Saturday, 14 July 2018

Verizon's 5G Progress & Plans

Verizon plans to launch 5G in at least 4 cities this year, two that have already been announced being Sacramento and Los Angeles. This information is based on Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, speaking to CNBC's David Faber back in May.

Their intention is still to use millimeter wave bands (mmWave) in 28GHz and do a Fixed-wireless access (FWA). Lowell McAdam referred to this as ultra-wideband 5G as he says there will be different flavors of 5G.

The videos (playlist) below shows some of the trials and applications and the first video is particularly interesting as it tries to dispel the myths associated with mmWave bands.

Verizon have publicly announced that they are doing trials with Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia. According to Light Reading, Samsung is supplying the gear for Verizon's fixed 5G network in Sacramento, Calif., while Ericsson's equipment will be used in Los Angeles, the only two markets announced so far.

We will see Nokia equipment being deployed in another city soon as its being heavily promoted by their marketing department and rightly so.

Verizon is also working with innovative universities, start-ups and other companies to develop the use cases that will run on tomorrow’s 5G networks. At Alley, site of Verizon’s 5G incubator, five of these innovators are getting to use real 5G technology to develop, refine and demonstrate ways 5G networks will change the ways we live, learn, work and play.

We are looking forward to seeing real world results after the services are launched on Q4 2018.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Elisa claims "first in world to launch commercial 5G" - technical details and controversy

The Finnish & Estonian mobile operator Elisa staked the claim for "first in world to launch commercial 5G". Their press release states: 

Elisa has become the first operator in the world to begin commercial use of a 5G network and starts selling 5G subscriptions. The 5G network was used for the first time to make a video call to Kadri Simson, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure in Estonia. The video call is yet another historical achievement by Elisa: the first GSM telephone call in the world was also made using Elisa’s network. 

SourceNiina Johansson

The world’s first commercial 5G networks were launched today in Tampere and Tallinn.

–  We aim to make Finland the leading nation as a developer of 5G mobile services. The Ministry of Communications is ready to allocate the first 5G licences to the 3,400–3,800 megahertz frequency band in autumn, which will make Finland among the first countries in the world to start building 5G networks, says Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications.

5G will offer several new features to users of mobile services. For instance, 5G enables considerably faster data speeds and lower latency, as well as allowing a significantly larger number of devices to connect to the network.  This higher speed benefited the video call made over the world’s first commercial 5G network. Elisa, together with Huawei, used the first commercial 5G terminal devices in the world to make the call.

I blogged earlier about Ooredoo, STC and Etisalat staking the claim for world's first 5G networks. At least the press release by Ooredoo and Etisalat did mention the word "Commercial".
Elisa's press release mentions that the licenses are yet to be allocated. Last year, the Finnish regulator FICORA issued 13 radio licences in slices of up to 100 MHz in the 3.5GHz band and up to 1,000 MHz in the 26GHz band. At that time, Elisa was already working with Nokia on 5G showing off peak data speeds were 1.5GBps and the lowest latency was 1.5 milliseconds.

This launch is with Huawei and Elisa was able to show up to 2.2Gbps. There is a picture of base station here for anyone interested.

According to this FierceWireless News:

Elisa said that together with Huawei, it used the first commercial 5G terminal devices in the world to make the call. In an email, Eetu Prieur, Elisa’s head of mobile technology, described the devices as wireless 5G routers.

At the moment, the 5G network covers the city center in Tampere and Tallin, according to Prieur. The operator is offering two subscription alternatives: unlimited data with unlimited voice for €49.90/month (about $57 U.S.) and unlimited data (voice not included) for €44.90/month (about $52 U.S.)

So this is more of a Fixed-Wireless Access kind of deployment with wireless routers backhauling on to 5G network. I am assuming the voice calls are more of VoWiFi or app based calling.

Will update when more details are available.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

APAC's 32 largest operators ranked by revenue

You have probably seen the map above. It shows there are more people in this circle than outside. Its also where many huge telecom operators are located. Well, Asia-Pacific or APAC is much bigger than what you see above. See this pic below.

Total Telecom just published a list of 32 top operators in this region by revenue. Here is the list.

