Friday, 8 November 2019

Orange Romania Finally Launches 5G

Orange has entered the 5G fray with the launch of its first commercial network within its footprint, deploying the technology in three major Romanian cities. The operator launched 5G services in capital Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Iasi, with other Romanian cities to follow from 2020 onwards. At a launch event Ramon Fernandez, deputy CEO for Finance, Performance and Europe, explained the country was a natural choice to lead the operator’s 5G charge, having been a key part of its footprint since 1997. He also said the operator had invested “more than €3.5 billion” in its Romanian operations over the past 22 years.

Fernandez explained the operator deployed 115MHz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz bands, “more than double” the amount available to competitors. Orange stated the network offers peak download rates of 1.2Gb/s, with average rates of 600Mb/s.

Orange is the largest operator in Romania with 10.3 million connections according to GSMA Intelligence, just ahead of rival Vodafone’s 10 million.Vodafone and number four player Digi launched 5G earlier this year.

This launch and this network is the result of an attractive exclusive partnership with Samsung. An interesting partnership which works both ways. Samsung devices can only be sold by Orange, and Orange 5G tariffs can only be run through Samsung devices. It might sound unusual that two companies would want to limit this potential in this manner, but considering Orange is the market share leader for 4G (roughly 40%) while Samsung is the devices market share leader (estimates range between 50-55%), there are attractive gains for both parties.

The second interesting element of this announcement is the focus on Fixed Wireless Access (FWA). Orange has never been shy about its convergence ambitions, the success of bundling is evident in numerous markets but with no fixed assets in Romania it becomes difficult. There is a wholesale agreement in place with Telecom Romania, however this is far from an ideal position.

With 5G, FWA becomes a much more apparent opportunity to compete with the fibre services which are being offered by competitors. It certainly isn’t perfect by any means, but if Orange can deliver the promised gigabit speeds over the air, there will certainly be demand from increasingly speed obsessed consumers.

The final interesting aspect of this story could count against the Orange. After performing a number of speed tests across Bucharest, it became very apparent, very quickly, that the 4G network is excellent (60-96 Mbps), providing speeds which even the most demanding consumer could not make use of. In delivering such eye-watering speeds over 4G, one should ask whether this weakens the selling point of 5G. As attractive as 1.2 Gbps download speeds are, who actually needs that much power right now?

Despite the number of features and wild promises here, the success of Orange Romania in the 4G era might undermine the pursuit of early adopters for 5G. This is a difficulty which only remains while the operators discuss little more than speed upgrades, though as the ecosystems develop new services will be pushed at the consumer.

Further Reading:

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Bulgaria taking small steps towards 5G

Bulgaria has three major physical network providers in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE:

A1 Bulgaria formerly known as Mtel (Мтел), owned by Telekom Austria
Telenor (Теленор): formerly known as Globul, owned by PPF Group
Vivacom (Виваком): taken over by Russian investors in 2015

The country has good 2G and 3G coverage over 95% of their area. 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz like in most of Europe. 4G/LTE has been started by all operators on 1800 MHz (B3) only, added now by 2100 MHz (B1) and 900 MHz (B8).

All 3

A1 Bulgaria is owned by Telecom Austria and was rebranded in 2018 from Mtel (Мтел), and before that Mobitel (Мобилтел).

A1 Bulgaria  has commenced trials of 5G technology, following the activation of one base station at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. The trial, utilising spectrum in the 3.6GHz band and equipment provided by Nokia, will run for six months. The operator is aiming to commence commercial operations over its 5G network in 2020.

In 2013 Telenor (part of PPF) from Norway acquired Globul from Cosmote in Greece. In 2014 they changed their logo and name from Globul to Telenor. In 2018 Telenor sold its Bulgarian network to the Czech PPF Group.They started 4G/LTE in 2015 on 1800 MHz (band 3) covering 75% of population in 2016.

Telenor commenced its series of practical 5G technology tests by introducing the first remote medical exam over 5G in Bulgaria. The examination of a patient was held by Prof. Asen Baltov, Executive Director of “N. I. Pirogov” Hospital, who was at the Telenor headquarters in Sofia,
During the event, Telenor also made its first 5G video call in Bulgaria. Telenor also intends to  perform demonstrations of 5G technology beyond Sofia covering numerous other geographic locations across Bulgaria. These tests will be related to virtual reality and the streaming of video content and gaming which will be made publicly available. To make this possible, Telenor will use Huawei equipment, which includes both fixed base stations, as well as a mobile base station that can be transported across the country.

