Burundi is among those countries in Africa which largely depend on mobile networks for voice and data services. There is little in the way of fixed-line infrastructure outside the main towns, and most investment has been earmarked to improve the quality of mobile services and the reach of LTE networks rather than on extending the reach of fixed-line telecoms. Investment in national fibre networks generally supports mobile backhaul rather than fixed broadband services.

Almost all mobile subscribers are prepaid: there were only about 7,250 contract subscribers in late 2021, accounting for 0.1% of the total.

The number of mobile subscribers increased sharply in 2021, year-on-year, reaching about 8.1 million. As with the increase in the number of subscribers, the various different communication requirements which have resulted from restrictions aimed at controlling the pandemic since 2020 has resulted in a significant increase in voice traffic. The average number of voice minutes increased 25% between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021, while the number of SMS sent increased 50%.

There are four main mobile operators in Burundi: Econet Leo, Onatel, Lumitel, and Smart Burundi. Each of these operators offers a range of services including voice, messaging, and mobile data. As of the first quarter of 2022, the Burundian telecom market had 7,798,885 subscribers shared among these four operators.

Econet Leo was the first mobile operator to launch in Burundi in 2003. The company is a subsidiary of Econet Wireless International, a telecommunications group based in South Africa. Econet Leo has been able to establish itself as one of the leading mobile operators in Burundi due to its extensive network coverage and affordable pricing.  The operator provides standard 2G GSM services over 900 and 1800 MHz, and launched 3G UMTS services in July 2011. In March 2017 Econet Leo switched on 4G LTE over the B3 (1800 MHz) band initially in the capital Bujumbura and was slowly rolling out across the nation.

Lumitel is a relatively new player in the Burundian mobile market, having launched in 2015. The company is owned by Viettel, a Vietnamese multinational telecommunications company. Despite being a new entrant, Lumitel launched the first 4G/LTE network simultaneously in six provinces of the country in 2016 covering the core central parts of Bujumbura, Gitega, Ngozi, Rumonge Makamba and Muyinga. They have been able to rapidly expand network coverage and had approximately 3 million subscribers as of 2021.

Onatel is another major player in the Burundian mobile market. The company was founded in 1978 and was initially a state-owned telecommunications provider. However, in 2006, Onatel was partially privatized, and Vivendi, a French multinational media conglomerate, acquired a 51% stake in the company. They offer mobile services under the brand name "Tempo" and provide a range of services including voice, messaging, and mobile data. The company has an extensive network coverage, with its services available in all provinces of Burundi. In addition to mobile services, Onatel also offers fixed-line and internet services to its customers.

Smart Burundi is the fourth mobile operator in Burundi, having launched in 2019. The company is a subsidiary of Smart Africa, a pan-African telecommunications company. Smart Burundi has been able to establish itself in the market by offering affordable pricing and a range of innovative services. 

However the Agency for Regulation and Control of Telecoms (Agence de Regulation et de Controle des Telecommunications, ARCT) in Burundi has reportedly shut down Smart Burundi over its failure to settle its tax arrears and the expiration of its operating licence on 27 July. The ARCT requested Smart to cease all operations on 18 August at which point it reputedly owed around USD3.2 million in arrears. Further, the regulator noted that whilst Smart had filed to have its licence renewed in March this year, its failure ‘to provide the certificate of non-accountability requested by the Burundian Revenue Office which must confirm that the telecom company owes nothing to the tax authorities’ meant that its concession subsequently lapsed.

Overall, the Burundian mobile market is competitive, with each of the four main operators offering a range of services at affordable prices. The government of Burundi has also taken steps to improve the country's telecommunications infrastructure, including investing in fiber-optic networks and promoting the deployment of 4G technology. With continued investment in infrastructure and the rollout of 5G technology, the Burundian mobile market is poised for further growth and innovation in the years ahead.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

KDDI Launched their Metaverse and Web3 Service called αU (Alpha–U)

On March 7, 2023, KDDI launched  αU (Alpha–U), a metaverse and Web3 service, and introduced to its customers a new world where anyone can become a creator and to support the new generation of users who effortlessly move between the real and virtual worlds. The name αU comes from the Greek letter alpha (α), which symbolizes the beginning of something new, and the letter U, which stands for user. This reflects KDDI's goal of creating a new digital world that is accessible to everyone and that offers new opportunities for interaction and engagement.