Mobile In Tokyo makes a good point (tweet below) that even though Japan is roughly 1/10th of China by population, the 3 Japanese operators generate 37% of revenue in Asia.

In other interesting analysis in the article:

India contributes the most operators to the Asia 32 table with five representatives, but its revenue share is just over 5%, down slightly on the previous report. As detailed in the full Global 100 report, India's telcos are experiencing more than their fair share of difficulties, with Reliance Communications and Tata Communications both pulling out of retail telecoms on the back of fierce competition from newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm. Jio will also be a newcomer to the Global 100 in the next report. It generated revenues of 239.16 billion rupees in the year to the end of March 2018, which equates to around €3 billion and would afford it 22nd place in the current Asia-Pacific ranking and 65th in the full Global 100.

There was a newcomer to the current Asia 32 table in the form of Malaysia-based Axiata, which ranks 17th in the Asia-Pacific and 51st in the overall Global 100. There were previously just 31 representatives of the Asia-Pacific region in the Global 100.

The region's overall revenue total came in around €1 billion higher than in the previous ranking, with the Asia 32 together generating €502.3 billion. The Asia-Pacific accounted for 36% of total Global 100 revenues, down from 38% two years earlier.

You can read the complete article here.

Total Telecom's Global 100 report is available here.

In related news, according to Telecom TV:

Asia Pacific is on track to become the world’s largest 5G region by 2025, led by pioneering 5G markets such as Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, according to the latest edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report. Launches of commercial 5G networks in these markets beginning next year will see the Asia region reach 675 million 5G connections by 2025, more than half of the global 5G total expected by that point. Asia’s move to state-of-the-art mobile broadband networks reflects the mobile ecosystem’s growing value to the region’s economy. According to the report, Asia’s mobile industry added $1.5 trillion in economic value last year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of regional GDP.

The latest GSMA Mobile Economy report is available here.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ethiopia: Finally opening up

Ethiopia’s state owned telecommunications company, Ethio Telecom is currently Africa's largest mobile operator.
According to IT Web’s report with over 57 million mobile subscribers as at November 2017, Ethio Telecom had beat MTN Nigeria to become Africa’s largest in terms of its mobile customer base.

A sector expert was quoted to have said:
“Ethio Telecom of Ethiopia is now the largest mobile operator in Africa in terms of subscriptions, with 57.34 million mobile subscriptions at end-2Q17. Ethiopia is also one of the very few African countries that has not liberalised its telecoms market and introduced competition, so Ethio Telecom has a monopoly,” 
An expansion drive costing over $1.6 billion in the last few years has contributed greatly to this success. According to a statement on their website: 
"The expansion project has also significantly improved quality of services, with customers enjoying 3G wireless services by upgrading the 2G network across all regions covering all over the country; with also 4G LTE, super-fast services, launched in Addis Ababa. Over the past few years, Ethio Telecom has been transforming itself to meet its vision of becoming a world class operator and our journey so far shows we are on the right track.”

The company reports that 64.4 million of its customers are mobile phone subscribers, and 1.2 million are fixed line users. The company's internet service users have also reached 16 million. Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation behind Nigeria and the numbers are believed to have played a significant part.

The other reason for this success is the strictly regulated economy of Ethiopia and the government til date has not liberalized the telecoms sector resulting in Ethio Telecom having a monopoly as the state-owned and only operator

However the currently government under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is attempting to open up the economy and has announced plans split state-run monopoly Ethio Telecom in two and gradually sell shares in both entities to top telecoms companies in a bid to increase competition.The PM has said: 

“…If Somalia with 12 million population has four telecom operators, Ethiopia with over a hundred million population has to also open its doors to multiple telecom operators,” 
Under the plan, a total stake of between 30 per cent to 40 per cent in Ethio Telecom will be sold to operators, provided they are rated as top ten players globally.

The Ethiopian government also routinely cuts the internet mainly for political but also academic reasons.To forestall the leakage of key university entrance exams, the authorities blocked the internet in the past. Activists have slammed the government repeatedly for cutting off the internet because they wanted to control the spread of information and materials relating to anti-government protests and human rights abuse.

