Thursday, 23 May 2019

Millicom targets Leadership Position in Central America with acquisition of Telefónica Subsidiaries

Millicom announced last week that it has closed the acquisition of Telefonía Celular de Nicaragua, S.A., the number one mobile operator in the country, adding to its existing cable operation of TIGO Nicaragua. This is the first transaction to close since Millicom announced in February an agreement to acquire three subsidiaries of Telefónica in Central America in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Telefonía Celular de Nicaragua, S.A. adds approximately 4 million mobile customers to TIGO with a 4G network accessible to 51% of the population in Nicaragua. The transaction accelerates the execution of Millicom’s fixed-mobile convergence strategy, it helps consolidate the company’s leadership position in Central America, and it diversifies and balances the geographic footprint of the company in its mission to build digital highways that connect more users and develop communities throughout the region.

For people who are not aware, Central America consists of 7 countries, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Of these, Millicom is present in 5 of them with their brand Tigo.

This transaction in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua will allow Millicom to accelerate its Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) strategy.

In Panama, after the acquisition:

  • #1 mobile operator in a four-player market with 1.6 million customers
  • 4G network covers 74% of population
  • Revenue and Adjusted EBITDA CAGRs of approximately 4% and 7%, respectively, in 2015-2018, in US dollar terms
  • 2018 revenue of $223 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $90 million, resulting in a margin near 41%
  • Dollarized economy and investment grade country increasing Millicom’s US dollar revenue sources

In Costa Rica, after the acquisition:

  • #2 mobile operator in a three-player market with 2.4 million customers
  • 4G network covers 85% of population
  • Revenue CAGR of approximately 13% in 2015-2018, in US dollar terms, drove much faster EBITDA growth over the period
  • 2018 revenue of $253 million and EBITDA of $60 million, resulting in a margin near 24%

In Nicaragua, after the acquisition:

  • #1 mobile operator in a two-player market with 4.7 million customers
  • 4G network covers 51% of the population
  • Revenue has declined at a 2.5% CAGR in US dollar terms in 2015-2018, due in part to a weaker currency and to slower overall economic activity
  • 2018 revenue of $232 million, nearly 50% of which are denominated in US dollars, and Adjusted EBITDA of $92 million, resulting in a margin near 40%

Finally, with regards to Spectrum the three countries:
Reasonable amount of spectrum is available for existing 3G & 4G services. Our assumption is that these will increase with arrival of 5G in these countries.


Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Telus says 5G is just another 'G' (#5GJAG)

Ibrahim Gedeon, CTO of Telus, Canada said that and he's not happy with the industry's focus on speed. "We just spend more money and don't make more money," he said during a keynote presentation at Big 5G Event in Denver (embedded below). "5G is letting us down."

According to this Light Reading report:

Gedeon clearly isn't a fan of some of the more advanced "use cases" that are typically associated with 5G, either. "Can you please raise your hand if you would like to be one of the first people in the world to have a surgeon operate on you using a reliable network?" he joked. He seems equally unconvinced by talk of 5G-powered autonomous cars. Everyone appears to be doing their own thing, he said, perhaps alluding to some of the recent battles involving carmakers and telecom players over the technologies that will ultimately be used.

So what does Gedeon recommend? In a nutshell, he thinks there should be less focus on the radio side and more on how 5G will affect other parts of the telco network, and specifically the "edge" -- a promised land of opportunity for telcos that has been somewhat overlooked.

At least, it has been overlooked in some critical ways, according to Gedeon. While operators such as Verizon, in the US, and Deutsche Telekom, in Germany, are busy talking about their edge plans and trialing new services, the industry has yet to address some critical edge-related issues. Above all, if the edge means deploying the telco cloud and IT resources at customer premises, such as a sports stadium, then where is what Gedeon calls the "demark?" What does the customer actually own?

"We need to think of the demark. We need to think about APIs and gateways … Everyone talks about cloudifying, but everyone is busy doing EMBB [enhanced mobile broadband] and autonomous vehicles," said Gedeon.

It should be noted that Telus acquired reasonable amount of 600 MHz spectrum in Canadian spectrum auctions last month. Unfortunately that is the coverage layer spectrum and won't give good speeds.

The talk from Big 5G event can be viewed here.

