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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Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Seychelles Plans to Introduce 5G and Competition

Situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean with less than 100,000 inhabitants, the Seychelles is Africa’s least populous sovereign nation.

There are two mobile operators in the Seychelles: Airtel Seychelles and Cable & Wireless Seychelles. 
The following frequencies are used in Seychelles:
2G: 900 MHz
3G: 2100 MHz
4G/LTE: 800 MHz (Band 20)
5G NR: unknown

Commercial 5G NR has been available in Seychelles since June 2020 with Cable & Wireless Seychelles. However, 5G NR is currently only available to postpaid customers. It is unknown when prepaid customers can get access to 5G NR networks. Moreover, it is unknown when Airtel Seychelles will launch 5G NR and whether it will be available to prepaid customers from the start or not.

Airtel Seychelles has more than a 50 percent share of the mobile market in the country. It was the first company to launch prepaid mobile services in 1999 and gradually upgraded its network to 3G and 4G connectivity. According to Amadou Dina, Managing Director of Airtel Seychelles.

“Airtel Seychelles is among the top four companies in the world in terms of telecommunications. We have almost 98 percent smartphone penetration and 95 percent 4G penetration in the country.” 

C&W Seychelles competes closely with Airtel in this duopoly mobile market. Recently C&W revealed that it has carried out a network optimisation project including adding extra 4G LTE and 5G mobile base stations to strengthen capacity, data speeds and coverage. The company – which launched 5G services in July 2020 – stated in one of the posts: ‘We can confirm we have rolled out more 5G and LTE mobile sites … more customers can access much faster LTE and 5G in more areas than before.’

In a parallel project, C&W announced that it is constructing new cell tower sites to mitigate poor call drop rates in certain network sections, with 13 new tower sites deployed in September 2022, out of a total of 25 planned for completion by the end of October. So far, the towers have been deployed in zones with weak cell coverage in the following areas: Anse Royale/Les Canelles, Anse Faure, La Salette, Piton, Bougainville, La Gogue, Anse Reunion, Le Niole, Ma Joie, Morne Blanc, Providence, St. Louis and Sunshine House.

This duopoly mobile market may soon be disrupted by Intelvision, a fixed broadband and pay-TV provider in the Seychelles, which has revealed a plan to enter the mobile market with a network rollout in partnership with Chinese vendor Huawei. Intelvision has been assigned 5G-suitable mobile frequencies, whilst in October 2019 the operator revealed a strategy to enter the mobile market in partnership with Huawei, although its initial plan to begin 4G/5G network rollout in 2020 was delayed. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

Little Progress on 5G in Egypt


Egypt’s mature mobile market has one of the highest penetration rates in Africa. Progress in the adoption of mobile data services has been hampered by the lack of sufficient spectrum. To address this, the regulator in September 2020 made available 60MHz in the 2.6GHz band, though the spectrum was not allocated until late 2021. The additional spectrum will go far to enabling the MNOs to improve the quality of mobile broadband services offered. Further 5G trials are to be held later in 2022, focused on the New Administrative Capital.

The international cable infrastructure remains an important asset for Egypt, which benefits from its geographical position. Telecom Egypt has become one of the largest concerns in this segment, being a participating member in numerous cable systems. In mid-2021 the telco announced plans to build the Hybrid African Ring Path system, connecting a number of landlocked countries in Africa with Italy, France, and Portugal. The system will partly use the company’s existing terrestrial and subsea cable networks.

Egypt also has the biggest mobile phone market in Africa with 4 network providers: Vodafone Egypt, Orange (formerly: Mobinil), Etisalat and WE (by Telecom Egypt).

Telecom Egypt rebranded its retail business to WE in 2017 with the launch of its mobile offering. Since 2017, this operator has expanded nicely, and users have more than doubled since the end of 2019. Market research company Omdia estimates that at the end of June 2022, the operator had about a 10% share of the Egyptian mobile market.