Vivacom (vivatel or BTC, BTK) is the 3rd provider in the country, but still has a good coverage in 3G in Bulgaria. In 2015 they were sold to Russian-backed Spas Roussev.

4G/LTE started in 2016 on 1800 MHz (B3) in the towns of Sofia, Pernik and Vratsa. The 4G network was extended to Varna, Bourgas, Ruse and Plovdiv. The operator has the country’s largest towns within its LTE footprint and 2100 MHz band is added.

In other 5G developments the European Commission has stated that the Bulgarian and Greek transport ministers, Ivaylo Moskovski and Nikos Papas, and Tatjana Matić of the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of Serbia, have signed an agreement at the Digital Assembly 2018 in Sofia to develop an experimental 5G cross-border corridor that will test driverless vehicles.

They agreed to work together on the Thessaloniki – Sofia – Belgrade corridor, which will provide a technologically neutral hub for industry, research centres, academia and any other stakeholders for testing and evaluating innovative mobility technologies.

Mr Moskovski stated that Bulgaria is now preparing its infrastructure to accommodate a 5G network for ‘connected driving’. European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel added that “we have agreed that the digital transformation has its challenges, such as cyber attacks and the online spread of misinformation” and that “people need to trust and be able to take advantage of this digitalisation.”

Monday, 4 November 2019

Serbia is Gearing up for 5G

Serbia has three main mobile operators.

MTS (Mobile Telephony of Serbia - not related to MTS Russia) is a consumer brand of state-owned Telekom Srbija under which it offers and provides all of its services to both private and corporate users. At present they have 2129 LTE base stations and are the market leader in Serbia with 45.5% of all mobile SIM cards as of 2018.

MTS have carried out 5G tests in cooperation with Ericsson:

Telenor, formerly called Mobtel Srbija, was sold by the Norwegian operator in 2018 to the Czech PPF Group. It's the 2nd provider in the country with a 31% market share in 2018 and a good coverage.

4G/LTE has started in the two largest cities Belgrade and Niš and has spread to 41 cities in 2016 and currently is available for prepaid trough 1955 LTE base stations country-wide.

On the 22nd June 2019 Telenor launched the first 5G base station in Serbia in Science
Technology Park Belgrade, creating a 5G test environment that can be used by domestic and
foreign companies, startups and students of technical faculties to develop technological solutions
for the future.

Vip Mobile, owned by Telekom Austria, is the smallest provider in the country by customers. Nevertheless, it gives a good coverage. In 2016 Vip opened its 4G/LTE network which is the most widespread in the country right now to prepaid users trough 1912 LTE base stations. Netherthess they are the smallest network with 23% of all mobile SIM cards in 2018.

Serbia has also joined a European project to establish 5G corridors to test driverless cars.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

China's Synchronized 5G Launch

As reported by Mobile World Live:

China’s three major mobile operators officially launched 5G services in parts of 50 cities, claiming the largest rollout in the world just six months after the government issued licences.

The three operations deployed about 86,000 5G base stations and expect to have more than 130,000 by year-end. Market leader China Mobile aims to install 50,000 sites by end-December, while China Unicom and China Telecom each target about 40,000.

China Unicom claimed ubiquitous 5G coverage in 14 cities and 28,000 base stations.

All three operators announced similar packages with different speed tiers. Users without a 5G device can still subscribe to the 5G plans to take advantage of the larger data allowances.

China Mobile, for example, offers five plans with two speed tiers: speed limits of 500Mb/s and 1Gb/s. Monthly prices range from CYN128 ($18.10) for 30GB (low tier) to CNY598 for 300GB (high tier).

It’s giving 30 per cent discounts to existing customers, who have subscribed for three to five years. The company said it already registered 10 million customers to 5G packages.

China Unicom, the third largest operator in the country, claimed ubiquitous coverage in 14 cities, with plans to have service in 40 cities by the end of the year.

Chen Zhaoxiong, vice minister of Industry and Information Technology (centre), kicked off the launch with representatives from the three operators at PT Expo China in Beijing today (31 October).