A more privatized sector and less governmental interference will hopefully prevent this. 

Both MTN and Vodacom see potential for growth in the Ethiopian market. An MTN spokesperson states:
"MTN has long held the view that Ethiopia offers great opportunities for growth, both for the people of Ethiopia and for the businesses that could serve them, through the liberalisation of the telecommunication market in that country. MTN is excited by the potential opening up of the Ethiopian market as it would be a natural fit for MTN's existing and extensive Pan-African footprint. MTN's licence to provide value-added services in Ethiopia was recently renewed and we continue to maintain an office in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia presents many exciting telecommunication opportunities and we look forward to further discussions with that nation's authorities on potential partnerships and opportunities."
MTN operates in 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East, and Vodacom operates in five African nations.

While Vodacom have said
"Ethiopia is an attractive market so it follows that there would be interest. Naturally, this is dependent on what might become available and if it fits within our investment parameters." 
However PM Ahmed Abiy also clarified the conditions for selling shares in the state telco: 
“Certain amounts of shares will be sold gradually in 10, 20, 30 years. We are not giving it up in one go, it is not possible.”
Ethiopians will be offered 5% in the new companies, and between 30% and 40% will be sold to telecoms operators that are top-10 players globally. There’ll be at least a year or two of “intensive study”, he said in televised comments. 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Sunrise Communications Overview

A short summary of Sunrise Communications from a presentation by Aaron Pearce

As can be seen seen in the picture above, SBB, UBS and Migros started NewtelcoAG. Then in 1997 British Telecom and Tele Danmark joined Newtelco as partners and investors and launched the Sunrise brand. Since then Sunrise has just been going from strength to strength. In 2016, Sunrise celebrated 20 years of success and was also the winner of the “connect” network test with a record score and the only provider to be awarded a rating of “OUTSTANDING.”

In fact in an Opensignal report on Switzerland last year, Sunrise won the crown for fastest download speeds while Swisscom had the best coverage.

In a nutshell, Sunrise is the largest private telecommunications provider in Switzerland with convergent solutions from one source as can be seen in the picture above.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sri Lanka: Competition and Controversy

Sri Lanka is a small island nation covering approximately 66,000 km2 in the Indian Ocean, offering access to Asia and the Middle East. The majority of its 21 million people live in the rural areas; urban residents account for just 15% of total population.

Sri Lanka’s telco industry is characterized by intense competition, with mobile operators fighting for a share of the relatively small addressable population of 21 million people.
Around 45-50% of people in Sri Lanka own a mobile phone now. Although this is high in comparison to most of the developing world, the figures are low in comparison to mature markets which typically see penetration rates between 60-80%. Higher rural mobile ownership and greater smartphone ownership would be key to raising the penetration rates. An important market trends is the rising use of mobile data, with most of the usage being prepaid. Operators are increasingly designing short-term, flexible tariffs in order to promote usage amongst low-mid income customer segments

However more recently mobile penetration had risen from 96% in 2012 to 126% in 2017. Slow to moderate growth is predicted over the next five years to 2022. The market will be constrained from higher growth due to very strong local competition and a saturated mobile market.

Sri Lanka has seen a very strong increase in mobile broadband penetration over the past five years with market penetration increasing from 8% in 2012 to 21% in 2017, driven by a rising level of mobile subscribers. However, the mobile broadband market is still at an early stage of development with penetration well below most other developed Asian countries.
The development of the internet remains of particular concern for Sri Lanka. Coverage and accessibility remains limited and the sophistication of the available services generally remained low.

However the last three years in particular have seen very strong growth led by the market leader Dialog Axiata.

At end-2017 the company reported a total of 12.797 million mobile subscribers. GSMA Intelligence placing its market share at 45 per cent in Q1 2018.

The telco has pledged investment in high speed 4G and fixed LTE broadband infrastructure, as mobile LTE coverage reached 43% of the population at end-2017, while TD-LTE coverage was 53%. They also carried out a 5G' network capability trial with technology partners Ericsson and Huawei in Colombo.