Telecom Egypt owns a 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt, which is the country's biggest mobile operator with almost 42% market share. Orange Egypt has about 26% market share and Etisalat almost 22%.

According to the most recent Open Signal report on Egypt, it's evident that WE is the dominant operator when it comes to national mobile network experience in Egypt. The operator wins five out of the 10 awards outright — Video Experience, Games Experience, Download Speed Experience, Excellent Consistent Quality and Core Consistent Quality. In addition, WE also shares the top spot alongside Etisalat in Upload Speed Experience, as well as Availability, there is a three-way split between Etisalat, Vodafone and WE. Meanwhile, Vodafone is the only other operator to achieve outright wins; it leads in Voice App Experience, 4G Availability and 4G Coverage Experience.

However, our results also reveal that there is a lot of room for improvement across all national operators.

Vodafone Egypt is the largest mobile network operator in the North African nation and holds a 43% revenue market share, and has 43 million consumer and enterprise customers. The operator is also Egypt’s largest mobile wallet provider through Vodafone Cash, according to the national telecoms regulatory authority.

Vodacom’s acquisition of a 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt was concluded in December 2022 on the basis of a €577m ($622m) cash offer and the issuance of more than two million shares. The deal, worth R43.6bn, the largest in the South African network operator’s history, has resulted in parent Vodafone increasing its shareholding in Vodacom to 65.1% from 60.5%.

The transaction means Vodacom’s population reach in the African market now exceeds 500 million. Egypt is Africa’s third most populous nation, with a population exceeding 110 million.

Orange was previously the biggest mobile provider in Egypt back in the days when it was still called Mobinil. In 2016 they were rebranded to the Orange label. They offer a good coverage in the country and 4G/LTE has started in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) in major towns and resorts.

The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has allocated new frequencies to Orange Egypt, offering 30MHz in the frequency space of 2,600MHz with a Time Division Duplex (TDD) system.

The new frequencies were allocated in return for USD 440 million, to be used for providing mobile phone services in the Arab Republic of Egypt. The frequencies can be used for both 4G and 5G deployments.

Etisalat Misr is the third operator in terms of market share. 

Etisalat Misr has selected Ericsson to modernise its Business Support Systems (BSS), with it claimed that the transformation will see the upgrade and modernisation of the former’s BSS platform to support data and VoLTE traffic growth, 5G readiness and IoT.

It was noted that the agreement will equip Etisalat Misr with a range of upgraded capabilities across all its business operations in the customer, product, and service management domains and for customers, enterprises, partners, network technologies and events. Ericsson BSS will reportedly enable Etisalat Misr to further spur innovation and enhance customer satisfaction with more flexibility. A press release regarding the agreement also noted that it will secure capacity expansion for VoLTE using Ericsson Cloud VoLTE technology, with this expected to enable a superior customer experience for ‘several millions of users’.

Telecom Egypt is the state-owned landline monopolist. In 2016 it acquired a LTE license and the network has been started in autumn 2017. They provide 4G/LTE at first "experimentally" on Bands 1 and 8 (900, 2100 MHz). 2G and 3G coverage is done through roaming agreements with Orange and Etisalat. The country’s long-awaited 4th mobile network is branded as WE.

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Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Jio Platforms (JPL) is Flaunting their 5G Wares

In the world where we talk about just two or three major mobile network infrastructure vendors, challengers are rising, either using Open RAN/Networks as their base, innovations as a leverage or the might of a huge population to ensure their network infrastructure has been tested in the most extreme of scenarios. Jio Platforms (JPL) is probably relying on all the three conditions listed above. 

Jio Platforms Ltd. is an Indian technology company and a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, headquartered in Mumbai, India. Jio Platforms has an end to end 5G solution consisting of 5G Radio, a complete 5G Core Network, AI/ML ATOM platform for 4G/5G, MANO for cloud CNF orchestration, ACI for cloud infrastructure deployment as well as the Cloud-native OSS Platforms.