Arjun Kharpal, China Technology Correspondent at CNBC pointed out in the tweet above that China Telecom has changed its app logo to “Hello 5G”.

Mike Dano from Light Reading points out in his tweet that China mobile is selling 5G 30% cheaper as compared to 4G, which will simulate demand for 5G networks.

Picture Source: Dean Bubley on Twitter

The picture above shows summary of 5G Spectrum that has been allocated to the operators. Both China Telecom and China Unicom has 100MHz in the 3.5MHz band (C-band), while market leader China Mobile has 160MHz of spectrum in the 2.6GHz and another 100 MHz in 4.8GHz band. China Broadcasting Network (CBN), which was established in 2014 by the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) to consolidate the country’s fragmented cable-TV industry also has 100 MHz in 3.3GHz band.

Related News:

Related Posts:

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Emerging 5G Markets: Azerbaijan

There are three major mobile operators in the Azerbaijan market. Azercell dominates the market. Bakcell and  Nar (Azerofon) account for the majority of the remainder of the market.  Mobile broadband subscribers have grown very rapidly over the past five years supported by widespread rollouts of 4G infrastructure and the release of a growing range of mobile broadband packages by the major mobile operators. Market penetration has increased from 107% in 2013, to over 110% by 2017. Moderate growth is predicted over the next few years to 2023. The mobile broadband market will be driven by increasingly faster speeds offered by the mobile operators as they roll out their 4G and 5G networks and falling prices due to growing competition.

2G/GSM is on 900 MHz with Azercell and Bakcell and 1800 MHz with Nar, 3G is on 2100 MHz with all operators up to DC-HSPA and 4G/LTE was started on all three providers on 1800 MHz (Band 3) fairly recently.

Azercell is Azerbaijan’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, it is still owned by Swedish Telia group and Turkish Turkcell. Currently, 4.8 million subscribers choose Azercell services they control 49% of market share; while its geographical coverage constitutes 99.2% (excluding the occupied territories); and population coverage 99.8%.  But some of them are on 2G. 3G had started in 2011, to be followed by 4G/LTE in Baku and the Absheron Peninsula with 79% coverage of the capital and Absheron in 2017 and new in Ganja, Barda, Shamkir and Lankaran.

Azercell has selected Ericsson to modernise its radio access network (RAN), under a two-year programme including the nationwide supply of multi-standard radio equipment from Ericsson Radio System and a comprehensive set of services. Based on Ericsson’s RAN and services portfolios, Ericsson will evolve Azercell’s mobile network to be 5G-ready.

Bakcell was the first provider in the country established in 2002. It's partly state-owned and today no.2 in the market with a 30% user share.Today, Bakcell has the largest 4G network in the country in terms of coverage area and capacity, covering almost 91 percent of the country’s population and the central parts of all the regions of Azerbaijan (excluding Nakhchivan AR and occupied territories).

With more than 8000 base stations, Bakcell network covers 99 percent of the population and 93 percent of the land area of the country (except for the occupied territories). In 2017, Bakcell network has been recognized as the “Best in Test” in Azerbaijan by P3 Communications, being one of the most trusted independent authorities in mobile benchmarking. Bakcell has been recognized as the Fastest Mobile Network in Azerbaijan. This award, presented by world-famous “Ookla” company, recognizes Bakcell’s commitment to delivering fastest speeds to customers all across Azerbaijan.

Bakcell, recently entered into an agreement with Kazakhstani Transtelecom and KazTransCom to build a fiber-optic cable line stretching over nearly 400 km (249 mi) along the bottom of the Caspian Sea, which will help increase regional capacity and global connectivity. The initiative is a part of the Trans-Caspian ambitious project implemented by AzerTelecom within its “Azerbaijan Digital Hub” program. With the full completion of the Digital Hub program, Azerbaijan will shift from a local center to a regional hub in greater geography that includes the South Caucasus, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia regions, in which 1.8 billion – one-fourth of the world’s population –  lives.

Azerfon launched its activities in 2007 under brand name Nar mobile. Azerfon claims to reach 80% of the territory which is almost all given that some 15% of the territory is 'under occupation'. In certain remote areas Nar is the only provider offering service, but generally coverage is lower. In 2015 4G/LTE was launched in the city of Baku and 3G extended, but they remain at no.3 with a 25% user share. In 2019 they announced to have covered 97.6% of the country’s population by 3G.

