Sunday, 20 May 2018

Three Middle East Operators launch 'World's First' 5G Networks

I am sure you have heard of the saying, "Good news comes in threes". Well, what better than to have three Middle East operators claim World's First 5G Networks.

1. Ooredoo, Qatar:

Picture Source: IloveQatar

In a press release on 14 May, Ooredoo announced:

Ooredoo has today announced that the company is the first operator in the world to launch a live 5G network on the 3.5GHz spectrum band.

The breakthrough announcement was made in an event attended by Ooredoo senior management at the Ooredoo Tower in West Bay. Attendees were also briefed on the first Ooredoo 5G site which was accomplished just days after Ooredoo’s new 5G Commercial Core Network was activated.

Ooredoo’s 5G network is the first commercially available 5G network in the world and is an important technological breakthrough for the telecommunications industry worldwide.

Speaking at the event, Waleed Al Sayed, Chief Executive Officer, Ooredoo Qatar, said: “Today, Ooredoo and Qatar make history. We are the first company in the world to offer access to 5G technology and services, and the people of Qatar are the first to have access to the incredible benefits this technological upgrade will bring. We dedicate this important milestone to the people of Qatar and to our beloved leaders, who have encouraged this step in building the knowledge-based economy of Qatar.”

The first stage of Ooredoo’s 5G Supernet deployment will cover an area from The Pearl Qatar to Hamad International Airport, with Lagoona, Katara Cultural Village, West Bay, the Corniche and Souq Waqif also included in the initial commercial launch coverage area.

The Ooredoo 5G service offers the latest network technology (5G NR) meaning much higher speeds, capacity, and better latency, than existing cellular systems. The new network will bring advantages over the previous generations of cellular technology and will enable business and consumer customers to unlock more of their potential and explore opportunities that were simply not possible before 5G.

“Ooredoo has been a leader in 5G service deployment since 2016. We have invested in the testing and installation of our 5G network so that we can confidently open its benefits fully to our people and the world. The 5G Supernet will be the infrastructural backbone of Qatar as our nation pushes to offer the latest smart applications in-line with Qatar National Vision 2030. This network will provide the necessary foundation to introduce a wave of new innovations, including driverless cars and smart roads, virtual and augmented reality, a national fleet of service drones, and much more,” added Waleed Al Sayed.

In becoming the first company in the world to deploy commercial 5G, Ooredoo has built upon an impressive number of earlier milestones, including the first-in-the-region trials of 5G on Qatar National Day in 2016, the completion of 10 5G-ready base stations in May 2017, and the launch of the 5G Business services trial in partnership with Qatar Airways in November 2017.

Access to the Ooredoo 5G Supernet will require a 5G compatible device from Ooredoo. The company has announced that this is just the beginning of the Ooredoo 5G network, which will continue to be expanded over the coming months to cover even more areas of Qatar.

A video from the launch event as follows:

2. Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Saudi Arabia

Picture Source: TelecomDrive

In a very short press release on 15th May, STC announced:

STC announced the first live 5G network in MENA. This launching is the initial phase for operating the service once 5G special devices are available in the global markets. 

In January 2017, STC succeeded in advanced technical experiments and trials on 5G technology as part of the company's strategy of leading technological development and leading modern and advanced services. 

The widespread use of 5G will facilitate the dissemination of information, promote prosperity of the common digital economy and accelerate changes in productivity methods and lifestyles.

Back in March STC had announced a collaboration with Nokia for 5G launch.

TelecomDrive notes:

Eng. Nasser Al Nasser, STC Group CEO, expressed his proudness of this initial launching that confirms STC`s pioneering position in providing innovative services for the customers around the Kingdom and the region. He added:’ we have confidence, knowledge, and innovation, which will enable us to lead the 5G era”. He said:” the launching of 5G started with operating a number of towers, initially, in the eastern region”. Al Nasser added:”the company will continue working on building the network construction gradually in the cities of the Kingdom until the devices are available during of 2019”

3. Etisalat, UAE

'Khaleej Times' and 'The National' and many others ran an article on the 14th May about Etisalat 5G launch. There were no photos or videos and the press release noted:

In the first phase of the launch, 5G fixed wireless services (fixed and internet services) will be provided in selected locations in UAE, which will gradually expand to other parts of the country depending on consumer demand and requirements. The commercial fixed devices and services will be available for consumers starting from September this year.

Saleh Al Abdooli, CEO, Etisalat Group applauded the efforts of the entire team, he said: "Today's announcement is a historic moment for the company as the commercial launch of the 5G network will set a milestone for the UAE. Etisalat today is the first telecom operator in the world to provide this ultra-high 5G C-band data speed as a commercial service over the wireless network.

