Friday 10 May 2024

Tunisia is Ready to Launch 5G in 2024

Tunisia has one of the most sophisticated telecom infrastructures in North Africa. Penetration rates for mobile and internet services are among the highest in the region. A number of regulatory measures and infrastructure projects have been instituted in recent years as the government continues to extend broadband infrastructure to remote areas and develop a digital economy.

Supported by the Digital Tunisia 2020 program, the MNOs have built extensive LTE infrastructure, and have trialled 5G services, though commercial services are not expected to be launched before 2023.

The political events of 2021 have put into question the country’s economic recovery. Although the economy was severely impacted by the collapse of the tourism sector in 2020, it returned to growth in 2021. Nevertheless, there is high unemployment and emigration, as well as continuing economic pressure on households. These factors have in turn held back the potential for revenue growth in the telecom sector.

Operators Ooredoo and Orange Tunisie are also licensed as fixed-line operators and have launched DSL and FttP services. In addition, a dozen public and private ISPs compete in this sector, supported by a nationwide fibre backbone network and international access via submarine and terrestrial fibre.

There are three mobile network operators in Tunisia: Tunisie Télécom (TT), Ooredoo (formerly Tunisiana) and Orange Tunisie.

All 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G in the populated areas on 2100 MHz up to HSDPA speed like in Europe, 4G/LTE started in 2016 in major towns on all three providers in 800 and 1800 MHz (B3, B20) and gives theoretical speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

In late June 2022, a Tunisie Telecom executive said that the operator is planning to shut down its 3G network and refarm its spectrum as its 3G users are rapidly migrating to 4G. The operator intended to launch VoLTE to allow it to transfer voice traffic from 3G to 4G. However, no timeline was given for the 3G network shutdown. Refarming 3G spectrum would allow Tunisie Telecom to improve the mobile experience of its 4G users.

The Tunis Afrique Press agency says that spectrum auction process is expected to take place between July and August of this year. Licenses will be awarded in September. 5G marketing is likely to be carried out soon after – in November.

A sectoral committee representing the National Telecommunications Authority (INTT) and the National Frequency Agency (ANF) was created in May 2023 to prepare for the transition. The ministry claims it has consulted with relevant stakeholders with experience in other countries.

During a press conference organized to reveal the roadmap for the launch of 5G, the ministry indicated that the call for tenders for operators would be launched at the end of April after validation by the Council of Ministers.

Three licenses will be granted to operators; Tunisia Telecom ; Ooredoo Tunisia and Orange Tunisia, which each consist of 5MHz duplexed in the 700MHz band and 100MHz in the 3.5GHz band as entry tickets.

In a second phase, each operator will also have 60MHz TDD in the 2.6GHz band.

As for the millimeter band; 26GHz, the ministry specified that it would later announce the parts of the spectrum which will be allocated to operators.

The licenses extend for a period of fifteen years each and should be awarded in September 2024. Thus around November, operators will have the opportunity to launch the marketing of 5G offers.

A representative of the INTT explained that there are 16 million SIM cards in Tunisia, and that Tunisians' data consumption increased fivefold between 2016 and 2023, from 600,000 to 1.7 million.

About 90.8% of Tunisians use mobile phones, 65% own smartphones, 72% use fixed internet, and 88% are active on social media, figures that are said to underline the need for 5G rollout. on.

According to the OpenSignal October 2022 report Tunisia’s mobile network experience continues to be hard fought, with only three out of nine awards being won outright (the same number seen in the last report). Ooredoo still has the largest haul of awards, successfully defending its outright win for Core Consistent Quality, while being a joint winner in six categories — including all three experiential awards (Video Experience, Games Experience and Voice App Experience) and both coverage awards (Availability and 4G Coverage Experience). Orange is a joint winner in five categories, including Upload Speed Experience where our users observed a three-way tie. Tunisie Telecom wins two awards outright (Download Speed Experience and Excellent Consistent Quality and is a joint winner for Video Experience (alongside Ooredoo) and Upload Speed Experience.

Ooredoo Tunisia leads the market with a 40.9% share as reported by the National Telecommunications Authority (INT). Moreover, the commercial deployment of 5G and 5.5G in North Africa is anticipated to boost Ooredoo's revenues.  

Ooredoo Group has announced a partnership with Nokia that will see its networks enhanced in Algeria and Tunisia, and forged an agreement with Huawei to adopt its technologies and wireless offerings, including 5G, in some of its MENA operating companies. In March 2023, the group inked a new partnership deal with Nokia to make its network 5G-ready in both Tunisia and Algeria. In Tunisia, Ooredoo began the first technology tests as early as December 2020.

Nokia will also upgrade the existing radio network for Ooredoo Tunisia and expand it with the addition of new radio sites. Upgrades will include deployment of Nokia’s AirScale portfolio, including base stations supporting multiple generations of radio technology from 2G, 3G and 4G to 5G; massive MIMO Adaptive Antennas for urban and wide-area coverage; dual-band Remote Radio Heads (RRH); and the AirScale indoor Radio (ASiR) small-cell service for seamless indoor coverage. 

Orange Tunisie is the smallest of the main operators. Last year they launched a project for the progressive solarization of their mobile network, in partnership with International Telecom Services (ITS.COM). The goal is to deploy solar panels on more than 1,000 sites, thereby reducing the operator's carbon footprint. This project aims to produce renewable energy to power Orange Tunisia's low-voltage radio stations, thus contributing to the country's energy transition.

Ultimately, Orange Tunisia's mobile network should reach a rate of 15% of renewable energy in its overall consumption, with the objective of reducing its carbon footprint by nearly 3,550 tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2025. This project is part of Orange Tunisia's strategy in terms of social responsibility and ecological transition, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to their website state-owned Tunisie Telecom has more than 6 million subscribers in fixed and mobile telephony. making it the largest operator in Tunisia’s growing telecoms market.

Tunisie Telecom (TT) is currently embarking on an ambitious all-optical network transformation program with longstanding strategy partner Huawei.

TT, as a No.1 service provider, is transforming to provide a high-quality home broadband experience

“ADSL technology is no longer meeting user high-speed requirements” asserts Oussama Samet, TT’s Chief Network Officer.

Samet, speaking to at the recent Huawei Global Ultra-Broadband Forum held in Dubai, reported that TT held a 50% share in the county’s fixed broadband market, serving more than 1.3 million households with a mixture of xDSL and FTTH products. The days of copper-based broadband access in TT’s network are numbered, however.

Aside from rising traffic volumes and greater demand for high-quality connectivity, other drivers for TT’s all-optical transformation are increased use of cloud services, industry vertical digitalization and cloudification. The operator also wants to be prepared for the impact of 5G-Advanced on underlying networks.

By using existing civil works, TT is looking to extract as much cost‑efficiencies as possible in terms of FTTH rollout, service delivery and O&M. “This strategy has helped us double the number of homes passed with fiber by the end of 2023 and we’re on track to reach 500,000 households by 2025,” said Samet. “This will improve the average bandwidth to 30Mbit/s, and maybe up to 50Mbit/s, by the end of 2025 and greatly enhance the customer experience."

For more information on Tunisia's 5G plans please watch: 

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