Nar continues to expand its high-speed 4G network across the country. As a result of improvement and expansion works, 4G network now covers 91,5% of the population in the country. The mobile operator has successfully installed LTE base stations in 53 districts so far. Currently, every third customer of Nar is an active 4G user, while the total number of 4G users exceeds 850,000.

Nar provides its customers with the high-speed network with over 2740 4G base stations, including 1018 LTE-A type installed in 2019, as well as 2722 3G base stations. Currently, the mobile operator provides high quality service for more than 2,3 subscribers through over 8500 base stations.

Further Reading:

Monday, 21 October 2019

Tanzania has a Wide Choice of Operators

Tanzania, east Africa’s third-biggest economy has 6 mobile network operators: Airtel, Halotel, Tigo, TTCL, Vodacom, and Zantel. The latest MNO to enter Tanzanian was Halotel in October 2015.

Vodacom is the largest mobile operator with 14,392,174 subscriptions June 2019 (14,143,657 in December 2018), followed by Tigo with 11,675,809 (12,583,640), and Airtel with 11,538,358 subscriptions (10,954,621). Together these three mobile operators accounted for 37,606,341 mobile subscriptions or 86.1% of all the subscriptions, while the other smaller operator accounted for the rest.

Vodacom, jointly owned by Vodafone and South African Telekom, is the market leader and has the widest coverage in the country for the highest rates. In 2016 4G/LTE was started in Dar es Salaam on 1800 MHz (Band 3), now spread to a few more places. In 2018 it won spectrum on 700 MHz (B28) for 4G with the obligation to cover 60% by 2021 and 90% by 2024.

Vodacom  also intend to roll out 4G services  on the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania in 2020.

Tigo has become the 2nd provider in Tanzania by market shares when it overtook Airtel in 2016. It's run by the Millcom Group that acquired the 4th provider Zantel  in 2015, but markets both brands separately. It was the first to start 4G/LTE on 800 MHz (B 20) in Dar es Salaam and is available for prepaid (coverage map) in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Dodoma, Tanga, Arusha with plans to extend connectivity to Mwanza, Zanzibar (Stone Town) and Kilimanjaro (Moshi). By 2017 it has been spread to 23 towns so far.

Airtel by

Halotel backed by Vietnamese Viettel entered the market in 2015. It's their 4th venture in Africa after Mozambique, Cameroon and Burundi under different brand names. Halotel covered more than 95% of the population in 26 provinces by 2500 antenna towers on 2G or 3G in 2017. They've reached a market share of 10% now and are planning to launch 4G/LTE.

Zantel used to be the local provider on the island of Zanzibar. That's why it has a good coverage there, but had almost no coverage on the mainland. It used to belong mostly to UAE-owned Etisalad, but was sold in 2015 to Millicom who runs Tigo. In 2016 it underwent a massive network overhaul. All clients can now roam on the Tigo network for free giving it a good coverage on the mainland. 4G/LTE started in Zanzibar on 1800 MHz (B 3) and roaming on Tigo on the continent.

Indian Bharti Airtel has falllen back as 3rd provider in the country. It has now a market share of 26% and a lower coverage than Vodacom, at slightly lower rates. Their coverage in Northern Tanzania, particularly Ngorongoro and Serengeti,  is superior to that of the other carriers. 4G/LTE is still in testing phase and not yet commercially launched.

TTCL for Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd. is the state-owned monopoly landline provider in the country. TTCL launched its 4G/LTE mobile data network in 2015 with a five-year rollout plan to cover all regions and main roads in the country called T-Connect. It started in Dar es Salaam on 1800 MHz FD-LTE (band 3) and 2300 MHz TD-LTE (band 40).

In 2016 they announced to deploy 4G/LTE services countrywide by 2018, as they intend to accelerate coverage. A number of regions that will benefit from the initiative in phase one: Arusha, Iringa, Mbeya, Dodoma, Morogoro, Mtwara, Mwanza, Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Unguja. Their products are more directed to home users in lack of a stable landline connection than to mobile internet users.

Recently the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has threatened to disconnect over 39 million mobile phone subscribers who fail to register their SIM cards via the country's mandatory biometric system by 31 December 2019.