Monday, 20 May 2019

The Maldives: Moving forward to 5G

The Maldives consists of numerous islands with a population of only 360,000. However their telecom market is bolstered by the steady and large influx of tourists. The vibrant tourist sector helps to account for the unusually high mobile penetration rate, though multiple SIM card use is also widely adopted. In addition a large number of expatriate workers require SIM cards on a semi-temporary basis

There are two licensed operators, Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun (Dhiraagu) and Ooredoo Maldives, they have both invested in HSPA and LTE infrastructure, providing coverage to all populated islands.  These developments have encouraged the take-up of mobile broadband services among subscribers. Both operators also provide fixed-line services.

Priority has been given to telecom infrastructure upgrades, with considerable success. There is a well-developed national network, though investment has been concentrated in the capital Malé as well as in the tourist resort islands. The submarine cable connection to Sri Lanka improved international bandwidth and helped reduce access pricing for end-users. A second submarine cable linked the archipelago to India in 2006. Additional cables linking the main atolls has substantially strengthened domestic connectivity.

Dhiraagu is the leading and the largest provider of telecommunications and digital services in the Maldives. It's mostly owned by the Batelco Group from Bahrain and the Government of the Maldives. They have linked the Maldives from north to south through a 1,253 km long fibre optic submarine cable network which supports the nation's largest 3G and 4G/LTE and fixed broadband networks.

4G/LTE started in Male on 1800 MHz (band 3) frequency band and has been expanded in 2015 to a few more islands and the 2600 MHz (band 7). In 2016 they completed a campaign to provide 3G services to 100% of Maldivians on all inhabited islands, and its focus is now on offering nationwide coverage of its 4G/LTE network, which is currently available to 60% of the population. Dhiraagu is aiming to complete the 4G/LTEexpansion project by the end of 2017

Dhiraagu has installed about 35 WiFi hotspots in Male and more in a dozen other islands.
Dhiraagu has also completed the upgrade of the fixed broadband network in Malé, and  trialed 5G services in November 2018.

During the demonstration, Dhiraagu's Senior Manager of Brand, Marketing and Communication Mohamed Mirushan Hassan, initiated the download of a video, comparing the speed of a 5G network, and 4G network on two different screens.

While the 4G network took 11 minutes to complete the download, the 5G network took a mere 30 seconds. With this, Maldives has become the second South Asian country to demonstrate 5G services, with the first being neighbouring India. Mirushan declared that the 5G demonstration was made using the latest state of the art technology available and that showcasing this service is a step forward in Dhiraagu's role in the field of digital technology.

Speaking at the event held at Dhiraagu's head office, CEO Ismail Rasheed stated that 

"5G will increase speed. Without a delay, signals will be transmitted. Dhiraagu always looks at what the customer wants when introducing these services." 
He hoped to increase customer awareness for these technologies through these demonstrations.

According to Dhiraagu, 5G internet speeds will be 10 to 20 times faster than current 4G speeds. Furthermore, the company assured that the 5G network will be easier to sustain during natural disasters. Dhiraagu has made great advances in the fields of internet, communication and other digital services, with initiatives such as Dhiraagu TV and Dhiraagu-Pay. Apart from capital Male', the company has established high-speed internet to 45 islands.


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

Their coverage is good but not as good as Dhiraagu's, so make a network check before you buy a SIM card. In 2017 LTE coverage has spread to 40 inhabited and resort islands

Ooredoo and Huawei Marine complete nationwide submarine cable project;

Ooredoo Maldives has rolled out 4G network and upgraded its transmission network to full IP.Ooredoo became the first ever operator to provide 4G+ to all the islands of Maldives. In addition to this, Ooredoo also transformed their network to full IP and enhanced the data experience of their customers.

Ooredoo Maldives has also won 5G spectrum licence in February 2018 and showcased their 5G which utilizes internet of things (IoT).

The new revolutionary experience of 5G in 1.8 Gbps speed was showcased in the ‘Color run’ held on 23rd of November, and the service was inaugurated by the Vice President, Honorable Faisal Naseem.

The ‘Color Run‘ was held at Central Park of Hulhumale with over 5000 participants. As there is the fun of color play every 1 kilometer and since they do not hand out awards for those who finish early, this run became an opportunity to promote the fitness of the people and to have fun to the runner’s heart’s content.