The press release on Etisalat's own website says:

“The launch of the 5G network and associated applications will also bring in an immense potential for all stakeholders providing them a platform to innovate, launch futuristic applications and empower the next generation with digital capabilities. As a company our vision ‘Driving the Digital Future to Empower Societies’ is also focused on making this digital future a reality by facilitating innovation, creativity and bringing technologies of the future to all our audiences across our markets.” 

Keeping in line with its vision of bringing in digital innovation, Etisalat was on track as the first operator in the MENA region to launch the first commercial 5G wireless network achieving a technology milestone and set an industry benchmark. Etisalat is the first operator to have a fully developed commercial 5G network available to provide gigabit internet services to its customers.

Now that the first 5G networks have been rolled out, we can move on and focus on important topics like how to make money and what new use cases will be served by 5G, etc.

Other news on this topic:

Thursday, 10 May 2018

India: Disruption and Competition

I have previously written about the disruption caused by Reliance Jio since its explosive entry into the Indian mobile market. This operator launched their 4G service in September 2016 and continues to go from strength to strength as it adds subscribers and reported a second consecutive quarterly profit and earnings of INR7.23 billion ($108 million) for its full financial year 2017-2018.

Its mobile subscriber base rose by 83 million year-on-year to take its total to 187 million at end-March 2018. ARPU dropped 11 per cent sequentially to INR137 in the January-March period. Average data consumption per user per month hit 9.7GB, which the company said was the highest in India and one of the highest in the world. Average video consumption per user per month was 13.8 hours.

Data from GSMA Intelligence show Jio’s market share rose to 14 per cent at end-March 2018, from 9 per cent a year earlier. Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Jio’s parent Reliance Industries, said:

 “A full-blown social, mobile and digital revolution is underway across the world, and I am glad that India is not being left behind in any way. Everyone at Jio is today proud to have played a pivotal role in transforming the digital landscape of this country and empowering millions of Indians with all the leading digital tools and skills.”

He emphasized the strong financial results in a competitive market environment demonstrates the robustness of their business model.

According to Open Signal Jio continued to dominate the 4G availability metric as testers were able to access an LTE signal 96.4% of the time. Such a score is exceptional, reflecting Jio's commitment to build out a 4G-only network without 3G mobile data services to fall back on. What's more, Jio's impressive LTE reach is only improving, though incrementally. The last India report in October, measured Jio's 4G availability at 95.6%.

However the success of Jio has come at the expense of others especially the ill-fated Reliance Communications (RCom) owned by the junior Ambani brother Anil,  which is heading towards a complete exit from India’s mobile sector, ending its 16-year stay in the market. The operator is folding, with a debt load standing at roughly $7 billion.

After striking a deal to sell wireless assets to Reliance Jio in 2017, which was given the go-ahead by Indian courts within the past fortnight, the debt-ridden operator was expected to remain in the market with the creation of a “new Reliance Communications”, using its remaining fixed-line and wholesale assets to serve enterprise clients.

But, just as the company looks set to complete its sale to Jio and put its B2B plans in motion, reports suggest Ambani junior is now looking to sell RCom’s remaining enterprise and wholesale assets.

Ironically by acquiring RCom’s infrastructure and assets, which in effect saved RCom from insolvency, Jio is expected to step up the competition even further with market leader Bharti Airtel and the proposed Vodafone India, Idea Cellular joint entity.

Speaking to Mobile World Live, Satyajit Sinha, research analyst IoT and mobility at Counterpoint Research, described Jio’s entry into the Indian market as a “death knell for RCom”, but noted problems started long before Anil’s older brother Mukesh stormed the Indian market with reduced data and voice offers through Jio. According to Sinha:

“RCom’s main business model was dependent upon the CDMA technology well suited for voice services, but not so for advanced data services compared to the competition which were on the path to 4G. A lack of flexibility meant the transition from CDMA to GSM was not as smooth and was a setback as Reliance continued to lose subscribers to the likes of Vodafone, Idea and Airtel.”

Finally, Sinha noted a “lack of strategic network evolution vision in addition to a lack of scale has driven RCom to this stage”.

RCom’s situation could have been very different, had Anil been allowed to proceed with a merger with South Africa’s MTN almost nine years ago. However, Senior Ambani had blocked the deal. And nine years later, he has been on hand to put the final nail in the coffin of his brother’s mobile business, as part of a wider quest to seize market domination. Family rivalry in action. 

Meanwhile, market leader Bharti Airtel reported a profit drop of 77.8 per cent in its fiscal Q4 2017, as the company continued to feel the effects of the Jio disruption/ increased competition in India which has led to an intense price war.