αU is designed to be a comprehensive platform that offers a wide range of features and services for the Web3 era, including the metaverse, live streaming, and virtual shopping. Users can create their own avatars, their own virtual communities, explore virtual worlds, participate in a range of games and activities and interact with other users in real-time. The platform also offers a range of tools for content creators, including the ability to create and sell digital items and experiences.

This service eliminates the boundary between the real and virtual worlds, allowing users to enjoy everyday experiences such as attending live music performances, enjoying art, having conversations with friends, and shopping―anytime, anywhere. By collaborating with domestic and international partners, KDDI will provide support introducing Japanese creators and content to the world. Their aim is to build a creator economy in which creators can produce value and be compensated for their work. 

One of the key features of αU is its integration with Web3 technologies, which are designed to provide a more decentralized and transparent digital environment. The platform uses the Ethereum blockchain to enable secure transactions and to create a digital economy that is controlled by users rather than centralized authorities.

KDDI in partnership with Geometry Ogilvy Japan, had previously launched Virtual Shibuya, an urban-linked metaverse, in May 2020, and Digital Twin Shibuya, which links real and virtual spaces, in October 2022 as part of its continuous initiatives to expand urban experiences by utilizing 5G communications and AR/MR technologies.

Yasushi Arikawa, senior creative director, creative head of experience at Geometry Ogilvy Japan, explains that the initial version of the project was already under way before Covid hit, but it accelerated the need to create a virtual space as the city locked down;

“Having discussed the feasibility of implementing the experience in the real city, we then pivoted, and in May 2020 ‘Virtual Shibuya’ was born, a virtual platform that would itself reinvent the city of Shibuya. The city was locked down, and for those who could not go out ‘Virtual Shibuya,’ easily accessible with a smartphone, was immediately accepted as a new entertainment experience. The highly successful launch event attracted more than 53,000 visitors." 

"In October 2020, after the second and third waves of Covid, we hosted ‘Virtual Shibuya Halloween’ in a safe and secure virtual space to discourage people from visiting the huge ‘Halloween in Shibuya’ event that usually attracts one million visitors a year and represents Shibuya Ward. Several programs were held, including Trick or Treat content with digital incentives, avatar contests, talk shows and music concerts, which were successful in attracting more than 410,000 visitors.”

Mr Arikawa elaborates:  

For the past three years, Virtual Shibuya has offered this new form of entertainment enabled by technology, such as live music performances from artists, talk shows featuring anime and manga characters, and other urban-linked experiences that are anchored in a virtual space. 

αU will evolve this from a traditional public space for experience to a space for communication.

Geometry Ogilvy Japan, also created a virtually produced film to showcase aU. This 30-second clip which showcases four artistic illustrations made by GenZ artist Mayu Yukishita, The AI and a virtual singer tell a story about the concept of “Already, one world” that blends the real and virtual worlds, takes us beyond the “uncanny valley” to an emotionally charged story

KDDI is also working in collaboration with Google Cloud on αU. Google Cloud’s Immersive Stream for XR product creates high-definition virtual entertainment experiences. Immersive Stream for XR allows users to engage in an immersive, interactive, and photorealistic experience, without downloading an app so they can immediately engage with content on any device.

The implementation of these technologies will promote further collaboration between KDDI and Google's technical teams in the future. Their aim is to create use cases that lead to innovation and new consumption and experience behaviors, such as the realization of the Metaverse Web3 service "αU”, a world where anyone can become a creator and leverages content distribution on platforms like YouTube.

The launch of αU is a significant milestone for KDDI and for the wider metaverse and Web3 community. The platform offers a range of innovative features and experiences, and it has the potential to become a major player in the growing digital economy. As the platform evolves and expands, we can expect to see new and exciting applications emerge, and we can look forward to a future where the digital and physical worlds are more closely connected than ever before.

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