Ooredoo proclaims that their companies top the efforts made to form the 5G ecosystem. Their work includes bringing network upgrades that lead to the human development and bring forth a revolution in the experiences that a customer goes through, and that this will prompt extensive inventions in a near future such as cars that run on 5G without drivers, flying taxis and delivery of goods with the use of a drone. 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Sprint Keynote from #B5GS 2019 - Power of Massive MIMO and Band 41 5G NR

Sprint CTO, John Saw, talked about their 5G plans and how this new ecosystem promises to disrupt a number of market verticals such as agriculture, health care, and manufacturing at the Brooklyn 5G Summit 2019. He specifically focussed on Massive MIMO and shared a use case of its integration of 4G with 5G.

In case you are not aware, Sprint has a big chunk of Band 41 (above picture) available that they have been using for variety of stuff (see 3G4G blog post on HPUE & Small Cells blog post on MagicBox)
Sprint will be launching 5G on 31st May in 4 cities with LG V50 and HTC 5G Hub. You can learn all about 5G devices from my MWC post on The 3G4G blog here.

Here is the video, courtesy of IEEE TV

Related posts:

Friday, 17 May 2019

Iran: Mobile Uncertainty

There are two major mobile operators in Iran: MCI and MTN Irancell, along with minor operator RighTel. Significant progress had been made in the counttry in upgrading infrastructure particularly 3G and 4G networks before the US government reimposed economic sanctions during 2018. 

Mobile penetration is considered to be high with a rate of 119%. Most citizens access 2G and 3G networks and in November 2014, the first 4G LTE network was launched by MTN Irancell. While 4G LTE services are available, primarily in the urban areas – however one third of mobile subscribers don’t own a smart phone.  Further investment in both mobile and fixed telecoms infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas, is required however in order to speed up progress and lower costs for consumers, pave the way for 5G.

The latest official statistics reported by the government relating to the role of mobile operators in Iran’s communication market show that the first operator, Hamrah-e Aval (MCI), has a share of 59.53% of the market. When it comes to broadband services, MCI was the last of the three to upgrade its services to 3G and 4G but were successful in providing these services in all the cities (1246) of the country with 3G, 4G and 4.5G services in a very short time. 

Until June 2017, MCI with a penetration rate of 62.5% expanded its coverage to 32,078 km in main routes and 34,591 km in side routes, which in total with railways reaches 75,595 km and 96.5% of the whole population of the country and cover a total of 44,918 villages.

Some 13 million subscribers actively use internet provided by Hamrah-e-Avval or MCI, giving it the biggest share of the market. The number of MCI subscribers to 3G and 4G Internet has been reported as 12.8 million and 297,000 respectively, however many are unable to receive 4G as MCI only recently started giving out 4G SIMs. By the end of 2016 MCI covered 547 cities with 3G Internet while providing 33 cities with 4G Internet.  

Irancell, partly state-owned and owned by South African MTN group has been established as 2nd provider in the country, they have a 38.47% share  and penetration rate of 40.1% in the communication market. They cover a total of 35,936 km, including 17,631 villages.They started with 3G and 4G in late 2014 and already cover 1040 cities with 3G and 240 cities with 4G/LTE in 2016. Thus more than half of the population has access to fast internet now. In 2016 TD-LTE on 3500 MHz (band 42) was started to replace their WiMAX access and is operational in 49 cities so far. By the end of 2016 10.4 million subscribers use 3G internet provided by Irancell and nearly 1.6 million subscribers use Irancell’s 4G internet.  

The smallest operator Rightel has 2% has a penetration rate of 2.08% covers 27,406 km and 65 villages.

Rightel works great in certain parts of large cities, but has horrible (or non existent) coverage in smaller cities and many rural areas. Many people thought its prices were too high, and the speeds given were much slower than what was advertised. High speed internet also caused some cultural controversies, leading RighTel to restrict selling its SIM cards to those 18 and older.
They reportedly had a total of some 2 million mobile internet users at the end of 2016. RighTel’s 3G Internet coverage expands through 520 cities across Iran. It has only recently started with 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz in the capital.

All 3 featured operators 2G/GSM are on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. 4G/LTE started with MCI, Irancell and RighTel on 1800 MHz.