In an earnings statement for the quarter ending 31 March 2018, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of India and South Asia suggested poor performance was due to: 

 “below cost, artificially suppressed pricing. Industry revenues were further adversely impacted this quarter due to the reduction in international termination rates.” 
The operator reported net income of INR830 million ($12.5 million), a sharp fall from INR3.73 billion in the same quarter year prior. Revenue dropped 10.5 per cent to INR196.34 billion from INR219.35 billion, which was attributed to the termination rate cuts.

Airtel’s profit drop is its largest in 15 years, Despite the decline, the operator’s mobile subscriber base grew 4.9 per cent to more than 304 million, contributing to an overall customer base of more than 413 million.

According to Open Signal Airtel demonstrated by far the biggest improvement in 4G reach, boosting its 4G availability by more than 9 percentage points to 66.8% in their measurements. But Airtel was also the furthest behind in this metric six months ago, so its recent surge in availability didn't propel it ahead of any of its competitors in the rankings. 

Meanwhile Idea, an operator with a 17 per cent market share by subscribers, suffered a net loss of INR41.4 billion ($620 million) in the year to end-March, compared with an INR4.04 billion loss in fiscal 2017. Total revenue dropped 20.5 per cent year-on-year to INR283 billion.

Total mobile subscribers increased by 5 million year-on-year to 194.5 million at end-March.
Capex for the fiscal year hit INR70 billion, in line with its guidance. The operator added 45,000 3G and 4G sites to take the total to 155,000 at end-March.

The company is to due merge with Vodafone India and is in the final leg of regulatory approvals, expected to be completed in the first half of this year. The operators are already sharing about 49,000 mobile sites and plan to share fibre and points-of-presence in 220 cities.The merger, may well create a new market leader in India, however it is being speculated around 5,000 staff could be made redundant over the coming months as the companies prepare to reduce costs and streamline operations. Idea has about 11,000 employees: Vodafone India around 10,000. 

Finally State-run telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is expected to soon get 5 Mhz slot in the 2100 Mhz band for rolling out fourth-generation or 4G services that may make India’s telecom landscape more competitive with rivals such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular already pitting against each other.BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told ETTelecom.
“By next month, 5 Mhz in the 2100 Mhz band will come across 21 licensed service areas except for Rajasthan where we aim to launch 4G services on the 800 Mhz band radio waves,” 
The state-driven telco is currently offering third-generation (3G) technology-based services on the 2100 Mhz band spectrum which it wants to further use optimally for 4G-based voice and data services. According to Shrivastava: 
“By rolling out 4G with an additional five units in the 2100 Mhz band can also help in utilization of unused spectrum offering contiguity,” 
Therefore they can offer 2G, 3G and 4G services concurrently.

Once more the disruptive foray of Reliance Jio in September 2016, on the back of freebies has led incumbents such as market-leader Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to drastically cut per Gigabyte (GB) data cost or as low as Rs 5 per GB with virtually free voice calls across prepaid and postpaid platforms today.

So its seems market competition will get even fiercer. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

Lycamobile: World's largest International MVNO?

Chances are that you have heard about Lycamobile, either for their cheap local and international call rates or because of some wrong reasons for which they have been in the news recently. They claim to be world's largest International MVNO, which is most likely true as I can't think of any other competitor this big.

There are quite a few different companies in Lycamobile group as can be seen above. More details are on the group website here.

They also have a presence in 23 countries, up from 16 countries back in 2013.

In addition, Lyca group has a whole range of other companies, including Lyca production which is involved in producing movies. More info on Wikipedia here.

Finally, the picture below is a slide from Mobile World Congress 2018, showing the reach of Lycamobile.

Further Reading:

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The Global Reach of Hutchison / '3' Group Mobile Telecom Companies

I am a big fan of 'The Mobile Network' Magazine (hereafter TMN) as it has a very well designed layout and very well thought of content. I always learn quite a few things from each issue. Hence when I saw the last one had an article on the mobile operator '3', I got in touch to get a PDF copy to share (please follow SlideShare embed below to download).

I would recommend everyone to subscribe to get their own physical or soft copy of TMN magazine. To receive your own copies of TMN Quarterly, sign up here:

While I was aware of the '3' group, I wasn't aware that the parent company Hutchison had some other brands too. In addition, I was surprised to find out that the group also has a MVNE (learn more about the difference between MNO, MVNO, MVNA & MVNE here)

For those who prefer maps, here is a global footprint of Hutchison Three companies. While most companies operate with a 'Three' brand there are a few that operate under different brand names. The most shocking being Vodafone Australia which is actually a joint venture between Vodafone and Hutchison Telecoms

Anyway, here is the article:

Monday, 30 April 2018

Zimbabwe: Progress and Development

The Q3 2017 Telecoms report by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) reported an increase in Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration rate from 97% in Q2 to 100.5% in Q3.