According to the regulator, to date only 5.2 million mobile phone users (12%) of the total number of subscribers have complied.

Vodacom Tanzania managing director Hisham Hendi has warned that the directive could negatively impact the company's operations, with the company so far having managed to register 2 million of the 14 million customers currently on its network.

Related Posts:

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Telefonica: Smart Energy Solution

The evolution of the Internet Of Things (IoT) and the rise in industrial automation are helping provide Smart Energy Solutions that can be applied to our everyday lives and industry.

Telefonica has launched a Smart Energy Solution for companies which aims to yield a deep understanding of energy usage in any building or location and to give advice of the actions to be taken.

The smart solution allows the remote and centralised measurement, control and management of high energy consumption equipment in any installation. The service especially focuses on high consumption points such as air conditioning, heating and lighting, providing control of a whole building or set of buildings.  Here is an example:

Some benefits of such a smart energy solution:

  • Lower energy consumption and bill, by providing valuable information on critical points of consumption and possible improvements.
  • Improved efficiency and obtain operational improvements by managing your energy infrastructure.
  • Make better investment decisions based on data (return on investment).
  • Centralised access to energy consumption informtion from all the infrastructures
  • Reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions.
  • Improved energy operations due to a better knowledge of the functioning status of the facilities.
  • Adapt the use of energy facilities to business needs by remote management and control of the equipment.
  • Optimise the performance of the facilities by automating operations.

This service is geared to customers that have high energy consumption, especially three sectors; Industry, utilities and services (e.g. banking, hotels, retail, shopping centres). The service provides every required tool for building managers to lower energy consumption and achieve savings.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Telia Norway and Ericsson team up for 5G

Telia Norway and Ericsson have announced a four-year 5G network deal that includes deployment of the Swedish vendor’s spectrum sharing technology.

Ericsson is providing 5G New Radio (NR) hardware and software from its Radio System portfolio, and was chosen as the sole radio access network (RAN) vendor for Telia’s next-generation network in Norway. Ericsson is helping upgrade Telia’s 2G and 4G networks, with 5G rollouts expected to start in 2020 and extend through 2023.

Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing solution, which enables operators to utilize the same spectrum for both 4G and 5G, is set to become commercially available in December, but it’s unclear how soon Telia plans to deploy it. In a release, Telia said its network modernization project will happen “gradually” over the four-year timeframe.

For Telia’s 5G rollout in Norway, the operator plans to use low-band spectrum. In June 2019 Telia Company secured access to 2x10 MHz in the 700 MHz band which will be a key enabler for roll-out of 5G in Norway. The band will be available from November 1, 2019.  Telia called this band a “key enabler” for the 5G deployment in Norway.

In addition to enhanced mobile broadband, Telia Norway is exploring 5G for IoT applications, industrial uses, smart cities and in-home uses, according to Ericsson.

The pair have already teamed up on a 5G pilot network in Trondheim, Norway, that involves smart transportation, automation and artificial intelligence.

To date, Ericsson has distributed two-thirds of the world's commercial 5G network.

An important part of Telia's social mission is to build critical national infrastructure that facilitates digitalisation for individuals, businesses, public companies and all sectors of society. Telia takes this responsibility very seriously. Telia was the first in the world to turn on 4G in Norway and Sweden, and in partnership with Ericsson will lead the innovation and technology development of 5G.

A point worth noting is that the current 4G network is supplied by Huawei. As part of 5G, Ericsson will also be replacing the 4G Huawei equipment with their own. Some analysts have sighted this as the main reason why 5G rollout will take 4 years.

Further Reading:

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Portugal: Demystifying 5G

The mobile market is dominated by the incumbent Portugal Telecom, owned by Altice Group and operating as Meo, followed by Vodafone and NOS.

2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G is on 2100 MHz with MEO and NOS and on 900 MHz with Vodafone. 4G/LTE was launched in 2012 on all three networks on the 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz bands. It already reaches the majority of population and is open for prepaid on all network providers.

MEO now owned by Dutch Altice Group is the market leader with a 40% share. However the market share held by Meo has fallen steadily in recent years. Altice Labs began working with Ericsson to develop 5G services and applications in 2017.

They recently hosted an event (see video below) which was staged using an experimental network, in collaboration with Ericsson, and simulated a car crash to demonstrate how 5G’s lower latency, higher bandwidth and faster speeds can support emergency workers.