Mobitel was the first service provider with a super 3.5G network in South Asia. Furthermore, Mobitel successfully demonstrated HSPA + MIMO technology with downlink speeds of up to 28.8 Mbps and carried out a successful trial of 4G/LTE technology with downlink speeds exceeding 96 Mbps, for the first time in the South Asian region. In addition, Mobitel recently launched Dual Carrier HSPA+ technology and it is now equipped with the country’s first mobile 4G/LTE equipment.

They currently have a 24 per cent market share according to GSMA Intelligence  and 6.8 million subscribers.

Ookla® has declared the National Mobile Service Provider, Mobitel, its Speedtest Award Winner for having the Fastest MobileNetwork in Sri Lanka.Mobitel dominates rival networks in the country in terms of network speed on broadband to emerge No. 1 in the industry. Mobitel 4G LTE technology offers users the superior experience of enjoying high definition streaming videos and Multimedia Online Gaming (MMOG).  Mobitel also recently enhanced its 4G LTE network coverage by innovatively deploying its existing 900MHz spectrum. This initiative is Sri Lanka’s first such deployment, thus significantly enhancing Sri Lanka’s 4G LTE coverage and LTE MIMO technology, making Mobitel the No.1 network in Sri Lanka.

A recent major development is the announcement that Hutch and Etisalat plan  to combine their Sri Lankan operations in a bid to better position them to serve customers in the country. The takeover would see the Sri Lankan market reduced to four from five mobile operators.

“This transaction is part of the stated strategy of portfolio optimisation of the Etisalat Group,” the pair said in a joint statement, adding CK Hutchison will have the majority and controlling stake in the new entity when the deal is complete.

The move will see the number three and four operators coming together.  GSMA Intelligence place the market share of the two companies as of Q1 2018:  Etisalat Lanka (13 per cent), Hutch Lanka (10 per cent).

The completion of the transaction is subject to conditions, including regulatory approvals.
Local reports state Etisalat’s ten year mobile operating licence in Sri Lanka expires in September.

Bharti Airtel Lanka a subsidiary of Bhari Airtel, they started operating in Sri Lanka in January 2009. According to their website they have invested of over $350 million in the Sri Lanka operations, and are the latest and fifth entrant to Sri Lanka’s telecom landscape. Their impact in the market includes the introduction of several innovative services, such as the lowest rates for voice services, per second billing, the lowest IDD rates, the lowest international voice and data roaming rates. With over 45,000 touched points established across the island, the company’s subscriber base has grown to 1.8million, located across all regions in the country.
For more on coverage available on these operator networks please see the Open Signal report.

Data provided by OpenSignal last month agrees with the analysis of Ookla that Mobitel is indeed the operator with fastest download speeds but latency of both 3G and 4G is much better in Dialog.

In March 2018 authorities completely shut down the internet in the district of Kandy , in response to acts of sectarian violence. The government blamed social media for spreading hate speech and calls to violence.
As far as researchers know, most of these shutdowns have occurred at the behest of government authorities, who order telecommunications companies to press the proverbial ‘kill switch.’
Telecommunications companies usually have little choice but to follow these orders. In some cases, they offer subscribers some explanation of the cut in service. But more often, they don't.

AFP news agency reported that Internet access has been stopped entirely to the Kandy district “after discovering rioters were using online messaging services like WhatsApp to coordinate attacks on Muslim properties”.
However blocking public communications networks is ill-advised at any time, and especially bad during a crisis, when people are frantically seeking situation updates or sharing information about the safety of loved ones.
Blocking selected websites or platforms is a self-defeating exercise in any case, since those who are more digitally savvy – many hate peddlers among them – will now use proxy servers to get around. It is the average web user who is deprived of news, views and updates. Such information vacuums can allow rumours to spread fast and wide.

Related Posts:

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Different Types of Mobile Operators

While most of the time we talk about Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in this blog, there are other types of mobile operators that's good to be aware of.

For example we recently wrote about Lycamobile, which is the worlds largest International Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO). Similarly when we wrote about the Hutchison / Three group companies, we mentioned that Hutchison Mobile Enabling Solutions or 'hue' is their MVNE Mobile Virtual Network Enabler) that is enabling MVNO's worldwide.

To learn about the different types of mobile operators, below is a presentation with embedded video in the end.