Zimbabwe has three main mobile operators. Other mobile operators are unlikely to enter the market due to spectrum shortages.  Subscriber stats as of last year:

Econet Wireless is the market leader in the telecom and technology industries in Zimbabwe, boasting over 10 million connected customers according to this source, and offering the widest range of voice, data, content, media, as well as mobile money services.
Millions of Econet customers already use smart phones to access mobile data services, and when the company - which industry figures say has the widest 3G and 4G data networks - has been aggressively rolling out mobile and fixed Wifi hotspots in the major cities and towns. Its customers will now be expected to use its wide mobile data network and its Wifi hotspots to access the web self-care services.
Econet web selfcare, is referred to as the first "truly open network in the country" by Econet Chief Operating Officer Fayaz King, allow Econet customers to monitor their airtime and data usage anywhere and at any time.
Mr King elaborates:
 "Customers will have the convenience of having direct access to their balances, being able to transfer airtime, check their call history, activate or deactivate content and value-added services, and be able to change their PUK (Pin Unlock Key) numbers on their own, without calling for assistance from Econet".
The service will compliment Econet's recent introduction of AI (Artificial Intelligence)-driven customer support.

The company recently launched a Chatbot called 'Bud-e', which carries out some of its customer services support via Econet's Facebook page, including assisting customers to install Internet and data settings, recover recharge keys from over-scratched recharge cards, reset EcoCash PIN requests, and carry out EcoCash transaction reversals, among other support functions.

Telecel Zimbabwe is a telecommunications services provider with most of its services in the mobile cellular network services. The company is owned jointly by the Empowerment Corporation (40%) and Vimpelcom (60%), one of the largest telecoms companies in the world.
According to its website it has more than 1,750,000 active subscribers. They launched their first 4G LTE services last year, allowing them to compete with rival firms Econet Wireless and NetOne, both of which introduced 4G connectivity several years ago
CEO Angeline Vere commented: ‘As part of the plan we announced in May (2017), we have started to install LTE equipment in Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare. This phase will be immediately followed by a country-wide deployment of this 4G technology.’ She added: ‘In addition to the LTE, Telecel will also be upgrading current sites as well as rolling out new 3G sites across the country.’

Telecel, which is 60% state-owned, controlled around 14% of Zimbabwe’s 13.2 million mobile users at the end of June 2017, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. After several years of subscriber losses, partly due to uncertainty surrounding its ownership and licensing issues, the government is looking to turn the business around ahead of a possible sale.

Zimbabwe’s second largest operator by subscribers, state-owned NetOne, has signed a $71 million financing agreement with Chinese equipment vendor Huawei Technologies, supported by the China Exim Bank. The deal will enable NetOne to expand its mobile network into more rural areas,
NetOne grew its data market share by 6.5 percent in the last quarter of 2017, the latest Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) report shows. According to the report, the State-owned NetOne is the only mobile telecommunications company that gained a market share of internet and data traffic. NetOne leveraged on growing mobile data usage in the country with its OneFusion offerings that were introduced in May last year. The One-Fusion initiative took the market by storm, offering on-net and off-net voice calls, international calls, messages, data, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. "Demand for data and internet service has been consistently increasing," Potraz said in the report.
However Portraz later directed NetOne to compensate all subscribers who lost airtime on the Onefusion package over the weekend due to a faulty billing system.

In the past, subscribers have complained bitterly that Econet Wireless Zimbabwe was "robbing" them of voice airtime and data bundles. Nothing was publicly done to Econet, resulting in an exodus by subscribers to NetOne and Telecel.

NetOne, which has become the second largest mobile phone company with about 5,5 million by subscribers, was fiercely criticised by subscribers on social media platforms for the "disappearing" data bundles and voice airtime over the weekend.

Writing on its Facebook page, NetOne apologised for challenges it was facing, and claimed it was working flat out to address the problem.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

KT's 5G Plan

I recently blogged that KT is ready to roll-out 5G in 2019. Then the S. Korean Ministry of Science and ICT announced that the 3 MNOs (KT, SK Telecom & LG U+) along with an ISP (SK Broadband) will build a shared Infrastructure.

Today, Jongsik Lee, Head of 5G TF in Infra Lab. of Institute of Convergence Technology at KT spoke at Brooklyn 5G Summit (#B5GS) talking about the 5G trials at 2018 Olympic winter games at Pyeongchang and what are future commercialization plans.

Here is a summary in tweets:

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Afghanistan: 4G picking up pace

The Afghan telecommunications market and infrastructure has suffered from extensive damage due to conflict as well as lack of investment and neglect. However, in the years following the U.S.-led invasion, the telecommunications sector has emerged as a leading component of the country’s economy. 