In addition to these core platforms, Jio Platforms has also created its own cloud-native probing solutions for radio and core networks, simplifying network debugging and not requiring any systems integration with probe providers. To enable a SaaS-based model, JPL has also developed a sophisticated array of BSS solutions.

The entire product line is cloud native and can be deployed either on a public cloud or a private cloud.

In the recently concluded MWC 2023, Jio Platforms sponsored quite a few tracks and spoke in some as well. Aayush Bhatnagar, SVP of Technology at Jio Platforms gave a fantastic presentation in the track, '5G Advanced, Ready for Take-Off!'. His talk is embedded below:

Video courtesy of 6G World

While Jio relied on Airspan (for small cells) and Samsung for 4G/LTE networks, for 5G Jio has partnered with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Cisco, Microsoft, etc.

Ericsson's press release mentioned that it will supply: Ericsson’s energy-efficient 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) products and solutions (from the Ericsson Radio System portfolio) and E-band microwave mobile transport solutions will be deployed in the 5G network for Jio.

Nokia's press release mentioned that it will supply: Equipment from its AirScale portfolio, including base stations, high-capacity 5G Massive MIMO antennas, and Remote Radio Heads (RRH) to support different spectrum bands, and self-organizing network software.

Telecom TV has a good summary of Jio Platforms presentation from DTW2022 (a version of their presentation video is available here). The JPL speakers mentioned that the company always had in mind that it wouldn’t be developing platforms, cloud-native functions and applications just for itself – it always had the broader market within India, and beyond, in mind. This was the reason they adopted a platforms-as-products (PaPs) strategy to its R&D.

It's yet to be seen how equipment from JPL interworks with ones from Nokia, Ericsson and everyone else. Right now Reliance Jio is busy launching 5G in more and more cities. The speeds, quality of experience and reliability will be the judge of their network and and a catalyst for adoption of Jio Platforms.

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Thursday, 16 March 2023

5G to Help Greenland Connect Over Vast Distances

Greenland, an island of just 56,000 people, is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has broad autonomy. Greenland has, by law, only one service provider for telecommunications and the Internet, TELE Greenland, which is fully owned by the Greenlandic Home Rule government. TELE Greenland provides switched telephone and data, land mobile communications, and VHF and MF shore-to-ship communication. This type of monopoly is not uncommon in Greenland.

The state-owned TELE Greenland A/S Group was the main telecommunication and postal provider in Greenland and its headquarters are in Nuuk. It also operated the only mobile network in the country. TELE Greenland A/S was rebranded as Tusass in 2021 and all phone and postal services are under the Tusass label now. Tusass is Greenlandic slang for "talk to you later".

2G and 3G is on 900 MHz, 4G has started 2013 in Nuuk on 800 MHz (band 20) and is in these towns in 2015: Nuuk, Qaqortoq, Ilulissat, Sisimiut, Maniitsoq, Aasiaat and airport Kangerlussusuaq. Every settlement with more than 70 inhabitants has at least 2G coverage, but most areas of the country are uninhabited. Detailed coverage maps you can find here. At the end of 2018 their 4G/LTE coverage has risen to 92% of the population.

Ericsson has been contracted by Tusass to build a 5G network in Greenland, initially covering three towns. A further 10 towns, including Greenland’s capital Nuuk, are set to follow next.

Deploying Ericsson equipment and Netgear routers, Tusass intends to bring high-speed wireless internet to the sparsely populated island without resorting to expensive and hard-to-deploy cables.Tusass says it plans to invest around 1 billion Danish crowns ($131.3 million) to secure and expand Greenland's infrastructure and improve communication.

According to Jenny Lindqvist, head of Northern and Central Europe, Ericsson, a 5G network will help those living in Greenland “connect over vast distances,” a necessity in a country considered to be the least densely populated territory in the world. Only 56,000 people live in Greenland’s 2.16 million square kilometers.