MTN Irancell, and Sweden’s Ericsson jointly conducted a test of 5G connection in Tehran 2017.  Recently ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi wrote on his Twitter account:

“Heading towards 5G! It is an aim we pursue besides development of IoT in 1398 (Iranian calender year). Now, all the Iranian cities and over 66 percent of villages have 3G/4G coverage. We do our best for development of public access in next year despite sanctions. The new generation of telecommunication is waiting for us!” 
However no other details are as of yet confirmed.

In 2018 Nokia provided a range of equipment to mobile operators MTN Irancell and Mobile Communications Company of Iran. It also has a contract with fixed provider HiWeb. Limited fixed services were provided to regional players, either directly or through local contractors. It also sold wireless kit in the country through subsidiary RFS.

During 2018, Nokia booked net sales of almost €55 million from activities in Iran. However Nokia then announced it would refuse new business in Iran during 2019 due to the reintroduction of sanctions by the US government, restricting activity to completing existing contractual obligations.

Iran has blocked some websites and social media like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Some apps like Telegram are not completely banned and WhatsApp has been unblocked and some VoIP calls and messaging are allowed again. But with this 'openess', a system of smart censorship has been introduced. Certain websites that are considered to be offensive are 'phased out'. 

Friday, 10 May 2019

Telenor-Axiata Merger expected

According to recent reports Telenor, the Norwegian telecoms operator is proposing to merge its Asian assets with those of Malaysian rival Axiata, creating a group with 300m customers from Thailand to Indonesia. 

The merged group would have $13bn in annual revenues and be the biggest telecoms operator in south-east Asia while the deal would be one of the largest transactions on the continent outside of China or Japan. 

Telenor would own 56.5 per cent of the combined entity while Axiata, whose main shareholder is the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, would hold 43.5 per cent under the proposed deal, which would involve no cash changing hands. 

Telenor, majority-owned by the Norwegian government, has sold off a number of stakes in central and eastern Europe as it seeks to concentrate on the Nordic and Asian regions after being embroiled in a damaging bribery scandal in Russia. They agreed to buy a majority stake in Finnish telecoms challenger DNA last month for €1.5bn, and makes more than half of its revenues from Asia. 

Telenor and Axiata said they both expected cost savings of $5bn from the proposed merger but gave no breakdown as to how and when they would be achieved. The merged company could take part in regional consolidation and would operate about 60,000 towers across Asia with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of about $5.5bn before any synergies. 

Both companies hope to conclude the deal in the third quarter of 2019 after approval by regulators and shareholders. The new company would have its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur and be listed on the Malaysian stock exchange as well as an unnamed international market.

Johor Bahru Internet Exchange chief peering officer Weng Yew Wong said the product rationalisation from the potential merger may lead to reduction of choices and available packages for consumers.

Weng said the potential merger was nothing but a financial rationalisation exercise.

He explained that given the upcoming 5G capital expenditure and the fact that many of the operating markets are fast becoming mature and saturated, the fastest way to deliver shareholder value was to cut cost by merging operation and combining forces. According to Weng: 

“Usually price drop will only be realised when a new player is introduced into the market. It is unlikely that there will be any drastic change in the broadband pricing as a result of the reduction in the number of player in the market.” 

Telenor’s Asian footprint includes Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar. Axiata has operating companies in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, and the tower business edotco. Pro-forma revenue and pre-synergy EBITDA of the combined entity is approximately USD 13 billion (around NOK 113 billion) and USD 5.5 billion (around NOK 48 billion). Axiata’s mobile operations in Bangladesh, Robi, will continue to be separately and independently managed by Axiata.

The merger will mean the new company will have operations in nine countries with a total population of close to one billion people. They will have close to 300 million customers and become one of Asia’s largest mobile infrastructure companies operating approximately 60,000 towers across Asia. The merged company will have its operational headquarters in Kuala Lumpur with the majority of functions and is planned to be listed at an international stock exchange as well as on Bursa Malaysia. 

The two companies’ Malaysian businesses — Celcom for Axiata and Digi for Telenor — would also be merged, creating the company’s largest mobile operator.