There exist four main mobile operators in the country, Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC) was re-launched in 2002 (incorrectly named as Airtel Afghanistan in table below) and a second mobile operator, Roshan, began offering services the following year. AWCC and Roshan were awarded duopoly exclusivity over the market for three years from 2003 to 2006. A third operator, Areeba, entered the market in 2006 and was subsequently renamed MTN Afghanistan after being acquired by the South African mobile group MTN in 2007. A fourth mobile operator, Etisalat, entered the market in 2007. As of 2014, Roshan had a one-third market share, MTN had a one-fourth market share, and AWCC and Etisalat each had shares of approximately one-fifth.


The number of mobile-cellular subscriptions in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2016. In 2016, the number of mobile subscriptions in Afghanistan stood at 21.6 million. According to Abdul Razaq Vahidi, the Minister of Communication and Information Technology in Afghanistan; 

"In Afghanistan, in 2002, there was no infrastructure. We almost started from a zero base, with 20,000 fixed lines in Kabul city and some major cities. But now, we have 80% mobile penetration and 3 million people out of the 30 million population are using the Internet. "
The mobile sector has been boosted by the absence of effective fixed-line alternatives.

Key developments recently: 

  • AWCC launched Afghanistan’s first LTE system with coverage of Kabul.
  • Afghanistan is making good progress on the roll-out of a nationwide optical fibre backbone.
  • Afghanistan’s mobile market has experienced reasonably strong growth.
  • The mobile broadband market is being driven by a rising level of mobile subscribers and strong competition.


The operator with the largest number of subscribers Roshan is an Afghanistan success story, serving as a catalyst for economic growth and actively contributing to the country’s long-term development. Since its inception in 2003, Roshan has invested approximately $700 million in Afghanistan and is the country’s single largest investor and taxpayer, contributing approximately five percent of the Afghan government's overall domestic revenue. Roshan directly employs more than 700 people, 20 percent of whom are women, and provides indirect employment to more than 35,000 people. The company announced their 4G network would be launched imminently in May 2017. No further information can be found as yet. 

Roshan is deeply committed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is a major shareholder of Roshan and promotes private initiatives and building economically sound enterprises in the developing world. Also owned in part by Monaco Telecom International (MTI) and Telia, Roshan brings international expertise to the country and is committed to the highest standards of network quality and coverage for the people of Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in May 2017, Afghan Wireless launched the first 4G LTE service in Afghanistan. That service is now live in Kabul, and the company is extending 4G LTE to the entire country. 

The company has invested more than $400,000,000 to build Afghanistan's largest, fastest and most reliable communications network. AWCC's network provides its 4G/LTE, 3G and 2G subscribers with data access capacity of at least 400 Mega Bytes per second—the fastest and best speed available in Afghanistan.

Amin Ramin, the Managing Director of Afghan Wireless states:

"We at Afghan Wireless are proud to be the first mobile communications company to provide 4G/LTE service to the people of Afghanistan,The launch of AWCC's 4G/LTE Network in Kabul—and soon, throughout the nation—is the latest example of AWCC's determination to provide Afghans with the world's best communications services.  Afghan Wireless is a company built by Afghans. And we're honored to serve Afghans, and support our country's technological development, economic and social progress."

 Some interesting Tweet-observations about Afghanistan:

Monday, 16 April 2018

South Korea MNOs to build Shared 5G infrastructure

According to Yonhap News Agency:
South Korea's mobile carriers and an Internet service provider will share the burden of building the costly infrastructure for a high-end fifth-generation network, which they will then share in using, officials said Tuesday.  
The move could save about 1 trillion won (US$938 million) over the next 10 next years, as it would keep SK Telecom Co., KT Corp., LG Uplus Inc. and SK Broadband Inc. from making redundant investments, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.  
The four companies will together build the nationwide infrastructure, such as base stations for the 5G network, though details on how much each firm will pay are set to be finalized during the first half of this year, it said.  
The ministry did not elaborate on its estimation of the cost of building the 5G network. 
We recently blogged about KT's ambition to roll out 5G in 2019 here.

One of the reasons the shared infrastructure makes sense is because while most of the world will be rolling out initial 5G network in sub-6GHz band (mainly between 3.4 - 3.8 GHz), South Korea is looking at 28 GHz band. While technically millimeter waves start at 30 GHz (or they are known as centimeter waves or cmWaves below that), anything above 20GHz is often referred to as mmWave. 

Very few networks have commited to mmWave 5G rollout initially. Main commitments are from US operators (AT&T and Verizon), South Korea and Japan.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

India: 5G Roadmap Update (April 2018)

India, infamous for its abysmal internet connectivity, is in desperate need of a data upgrade. The government agrees and is implementing a roadmap for 5G. The aim is to deploy 5G services for consumers by 2020. The government set up a 22-member committee, chaired by telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, in September 2017 and tasked it with evaluating and approving road maps and action plans for the technology roll out. The panel, which has representations from the industry, government and academics, aims to develop a competitive product portfolio for 5G with an objective of targeting 50% of the Indian market and 10% of global market over the next seven years.Representatives from top internet service providers and telecom service providers, including Bharti Airtel Ltd’s chief executive Gopal Vittal, Reliance Jio’s managing director Sanjay Mashruwala, are part of the panel.