“From a broad perspective, this partnership serves the digitalization of Greenland, from enabling use cases for control of critical infrastructure and remote devices to bringing new entertainment services for the people,” Lindqvist said. “Regardless of how challenging the project is or extreme the weather conditions, Ericsson remains committed to create a wireless Greenland together with Tusass.” 

In December 2022 Tusass revealed that it is planning to shut down its 3G services in 2023, in line with global trends. Tusass said that it took the decision to discontinue the technology ‘because spare parts are no longer produced, because support services are no longer provided and new technologies surpass the efficiency and quality of the old ones’. The operator disclosed that it will notify customers at least three months before the fixed shutdown date.

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Nepal is Taking Right Steps in Direction of 5G

Unfortunately Nepal's telecom sector has several topographical and economic constraints which have impeded efforts to expand network infrastructure and improve the quality of service for end-users.

The fixed line market remains underdeveloped, and as a result most traffic is channelled via mobile networks. Fixed broadband penetration remains very low, though to address this the government has initiated several programs as part of the Digital Nepal Framework and the wider Optical Fibre Backbone Network Expansion Project, started in 2012. Supported by the Rural Telecommunications Development Fund, the programs include building out fibre backbone infrastructure and using this to provide broadband to schools and community centres nationally.

Operators have also invested in fibre networks, and competition in the market is intensifying. Cheap fibre-based services launched by CG Net in mid-2021 prompted responses from other ISPs to provide faster and more competitively priced offers.

Nepal’s mobile market is relatively developed, with a focus on LTE. In 2021, the regulator considered a range of spectrum bands which could be used for 5G.

Nepal has three GSM mobile operators: Nepal Telecom (state owned), Ncell (owned by Axiata) and Smart Cell (by Smart Telecom, limited coverage on 2G, 4G/LTE; no 3G).

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2016 the government of Nepal begun the process of converting existing wireless licences to technology neutral permits, enabling operators to use their current 900 MHz for 3G and free their 1800 MHz (B3) frequency holdings to offer 4G/LTE services. 4G/LTE has been launched by all three providers in 2017. Due to its mountainous territory, coverage can be very spotty and data speeds extremely slow outside the Kathmandu central valley or Pokhara.

Nepal Telecom (NTC) is the state owned, national provider in Nepal. It has a monopoly on landlines and broadband, but competes with Ncell for mobile customers. 

NTC uses 900 Mhz for 2G and 2100 Mhz for 3G. Simultaneously, it runs a CDMA network too which will be switched off by 2021. GSM-coverage is slightly lower than Ncell. Until 2017 only about 60 3G sites have been installed and on air including Banepa, Bhaktapur, total 59 sites in Kathmandu and 1 site in Pokhara.

4G/LTE has started as first provider in Nepal in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) only in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara only opened for prepaid. NTC signed 40,000 LTE users in two weeks alone. In 2019/20 the 4G network was expanded and it has 4G coverage at these locations.

Nepal Telecom has a total of 18.95 million mobile broadband users where 7.26 million are 3G users, 11.55 million are 4G users and 136,573 are EVDO users. Just last year Nepal Telecom (NT) marked its 18th anniversary by announcing the commercial launch of VoLTE services, enabling customers with a compatible handset to enjoy high definition voice calling over its 4G network and simultaneous use of voice and high speed data services.

Nepal Telecom had originally planned to kick off 5G trials in mid-July 2021, but the timetable was delayed after a change of government prevented assignment of the additional spectrum resources required. Having finally been granted a testing permit and 60MHz of frequencies in the 2600MHz band the following November, NT then encountered further problems with equipment delivery, while plans to finally start the trial last month were thwarted by the extremely low number of compatible devices. The operator intends to launch test networks in all seven provinces of the country by the end of its current financial year (mid-July 2023).

Ncell is the no.2 in Nepal with a total of 8.88 million mobile broadband users where 1.93 million are 3G users and 6.95 million are 4G users.