This demonstrated how 5G can support drone footage from accident sites and the delivery of vital information about victims and their condition in real-time.This event also marked the launch of the 5G experimental network for the City of Aveiro, which is aiming to be fully covered by 5G by 2020.

Altice Labs insist technology has no meaning if it is not for improving people's lives and they wish want to demystify 5G. The intense deployment of fibre optics and the modernisation of base stations in recent years across the country puts Meo in a more comfortable position in the evolution to 5G.


Vodafone Portugal is the major competitor of MEO in the country with a 33% share and according to Open Signal the best coverage and highest speeds on both 3G and 4G. It lets prepaid customers join their 4G network as part as an ongoing promotion for free. Also on top of 2100 MHz they also have 3G on 900 MHz allowing for better indoor coverage which is rare in Europe and not carried by all devices.

NOS, previously called Optimus, has the smallest network with a 20% share, but still gives a good performance.Vodafone and NOS recently signed an agreement to share fibre infrastructure, which pushed Vodafone’s addressable market to some four million premises. As a result of these efforts DSL is no longer the dominant platform for broadband access.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Emerging 5G Markets: Kazakhstan

There are three mobile operators in the Kazakhstan market following the merger of Tele2 and Altel. The number one and two providers by market share, GSM-Kazakhstan (K'Cell) and Beeline dominate the mobile market. Kazakhstan's mobile market has reached saturation point. The number of fixed telephone lines in Kazakhstan, is slowly declining as the mobile segment continues to expand.

2G is up to EDGE on 900 MHz on all networks. 3G up to DC-HSPA+ on 2100 MHz on all networks. 4G/LTE started on Altel (now Tele2) in 2013 on 1800 MHz and covers about 56% of the population in 2015. All of Kazakhstan’s cellular operators have launched 4G/LTE on 800 (band 20), 1800 MHz (band 3) or 2100 MHz (band 1) in every regional capital and expanded services to most cities by the end of 2017.

Kcell is the leading mobile provider in the country caring for 41% of mobile users. It's operated by GSM Kazakhstan Ltd. under the Kcell and Activ trademarks. It's partly owned by Swedish TeliaSonera and has the best coverage. Kcell’s 2G network covers 96% of the population and 47% of the territory, while its 3G services are available to around 70% of the people: Coverage map by region. Kcell launched 4G/LTE in 2016 in Almaty, Atyrau, Aktau and Shymkent and through network sharing with Beeline in further 9 towns, open for prepaid. It's on 800 MHz (band 20) and 1800 MHz (band 3).

Beeline is run by Kar-Tel under the license of Veon in Kazakhstan. Beeline charges lower prices than Kcell while it's network is almost as good as Kcell's. In 2016 it launched 4G/LTE in the cities of Almaty, Aksay, Uralsk and Astana on 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz (Bands 1, 3, 20) opened for all users. Customers need to have one of the new 4G-enabled USIMs for LTE. By the end of 2017 they had covered 47% of population by 4G.

Tele2 used to be an operator solely owned by the Swedish Tele2 Group. It had about 4000 base stations covering 85% of population making it one of the smaller networks in the country. In 2015 they agreed to a merger with Kazakhtelecom, owner of the Altel network. The new company is now a joint venture of Tele2 and Kazakhtelecom.

Interesting and funny ad from them

Kazakhstan is one of the most advanced telecoms sectors in Central Asia. Their mobile market remains highly competitive, but rather than a focus only on growth in subscribers the market has shifted to value-added. All Kazakhstan’s major mobile operators are well on the path towards launching 5G services.

In mid 2017 the Kazakh government announced it will launch its Digital Kazakhstan program between 2017 and 2021, which aims to strengthen the national digital infrastructure and drive economic growth and competitiveness. The scheme is intended to raise internet penetration by 2021 and see the ICT sector contributing significantly to annual GDP by that time.

International Internet bandwidth capacity increased dramatically between 2014 and 2015, almost doubling to 850,000 Mb/s. The market is predicted to continue to grow strongly over the next five years to 2022.