 Sundararajan articulates: 

“I agree India has more at stake in IoT and 5G than any other country because we need to leapfrog to meet the aspirations of the young demography and democracy.We need to have core network and communications ecosystem that will facilitate 5G and IoT. We also need to get the rest of the ecosystem ready for the paradigm change."
India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) advised ISPs and mobile operators to vacate spectrum in the 3.3GHz to 3.4GHz band by end-September as the government prepares to auction off airwaves in the 5G candidate band, LiveMint reported.

Every sector including healthcare, agriculture, consumer retail, smart energy and transport will have to rethink their business models with the advent of these new technologies, she points out. Outlining India’s ambitions to position itself as not just as a consumer but a leader in 5G and IoT, Sundararajan says telecom service providers have already started rolling out pilots for 5G. Communication networks will be the first pillar of India’s 5G play.

The Roadmap may also provide an opportunity to the government to attempt afresh to sell certain airwaves that are ideally suited for 5G services. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, in August 2017 floated a consultation paper inviting views on the next auction of various spectrum bands, including 3300-3400 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz spectrum bands that are suitable for 5G mobile services.

The 5G technology aims to deliver about 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) in urban areas and 1 Gbps in rural regions, according to Manoj Sinha, minister of state for communications. By comparison, the record speed for 4G is just around 1 Gbps—that, too, in a lab trial. In the field, Reliance Jio has the fastest 4G network at a mere 18 Mbps.

Nonetheless, several private companies have slowly begun working at 5G deployment. Airtel, for example, is rolling out the Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) technology, a “key enabler” for 5G. China’s ZTE has already initiated “pre-5G” trials with Airtel, Vodafone, and Reliance Jio. 

Bharti Airtel and  Huawei, have already successfully conducted India’s first 5G network trial in February 2018.  A user throughput of over 3 Gbps was achieved, with end-to-end network latency of approximately 1 msec. According to Huawei, this was the highest measured throughput for a mobile network in 3.5 GHz band with 100MHz bandwidth.

 Bharti Airtel Director of Network Abhay Savargaonkar has said: 

“This is a small but a very significant step in our journey towards 5G. The promise of 5G is endless. It will be a game changer and will change the way we live, work, and engage. We are moving quickly to begin collaboration towards 5G interoperability and development testing based on the 3GPP R15 standards.”

However according to Amresh Nandan, research director at advisory firm Gartner: 
“Optimal quality, extreme flexibility, and cost efficiency of the 5G network…these will only develop gradually over time through the evolution of technology, architecture, and processes and information,” he said, estimating that “the real potential of 5G can only be realised post-2025.”

According to Livemint, BSNL and Nokia to sign pact on 5G, IoT applications
BSNL’s agreement with Nokia entails cooperation for smooth network evolution and transition from 4G to 5G
“After 4G, the future is 5G and IoT, which is useful in the concept such as smart cities... The MoU will help BSNL to draw a framework for transition from the current network to futuristic 5G network,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.
The MoU, scheduled to be signed Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress, entails strategic cooperation for smooth network evolution and transition from 4G to 5G. It also involves joint 5G demonstration, use case development leveraging the benefits of high speed, low latency and IoT applications to meet growing demands of connected people and devices.
The pact also involves collaborative workshops to define a phased strategy for network evolution and transformation and the implications on business, technology and operations, he added.
Nokia will also work with BSNL by sharing 5G technology concepts, new product launches and innovations available in the public domain that demonstrate possibilities of 5G, and IoT for the Indian market, Shrivastava pointed out.

One final note. Indian Premier League or IPL, professional Twenty20 cricket league in India which is very well known throughout the cricketing world begins today. After getting inspired by 5G trials in South Korea, the Indian operators are planning to do some 5G trials as part of IPL 2018. 

Airtel said it will deploy the Massive MIMO technology across IPL match venues in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mohali, Indore, Jaipur, Bengaluru and Chennai. 

The first venue to go live with Airtel’s Massive MIMO deployment will be the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai where the first match of the IPL will be played on April 7, 2018. 

Airtel was the first mobile operator in India to commercially deploy Massive MIMO. Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have already been piloting the technology in various circles.

Reliance Jio is also deploying pre-5G massive MIMO technology at stadiums in Mumbai and Delhi.

What are your thoughts? 