Its 2G is on 900 and 1800 Mhz and reaches 90% of population, 3G is on 2100 Mhz in about 20 of the biggest towns. Ncell Coverage Map. Ncell is the better provider in the country, but there are still many areas uncovered and don't expect high speeds.

The start of their 4G/LTE was further delayed in 2017 by taxation issues and was finally launched in June 2017 on 900 and 1800 MHz in the Kathmandu Valley, including the areas of Nagarkot, Banepa and Dhulikhel. In summer 2017 the cites of Biratnagar, Birtamode, Damak, Dharan, Bharatpur, Hetauda, Birjung, Bhairahawa, Butwal and Nepalgunj were added to the 4G/LTE network. In 2019 seven of the country’s provinces and over 1,000 locations nationwide are covered, making it Nepal’s most extensive 4G network.

In September 2022 they announced the commercial launch of their VoLTE service, providing customers with superior quality HD voice and faster call connectivity. The new service is activated free of charge and is currently available on selected Samsung, Vivo and Huawei handsets. Customers enabling the service will receive 100 bonus minutes of on-net talk time valid for 28 days. Launched in June 2017, Ncell’s LTE network has been expanded to areas of more than 70 districts and now covers approximately 85% of the country’s population.

Smart Telecom is the third telecom operator in the country, they only has 2G and 4G services in its Smart Cell brand. They have a total of 127,551 subscribers to their 4G service.

They are on 2G/GSM on 1800 MHz. In 2017 a license to use 4G/LTE was granted to Smart and in October 2017 Smart has finally launched its long-awaited 4G/LTE service, with the company stating that it is now live in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Pokhara. The new 4G service offers customers speeds of up to 70 Mbps. Smart Telecom has been granted 10 MHz of frequencies in the 1800 MHz (B3), while its two competitors Nepal Telecom (NT) and Ncell have only been allocated 5 MHz each in this spectrum band.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Energy and Carbon Footprint Reduction are a Priority for Orange

At Huawei's Mobile Broadband Forum (#HWMBBF) 2022 in October, Emmanuel Chautard, SVP of Operations & Networks Economics at Orange Group presented their vision on transitioning 'Towards a Green, Software-based Telco'.

During his talk he mentioned that to fight global warming, Orange has identified three areas of concern:

  1. The carbon footprint does not scale with traffic and there is no proportional relation between them
  2. A major element source of greenhouse emissions is the customer device which can have a big impact on carbon footprint reduction.
  3. Finally, ICT and softwarization can have a positive contribution to the overall carbon footprint impact for the society and for the other verticals and industries.

Devices, on the other hand has a huge impact on carbon footprint reduction. An article on the group page highlights that it takes around 70kg of raw material to make a 120g smartphone (500 times its weight!). Raw material has to take four turns around the world before the phone arrives in our hands.

In his talk Emmanuel highlighted that Orange is reviewing how devices are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. To support this fact he shared French regulator statistics showing that more than 75% of the carbon emissions are associated with the devices whereas the share for Network traffic is reduced to 6% for overall network and data centers consume 16% of the overall energy. Hence according to them, one quick win would be to increase the lifetime of the customer devices and focus on recycling.

The final area that we are touching in this post is Orange's transition towards software-based Telco. 

This softwarization, as can be seen in the picture above, is based on four pillars. The first being disaggregation, which is the fact that Orange plans to no longer implement black boxes within their networks as they have traditionally done. The journey towards identifying the software layer, the OS, and the infrastructure layer has started with the introduction to virtualization and deploying several Network functions on the same Cloud infrastructure. 

In addition, the softwarization journey continues further with Automation, AI and Machine Learning in order to support both the life-cycle management and the in-life management of the network. Introduction of software with APIs that are exposed Network APIs is expected to enable the on-demand network connectivity that their customers have started expecting.