Kazakhstan may become the first country in the Caspian region to launch fifth generation, or “5G,” wireless services. Bringing wireless, high-speed internet and mobile services to the vast plains of what is the world’s ninth largest country isn’t easy. Communications specialists will launch a pilot project later this year in the capital city of Nur-Sultan (previously known as Astana), as well as in the southern city of Shymkent and in Almaty – Kazakhstan’s former capital and largest city.
The goal is to digitize housing and public utilities, along with sectors like agriculture and health.

Further reading:

Sunday, 29 September 2019

LG Uplus Tests 5G in 28GHz band using 800MHz Bandwidth. Sees AR as 5G Killer App

In a recent press release (no shareable link but press releases are here - see 27 Sep), LGU+ announced that they have tested 5G commercial environment in the 28 GHz band using 800 MHz bandwidth. I am assuming this means Carrier Aggregation. With this they have successfully verified 4.2 Gbps DL and 1 Gbps UL speeds.

The press release (using Google translate from Korean) states:

This test is based on the 3GPP standard based on the 28GHz frequency bandwidth 800MHz allocated by LG Uplus, and tested by applying the terminal specifications expected to be released next year.

Download 4.2Gbps is more than three times the current 3.5GHz 5G download speed of 1.33Gbps, enabling HD-quality 2GB movies to be downloaded in four seconds. Upload 1Gbp is now more than 10 times the 3.5GHz 5G upload maximum speed of 85Mbps.

Testing was done using two antennas and 64QAM technology. LG Uplus plans to increase speeds by two to three times with four additional multi-antenna MIMO technologies and advanced modulation (256QAM).

At the end of 2017, LG Uplus conducted a speed verification of 20Gbps maximum speed by combining 28GHz and 3.5GHz as non-standard equipment.

28GHz is installed in hot spot areas such as Hongdae and Gangnam, shopping malls and stadiums, and has a large amount of data and a large number of floating populations to provide stable high-speed services. do.

In particular, the maximum upload speed is 10 times higher than the existing LTE and 3.5GHz 5G speed 75 ~ 85Mbps, smart factories that require a lot of upload capacity. It is expected to provide a new service environment in the enterprise and industry areas such as 200 cars can be accommodated) and personal service areas such as real time live broadcasting and customer video transmission.

As 28GHz uses high frequency, it has high straightness and is affected by obstacles and has a small coverage, so it needs more careful base station location design and more time and effort for quality stabilization.

LG Uplus Sang-Heon Lee, NW Development Officer, said, “This test was conducted to prepare for commercialization, and to improve cell design and mobile / boundary quality advancement at the optimal location.” 28 GHz is one of the core values ​​of 5G. It is an important technology that provides ultra high speed, but it is difficult to handle, so we will thoroughly prepare to satisfy both speed and quality from the customer's point of view. ”

Average data usage by 5G users is as high as 18.3GB, and average 4G users use 9GB in the same period, according to MSIT in May 2019. 5G data is about 2 times than that of 4G. This remarkable traffic growth is driven by UHD and AR/VR contents. According to LG Uplus, new services featuring AR and VR functions are proving popular and already account for 20% of 5G traffic, compared with 5% for 4G. The company said it aims to double the number of AR content to 1,500 by the end of this year, including K-pop dance, home training and sports videos, to cater to varied consumer needs.

The above video is one of the adverts for the LG Uplus AR K-Pop (Korean popular music) app. K-Pop is a musical genre consisting of pop, dance, electropop, hiphop, rock, R&B, and electronic music originating in South Korea. In addition to music, K-Pop has grown into a popular subculture, resulting in widespread interest in the fashion and style of Korean idol groups and singers.

While it looks like 5G is making an impact for the operators and the users in South Korea at the moment, the real challenge is to see if this trend continues. Also, it may be a bit difficult to replicate this success in other countries. We will have to wait and see.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

NTT Docomo: Bringing 5G to the Rugby World Cup

NTT Docomo has recently launched a pre-commercial 5G service in select areas of major cities in Japan, delivering on its commitment to provide trial coverage at stadiums for the currently ongoing Rugby World Cup. The stadiums at eight venues nationwide will be converted into 5G areas.

The pilot service in 11 locations, including Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, is designed to give customers a preview of the capabilities of the technology. A total of 7,000 5G-compatible devices will be available at the operator’s experience centres at stadiums and in some cities for visitors to try out. The devices from Sony, Samsung, LG and Sharp are not for sale.