Saturday, 31 March 2018

South Korea: KT ready to roll-out 5G in 2019

According to Mobile World Live, KT, the second largest mobile operator in South Korea, announced plans to start commercial 5G service in March 2019, which will make it one of the first operators in the world to launch the next generation mobile technology, Yonhap News Agency reported.

KT’s announcement comes despite the head of its 5G business unit, Lee Yong-gyoo, stating at Mobile World Congress last month it is not yet ploughing ahead with large-scale investment in the technology.

They also recently released a 5G video, explaining their vision

In a recent ITU conference KT also talked about their 5G service implementation at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter olympics. Samsung & Intel had partnered with KT over this event.

According to Fierce Wireless report, 22 5G links at 10 different sites—delivered 3,800 terabytes of data during the two-week event. A prestandard 5G network running in 28 GHz with vendors including Samsung and Ericsson used only line-of-site connections for communications in the millimeter-wave spectrum. KT recorded peak speeds of up to 3.5 Gbps on a 5G Samsung tablet using the network.

According to a report in Netmanias, KT is developing Five network solutions for 5G commercialization in 2019. These are technologies for expanding service coverage and maximizing 5G network performance. The solution development has been completed to 80% level, and it is planned to be completed in the third quarter of this year.

5G slot-integrated structure - LTE has a delay of 4 ms for transmitting Ack signal after receiving data due to difference of upload and download frequency channels. The 5G integrated slot structure transmits the Ack signal at the same time as the data reception in the TDD scheme, so that the delay can be minimized.

5G-LTE interworking structure - In case of shadow area due to discontinuous coverage in initial 5G network, it automatically switches to LTE network and provides seamless service.

Intelligent multi-beam tracking solution - When the user terminal is disconnected from the main base station, the user can access the auxiliary base station and use 5G service seamlessly by grabbing the signal of the peripheral auxiliary base station in addition to the main base station.

In building solutions - 5G frequency is very high in transmission loss due to high frequency band frequency characteristics. KT secures 5G quality by using 5G repeater in offices, premises, underground parking lots, and other buildings.

AI-based network optimization solution - 5G network optimization technology with remote and automation functions. For example, when performing antenna optimization, an engineer is stationed on the LTE site. In 5G, antenna direction and angle are optimized remotely.

Finally, some videos of KT booth and 5G equipment from Mobile World Congress 2018.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Palestine: 3G finally....

Picture Source: QZ

Palestinians in the West Bank were finally allowed high-speed 3G mobile data services at the beginning of this year. In world where fourth generation of mobile technology is available in even the most remote areas – from the peak of Mount Everest to the islands of the South China Sea – Israeli restrictions have until now forced Palestinians to settle for outdated second-generation technology. And their economy reflects it.

The only two Palestinian cellular providers Jawwal (owned by Palestine Telecommunications/PalTel)  and Wataniya Mobile (a subsidiary of Ooredoo) launched 3G mobile networks for customers in the Israeli-occupied territory at end of January 2018. Both these operators have to license their wireless spectrum from the Israeli government and route their traffic through Israel. And while Israel’s government granted 4G licenses to six Israeli mobile operators in 2015, Palestinians have remained stuck two generations behind.

Israel, where 3G networks went into service in 2004, had previously blocked Palestinian mobile companies' access to the necessary frequencies for nearly 12 years. In November 2015, it agreed to allow 3G in the West Bank alone and not in Gaza, however this was further delayed for unknown reasons.

Israel’s reasons for keeping Palestine on 2G up to now are not entirely known, however it is speculated that less-secure 2G networks are easier for the Israeli authorities to monitor—or at least to monitor without detection. They can eavesdrop (or potentially mass send everyone their own text messages, as evidenced in the Israeli assault of 2014) on traffic coming over Israeli companies' networks. 

To continue that level of surveillance on an upgraded 3G network run by Palestinian companies, Israel will have to either ensure that it can continue to tap into the network backbone those companies use, or use more detectable active surveillance technology like IMSI catchers. Active surveillance would be detectable: it would also be a violation of the Oslo accords, which declare that both sides “shall refrain from any action that interferes with the communication and broadcasting systems and infrastructures of the other side.”

But there could also be commercial reasons for delaying 3G. Palestinians often opine that one less visible economic aspect of Israeli occupation means that the 4 million strong Palestinian population living under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza is often used as a lucrative market for Israeli goods and services, to the detriment of Palestine’s own economy. One feature of Israel’s control is its stranglehold on the mobile market.

According to Ammar Al AkerPalestine Telecommunication’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the number of Israeli SIM cards (which are deemed illegal to sell or purchase in the West Bank and Gaza) have recently spiked. Al Aker said that before 2015, the number of Israeli SIM cards in the West Bank was estimated at 150,000, but in 2015 the number rose to 370,000 cards.Israeli SIM cards allow the residents of the West Bank to enjoy 3G coverage, whereas the Palestinian operators were restricted to 2G and effectively forced out of the market.