The user base of  Celcom, as of December 2018 was 9.08 million mobile subscribers. Digi on the other hand still has 11.25 million subscribers despite a significant decrease in numbers last year. If we combine Celcom’s numbers with Digi’s numbers in a post-merger scenario that is still a user base of over 20 million, which is more than half of Malaysia’s population of roughly 31 million. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Swisscom launched 5G Fast and 5G Wide

We wrote a detailed post about 5G Spectrum auctions in Switzerland earlier this year. Now Swisscom has recently announced the launch of its 5G network this month (May 2019):

Long-awaited and available from May: Swisscom presents the first commercially available 5G smartphone in Switzerland. The Oppo Reno 5G is set to make the 5G mobile telephony standard a reality for residential customers. The range of 5G-capable devices will continue to be expanded.

Following the first prototypes at the end of 2018, Swisscom can now announce four end devices for sale. The very first 5G device in the Swisscom shop comes from the manufacturer Oppo, followed by other brands such as LG (from May), Samsung (from July) and Huawei (third quarter).

As can be seen in the picture on the top and the one above, Swisscom has a variety of spectrum available but is also refarming 2G & 3G to use 4G. This way Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G could be used with 4G. So what is happening with Swisscom 2G & 3G:

  • 2G will be switched off at the end of 2020 and the 2G frequencies will be used for 5G. 
  • As of October 2019, the 2100 MHZ frequency will be used for 5G instead of 3G. 3G technology itself, however, will continue to be available on the Swisscom network for some time to come: Standard 3G coverage will be offered at least until the end of 2024.
  • Swisscom has 2x15 MHz of 900 MHz spectrum available. Right now it uses the frequency for 2G & 3G. 3G will continue to run in 900 MHz but 2G will be switched off. Not sure if this means that the 900 MHz 2G will be refarmed for 3G or 5G mMTC kind of usage.

Swisscom PR defined 5G-Fast and 5G-Wide as follows:

As soon as the Federal Office of Communications grants the licence, Swisscom will activate the 5G network which it has established with technology partner Ericsson. The first 5G devices run on a proven frequency in the 3.5 gigahertz band, which was previously used for outdoor TV reports and has now been approved by the federal government for mobile communications. This frequency is designed to achieve speeds of up to 2 Gbit/s (5G-fast). During the media event, Swisscom demonstrated a peak speed of 1.86 Gbit/s. "As number one, we are responsible for our country and must think ahead," says Urs Schaeppi. "We invented prepaid in 1996, introduced Mobile Unlimited as a world first in 2004 and were the first to build a 4G network in 2012. We intend to ensure Switzerland remains an innovation location. We have therefore been shaping the development of 5G in international committees since 2016 and are working on a modernisation of NIRO." By the end of the year, Switzerland will be supplied with 5G; this includes cities, the countryside and the mountain regions. Known as 5G-wide, this stage of the expansion uses frequencies that permit extensive coverage. Customers everywhere will benefit from faster response times, greater bandwidths and, thanks to technology sharing with 4G, higher speeds.

It should be noted that Swisscom also won 700 MHz spectrum in the auctions earlier, so it's a matter of time before we see 5G Ultra-wide or something similar later on.

Further Reading:

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Uruguay on 5G: Leading Latin America

Uruguay has the second highest mobile penetration in Latin American (the highest being Panama). The mobile market is dominated by Antel, with Telefónica’s Movistar as second-placed operators and América Móvil’s Claro a distant third. All three operators offer mobile broadband through 3G and LTE networks. Mobile broadband is the fastest growing telecom sector by far. Operators have achieved nationwide 3G coverage, which has attracted a growing number of subscribers outside of Montevideo. The number of mobile broadband subscribers continues to grow strongly. Antel has been at the forefront with LTE services, though the auction of multi-band spectrum in August 2017 has also enabled Movistar and Claro to widen the reach of their LTE offers.

Antel stands for Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, the state-owned, national provider of telecommunication. It has a monopoly for landlines, but on mobile networks, it competes with Movistar and Claro. Still, it's the market leader with 53% of all cellular customers and the best network in the country

Early in April 2019, Uruguay’s state-run telecommunications company, ANTEL, deployed the first 5G commercial network in partnership with Nokia. This was the first upgrade not only in Uruguay but also in Latin America, kick-starting the regional race towards 5G.

ANTEL and Nokia made the first 5G call in Uruguay using the 28 GHz frequency band, demonstrating the low latency capabilities of 5G using a virtual-reality sports application. 5G portfolio is likely to provide ANTEL’s customers with high bandwidth and low latency services, alongside new applications in areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Enterprises will also gain from various IoT vertical use cases enabled by 5G as it will help improve operational efficiency and user experiences while providing new revenue streams.