Emmanuel also talked about the 100% software-enabled experimental network in Lannion, in the Britany department of France, which was announced in a press release back in June 2021 by Mavenir. The press release had noted that "This first phase of a two-year project is a key pillar in Orange’s preparations to transition towards more efficient and agile cloud-native zero-touch Open RAN networks."

The talk of the video is embedded below:

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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Optus' Living Network

Optus launched their Living Network in May 2021 and its certainly a most innovative venture. Unlike previous networks, this was described as an evolved network. Designed to be dynamic and 'customer-centric' to suit the unique needs of each customer by offering a range of service features and initiatives in areas such as advanced connectivity, security, productivity, environmental sustainability and social causes.


The Living Network features are available to Optus customers from the MyOptus App and include Unlimited Data Days, Donate Your Data, Optus Pause, WiFi Secure, Game Path, Call Translate, Call Notes, Optus Pulse and SideKick. Optus has also categorised it’s Living Network features by Digital Wellbeing, Adaptive Network and Advanced Voice.

One aspect of Digital Wellbeing is closing the digital divide and promoting sustainability. Donate your data is a way to help close the digital divide for people in need get a prepaid SIM with data plus unlimited calls and SMS every 42 days. Every month, Optus data donations are pooled and then distributed as an added data boost to those who need it. Optus postpaid customers can donate a portion of their monthly data via the MyOptus App. Prepay customers on select tariffs can also donate a portion of their data. The operator has partnered with a number of charities to deliver this service to people experiencing economic hardship from a job loss, family or other tragedy.

Optus claim over 28 million GB of data has been donated since December 2019. The donated data helps individuals (and since 2021) helps families in need to access vital education, employment, and other services.

At the launch of the Living Network Optus CEO, Kelly Bayer stated that the program had so far assisted over “14,000 young Australians in need” and attributed the initiative to achieving an NPS that was “off the charts” highlighting that customers felt empowered by the Living Network to shrink the digital divide and make a difference to others lives.


Meanwhile an inventive aspect of the Adaptive Network is Game Path. This service reduces lag by 30% (as well as jitter by an average 71%) when gaming by accessing multiple local and international points of presence (POPs) and using AI to select the optimal connection path however, manual server selection is also possible. The service which is activated via the MyOptus app is only available on windows PCs and costs AUD $10 per month with one-month waiver. Optus internet gamers may receive a three-month waiver. Optus provides a table highlighting the performance improvement customers can expect by game and city based on a sample size (gaming session snapshot) in time but highlight actual performance may still vary.

A feature that enhances customer productivity within the Advanced voice services is Optus Call Translate. This translates voice calls in real-time between two people speaking two different languages to each other. Effectively and as promoted by Optus, the service is “turning two languages into one conversation”. The service is currently available in 19 languages and is built, owned and operated by Optus using Google Cloud (API) for the translation element. While the service was initially trailed in a beta mode with select customers, it is now available to postpay customers (including business) at a cost of AUD $5 per month with a seven-day trial period. The service is activated from the My Optus App along with translation settings such as the “to” and “from” language setting. When a customer calls a number using the translate feature, before the call conversation starts – both parties will hear an announcement saying that the Call Translate is in use. Optus customers can use the service to call overseas, and they can also use it abroad so long as they are roaming on a VoLTE network.

In highlighting the usefulness of the service, Optus points to the multi-lingual country and five million people (20% of Australians) of which English isn’t their first language. Such a service might be valuable when interacting with others to perform everyday functions such as booking a medical appointment.

Other operators have certainly been inspired some of these services and strategies and also launched some of the features seen in the Living Network, in particular drawing on the environment, sustainability and social responsibility as a way to increase relevance, drive an emotional connection and  increase engagement with existing customers and potentially augment their subscriber bases.

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Tuesday, 24 January 2023

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile plan to extend coverage for consumers, businesses & first responders

AT&T has been working with the satellite pioneer AST SpaceMobile for a white as reported by Light Reading back in 2020. In a new video, AT&T gives AST SpaceMobile a big, public shoutout. The video is embedded below.