Israeli cellphone companies have extensive coverage in the West Bank, where they’ve been able to put cellphone towers in Israeli settlements—locations that, in the West Bank’s rugged topography, are prized because they’re typically on hilltops. As a result, they have better coverage in many places than Jawwal and Wataniya, as well as offering 3G or 4G:

Israel also keeps Jawwal and Wataniya in a chokehold in another way, by licensing far less spectrum to them than to Israeli firms. In the 2015 4G auction, Israeli companies bid on a total of 65 MHz of spectrum (on top of what they already had in 3G), to serve Israel’s population of 8 million people. Jawwal and Wataniya together have less than 10MHz, for a population slightly more than half that of Israel’s. Tight spectrum means slower connection speeds and more dropped calls.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that by one estimate, Israeli operators have 20%-40% of the Palestinian market, costing the Palestinian providers $80 million to $100 million a year in potential business. The World Bank, in a 2016 report, estimated that Palestinian cellular companies lost between $436 million (£308 million) and $1.5 billion in potential revenue in 2013 to 2015 due to Israeli restrictions on frequencies and equipment imports, and unauthorized competition by Israeli operators. 

And so there may well have been some pressure on the government to let the Israeli companies—which are also in such fierce competition with each other that not all of them are expected to survive—maintain their edge.

Israeli operators, which include Orange, Cellcom and Pelephone, provide telecoms services to illegal settlements within the West Bank, enabling them to offer coverage throughout the territory.

"As I speak to you in my office, I get coverage from all of the Israeli operators,” said Mr Aker. “We have to compete with Israeli operators, they cover West Bank with much more advanced technology.”

Jawwal is owned by the local Paltel Group and the leading provider in the Palestine Territories including Gaza with more than 2.5 million customers and a market share of more than 80%. In 1999, Israel licensed access to 4.8 MHz in the 900 MHz band to Jawwal, they still retain the same access, but for more than 2.5 million subscribers compared to only 120,000 in 1999.

Five gigabytes of data from Jawwal costs about $30, compared to $5 in Jordan and less than $4 in Israel. Many Palestinians will still use illegal Israeli 3G services because of the cheaper prices. However despite its elevated cost, Ammar Al Aker still believes that the 3G service will help “improve Palestinian citizens’ lives and develop the economy.” To this end, he confirmed that the Jawwal network is “powerful and widespread” and that in order to serve the largest number of users the company has installed 1,000 cellular towers in the West Bank.

Wataniya Mobile of the Kuwait-based and Qatar-owned Ooredoo Group. It started as the second mobile operator in 2009 in the West Bank. In 2017 it extended its area of operation to the Gaza Strip. Wataniya is now at the break-even point, but that it once suffered losses of as much as $20 million a year, it has only stayed afloat due to its main investors Ooredoo and the self-rule governments Palestinian Investment Fund.

The economy of the West Bank should significantly benefit from the new 3G services. Smaller Palestinian entrepreneurs also expect an immediate 3G bump in business.
For ordinary Palestinians, everyday life will get just a little easier.

Alaa Amouri, 20, a student, said she gets 4G from an Israeli provider that offers only partial coverage in the West Bank. Mobile data from a Palestinian provider would offer real-time updates on potential trouble on the roads, said Amouri, who commutes between east Jerusalem and her West Bank university, passing through the crowded Israeli-run Qalandiya crossing almost daily. It (3G) helps in getting news updates, she said. Sometimes when we are at the Qalandiya crossing, we find it blocked without knowing why.

However due to continuing security concerns, neither Palestinian operator is permitted by the Israeli government to extend their 3G coverage to the Gaza Strip. Considering the continued blockade it is unlikely this will change any time soon. 

Similarly 4G technology will probably not be deployed in Palestine until the rest of the world as moved onto 5G. 

As mentioned in this report Palestinians could consider initiatives at the local level without waiting for external actors. More specifically, each Palestinian municipality could make sure that areas under its control are well connected by ensuring the installation of fiber backbone and microwave links. Municipalities can also add solar power panels onto their street lighting poles as well as a wireless network to ensure citywide Wi-Fi. In addition, mesh wireless networks, which are not dependent on centrally-located towers and can bypass obstacles like hills, are a promising new avenue for municipalities. Indeed, local companies proposed a study for Ramallah modeled on Brazilian and US cities using street lighting poles but were not able to secure the funding. Such local-level projects should ideally be undertaken within a clear overall vision and strategy.

This is a complicated part of the world, ultimately political solutions are needed. However the status quo of technologically disadvantaging, and economically hindering Palestine is just another obstacle to peace.