This network deployment started in the Barra de Manantiales area, Maldonado Department, where the first 5G base stations are operational and ready to provide services. ANTEL showed the ultra-low latencies and high speeds of 5G to local authorities and press at a launch event, using a virtual-reality sports application called "penalty kick".

Nokia and ANTEL have a long and important partnership in delivering mobile, IP and optical services to the Uruguayan market. They continue to work closely together in delivering the full commercial deployment of the 5G radio network. Nokia's services expertise plays a key role in deploying 5G networks and the team worked closely with the ANTEL team to deliver this demonstration for Uruguay.

Andrés Tolosa, the President of ANTEL, stated: 

"We are very proud to be the first operator in Latin America to set a 5G network into commercial service. This milestone is in line with our strong commitment to the development of the industrial and entertainment sectors as well as a great impulse to application development. We are a worldwide reference in FTTH networks and pioneers in providing our subscribers with state-of-the-art mobile networks. This great step towards 5G, with Nokia's support, enhances our technological ecosystem. Once again, we confirm our technological leadership in the region."

The agency reportedly plans to add more networks in other municipalities in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, citizens should be able to equip devices with 5G technology over the next month.

ANTEL also introduced the first 28GHz frequency bandwidth with support from Nokia. The Finnish company provided the 5G infrastructure, the RAN radio access network, optical transmission and supporting services.

José Otero, the vice-president of 5G Americas for Latin America, stressed the importance of the cooperation between the public and private sectors around the world to obtain this new technology. What’s more, ANTEL’s and Nokia’s history goes a long way back, so this initiative also reinforces ties between the entities.

Movistar by Spanish Telefónica is the second provider in the country with a 34% share. It has good coverage on "American" frequencies (see above). 3G coverage is about 50%, 4G/LTE has started in Montevideo 

Claro by Mexican América Móvil is the smallest network in the country on "American" frequencies and a 13% market share. 4G started in 2014 in Montevideo and has spread to other towns. 

Both of the smaller telcos have yet to make progress on 5G. 

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Bahrain: 5G imminent

We wrote about the mobile network operators in Bahrain last year here. Today we will look at Bahrain's 5G plans and rollouts. 

The Kingdom of Bahrain has announced it aims to provide commercial 5G services by June 2019. The Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed claims preparations for the rollout of 5G networks are finished, with the only missing piece of the puzzle being the availability of consumer handsets and equipment.

Bahrain has ranked first in the Arab region in the ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI) for the last five years, and 4th globally in the UN’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII). 

Bahrain held successful commercial trials for 5G technology in June 2018, while the National Broadband Network (NBN) has ensured fibre connectivity is spread throughout the nation. By the end of 2019, the Government plans to reach 95% of households and 100% of businesses. While this does support the development of other use cases, the side benefit of having suitable backhaul infrastructure supports the 5G ambitions also.

The products and services will be in line with the 3GPP standards issued in 2018 and are set to utilise bandwidth in the C-Band spectrum (3GHz), allowing national companies to tap into the global 5G services market, which is anticipated to grow from an estimated US$60bn in 2020 to an estimated US$125bn in 2025.

Like SanMarino, another nation state which will experience 5G before the vast-majority, Bahrain could position itself as a test bed for numerous different technologies, from autonomous vehicles to virtual reality.

Viva Bahrain, a leading telecom provider in the Kingdom, has signed a nationwide 5G service launch agreement with Huawei, a leading global provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices.

Signed at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this agreement compliments the successful completion of the 5G readiness project located in key areas across Bahrain that was announced recently.

Viva Bahrain will upgrade their existing infrastructure based on non-standalone 5G core and 4/5G dual mode radio unit and high capacity backhauling technologies that will enable Viva customers to access 5G services across Bahrain by June 2019. Moreover, transmission network’s high capacity ready hardware will allow them to rapidly scale up their networks to meet capacity requirements in the near future

Viva’s 5G mobile and wireless fixed services will ultimately enable Viva customers to enjoy not only gaming VR services and 3D 8K video but will also provide a platform for smart businesses and homes, ultimate VR and AR applications, AI and smart cars.

Meanwhile Batelcoanother major mobile operator in Bahrain has selected Ericsson to help commercially deploy 5G. 