The following is from CNET article:

T-Mobile has partnered with SpaceX to boost its coverage through SpaceX's Starlink satellite network. Verizon has been talking about working with Amazon's Project Kuiper program. Now AT&T has announced a new satellite partner of its own. 

On Tuesday the carrier announced a new partnership with AST SpaceMobile, a satellite company, to use its low Earth orbit satellites to help bolster AT&T's terrestrial coverage. In a video about the partnership, Chris Sambar, AT&T's president of network, says that the wireless carrier has received "conditional approval" to use some of its wireless spectrum to connect cell phones to the satellites. 

In the video, Sambar quickly goes through a few broad applications ranging from helping its FirstNet first-responder network to business applications like "remote agriculture" and "remote machinery." 

AT&T already has a satellite partnership with satellite company OneWeb to offer connections to the wireless carrier's business users but hadn't announced any consumer-focused satellite service. 

Sambar does, however, hint at a possible consumer application as he describes how his mother-in-law's drive from rural Virginia to Richmond to "see her kids and grandkids" includes a road that currently struggles for coverage from "any wireless carrier." That drive, he says, could potentially be covered by a "space-based mobile solution." 

AT&T tells CNET that it plans to use the service to offer "integrated, complementary and real connectivity from satellite-based solutions for voice, data and video services." 

As for device support, AT&T says the service is "intended to integrate with all of our customers' devices using LTE and 5G broadband on our existing mobile network." The carrier, however, says it is "too early" to say if it will charge extra for the service or include it with customers' existing plans. 

As for when AT&T and AST SpaceMobile's service might start to appear, AST SpaceMobile has previously talked about testing its "direct-to-cell satellite capabilities" during the first quarter of next year before launching its first five commercial satellites in "late 2023." AT&T plans to join this testing in the first quarter. 

Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, tells CNET in a statement that after the launch of those satellites next year it will be able to "offer intermittent broadband services in 2024." 

Light Reading article points out:

The video is noteworthy because AT&T is one of the biggest wireless network operators in the world, and Sambar controls a large part of the operator's multibillion-dollar network spending budget. The fact that he made a five-minute support video for SpaceMobile will likely go a long way toward convincing regulators and investors to provide both the necessary approvals for SpaceMobile's satellite launch plans as well as the money it will take to get the company's satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO).

It would be interesting to see how all these satellite connectivity complementing the terrestrial networks and connectivity work out. There is a huge potential but the path towards that is a really tough one.

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Friday, 6 January 2023

Dialog Launches First Immersive Metaverse, Futureverse, in Sri Lanka

We may not yet have a firm definition of Metaverse but that hasn't stopped operators launching their own Metaverse. Sri Lanka's Dialog is the latest operator to announce their 'Futureverse'. The press release noted:

Continuing to spearhead technology firsts in the country and the region, Dialog Axiata PLC, launched ‘Futureverse’ – Sri Lanka’s first fully immersive, interactive and experiential Metaverse where people can shop for Dialog products and services, socialize, attend events, and play games in one persistent virtual world.

Futureverse is an immersive and interactive virtual world where users can create their own custom avatars. This virtual world will enable visitors access to all Dialog products and services available at any Dialog Experience Centre, socialize with friends, watch movies, take part in workshops, visit exhibitions, and more. Powered by immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR), the Futureverse, from Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, extends a seemingly borderless digital realm that delivers endless experiences and possibilities, where visitors can experience a unique virtual world filled with abstract landscapes and objects. Futureverse is a fun way to spend free time while interacting with friends virtually through voice or chat.

If you do not know the difference between AR, VR, MR and XR, we suggest you check out our short video here. The following is a video of Futureverse from Dialog:

With MWC just around the corner, we will see a lot more of Metaverse action in the coming weeks and months.

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