The deal, the latest in a long partnership between the companies, will see Ericsson commercial 5G equipment – including 5G New Radio (NR), mobile transport, and core – being deployed in Batelco’s network.

Ericsson’s high-speed and low-latency 5G technology will help Batelco meet growing data traffic demands and deliver high-quality enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access experiences.

Batelco’s stated mission is to drive network leadership in Bahrain and provide customers with next-generation mobile technologies. It recently achieved Bahrain’s first 3GPP-compliant 5G data call on a commercial mobile network using a 5G pocket router. The call used Ericsson Radio System solutions and 5G Cloud Packet Core.

Mohamed Bubashait, CEO of Batelco Bahrain, says: 

“Batelco is committed to delivering exceptional customer experience through provisioning of seamless, advanced mobile services over 5G. We are therefore very pleased to strengthen our strategic partnership with Ericsson to commercially deploy 5G – to enhance our mobile network and services for people across Bahrain.”

Zain Bahrain is yet to announce their 5G technology vendor.

According to Fitch Solutions, acknowledging the growing demand for mobile broadband services, Bahrain’s telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), has issued a consultation for new spectrum to be awarded in the 800MHz and 2600MHz frequency bands. In total, the spectrum available will be 60MHz in the 800 MHz band, available as 2x30MHz of paired spectrum, and 140MHz in the 2600MHz band, to be offered as paired or unpaired spectrum. The provisional date for the results will be November 25 2018. Reserve prices start at BHD1.3mn (USD3.3mn) for the 800MHz band and BHD166,000 (USD44,000) for the 2600MHz band.

Both Zain and VIVA have 90MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band for the provision of fixed wireless services, but would require the regulator’s approval prior to launching 5G mobile services over the band. VIVA gained the spectrum after acquiring ISP Menatelcom in 2018, which provides broadband services through WiMAX technology.

A second consultation for the 800 MHz and 2600 MHz was released on March based on the responses of first one. It's available on TRA website here.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Reliance Jio Announces Progress, Amid Decreasing ARPU

Back in October we wrote about Jio reaching 250 million subscribers, now it has announced over 300 million subscribers up to March 2019. In fact their Q4 financial results summarises the results nicely, as can be seen in the picture below.

In summary:

  • Total subscriber base stands at 306.7 million
  • ARPU 126.2 (roughly US $1.8)
  • Average data consumption 10.9 GB/ user/ month.
  • Wireless Data Consumption across network was 956 crore GB (9560 Petabytes) during the quarter 
  • Average Voice 823 minutes of VOLTE voice/ user/ month
  • Jio network carried ~71% of 4G data traffic in India during CY18

One of the strategies that Jio has adopted is to bring connectivity to even the most remote locations. In a way they are forced to do this as they do not have legacy networks and rely on VoLTE for voice. VoLTE only works reliably with a proper 4G coverage.

In addition to providing voice & data, Jio is bringing unique Apps for not just keeping customers updated and in-control of their package, service and spending but also entertainment which is a must have nowadays for any service to succeed. Smart feature phones using KaiOS is letting them bring new users who are too reluctant to transition to smartphones.

OpenSignal report on India Mobile Network Experience, April 2019 pointed out that:

The story of Jio's network expansion is remarkable. Jio has been a fully-fledged 4G operator for less than three years, but has completely disrupted the market with its rapid network rollout and unlimited data plans. In our first report on the India market two years ago, Jio scored an outstanding 91.5% 4G Availability. Six months later the operator had passed the 95% mark, and its score has been steadily growing ever since.

To put this in context, Jio's winning 4G Availability score of 97.5% is the highest we have ever recorded at country level in any of our reports. In the U.S., two operators have scored over 90%, while in Taiwan four are over this mark — but none in either market have yet passed 95%. Even in the Netherlands, arguably Europe's most advanced mobile market, all the operators have 4G Availability scores over 90%, but only one has passed 95% — and only just, reaching 95.2% — while Japan has two operators over this benchmark. In a country with the sheer geographical size and population base of India, where the landscape ranges from huge cities to high mountains and vast agricultural plains, Jio's achievement of reaching 97.5% 4G Availability in such a short time is truly astonishing.

Jio has themselves committed to achieve all-IP 4G LTE network population coverage of 99% shortly. We will wait and see when this will happen but in the meantime, Reliance Jio has plenty to celebrate.