Docomo which is Japan's largest mobile operator by subscribers (78.45 million as of February 2019) said it won’t be offering 5G smartphones from Chinese vendor Huawei because of concerns about restricted access to Google services.


There will be various initiatives at the Rugby World Cup 2019 for example Docomo will provide a multi-viewer that can simultaneously watch the game from multiple viewpoints at the stadiums of eight venues nationwide where the `` Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan Tournament '' is held and docomo's live viewing venue. They are offering new watching styles such as “Angle Viewing” and “Live Viewing” as well as news and broadcast styles as part of “5G Pre-Service”.

While those outside the stadium can enjoy a innovative and powerful game watching experience due to Docomo transmitting multiple high-definition video and audio information via 5G communication.

Japan’s three major mobile operators – Docomo, KDDI and SoftBank – all aim to launch commercial 5G service in March or April 2020, in time to have their networks up and running for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Docomo says they will expand 5G coverage by combining 5G networks with existing 4G networks using equipment from multiple vendors. They plan to deploy about 10,000 base stations by June 2021. The operators also aim for 60% population coverage by 2023.

While Japan was one of the leading voices in the 5G during the early years despite continued progress of the Japanese telcos, they have been overshadowed by others around the world have been much more vocal and ostentatious.

Also it doesn't matter how quickly 5G networks are switched-on whats more important is how  quickly the operators can provide the country-wide coverage.

This is a challenge which will be faced by every nation around the world, though with the Rugby World Cup and the Summer Olympics next year, Japan has an excellent opportunity to stake a claim for global leadership.

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Monday, 23 September 2019

Emerging 5G Markets: Uzbekistan

With Long Term Evolution (LTE) rapid expansion and slowdown in 2G and 3G services, the Uzbekistan telecom market is evolving rapidly. Embracing mobile connectivity, IoT, cloud services and smartphones has become vital for telecom companies. Operators across the value chain are forced to adapt to these emerging market changes to sustain revenue and profit.

Telecom operators in Uzbekistan are witnessing wide range of challenges including rapidly changing customer patterns, financial and technological challenges. Identifying the emerging trends and converting them into actionable strategies is vital for sustaining profitability.

Ucell is the largest company in terms of subscribers (approx. 7.1 million) owned and operated by the Uzbek company COSCOM, itself owned by State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Assistance to Privatized Enterprises and Development of Competition (a governmental authority of Uzbekistan).

It uses the 900 and 1800 MHz bands for 2G services, 2100 MHz band for 3G with coverage in main cities and has launched 4G in 2600 MHz (band 7) and announced 700 MHz bands with coverage in 6 cities in 2017 so far: Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Navoi, Zarafshan and Jizzakh. Ucell has generally the best coverage in the country at the highest rate

In September 2019  Ucell carried out tests of 5G technology at its headquarters in Tashkent. Up to 1.376 Gbps speed was reached, according to measurements using the SpeedTest service. Equipment from Huawei was used for the test. They aim to launch a 5G network at the Tashkent International Business Centre this year, before expanding coverage.

Beeline is the second provider in the country. It's controlled by Russian-backed VimpelCom. In 2016 it covers 88% of the population by 2G, 52% with 3G and also started 4G/LTE in Tashkent in 2015 expanding to other towns. Beeline uses rare 850 MHz on bands 5 and 18 for 4G/LTE.

As of the first quarter of 2018 the subscriber base of Beeline in Uzbekistan totalled 9.6 million people.

Operator UMS is currently  undergoing a phased rebranding  and will eventually provide mobile services under the brand Mobiuz. The rebranding began in December 2018 with development of the name, color identification and other parameters of the brand. Further rebranding will be carried out in stages. In number of subscribers (approx. 1.1 million) it's the 3rd operator in the country.  In June 2016 they launched 4G/LTE services in Tashkent. Their LTE network uses the 800 MHz (band 20) and is available throughout the capital. In 2017 Samarkand was added. 4G services are available at no extra cost for existing 3G subscribers with compatible devices and SIMs.

The final operator Uzmobile, a subsidiary of the national operator Uztelecom, also has more than a million subscribers. Using a combination of CDMA-450 and GSM technologies – the latter of which was only launched in April 2015 – they have installed a total of 1,200 new 2G, 3G and 4G base stations since 2015. 4G/LTE was started in 2017 on 1800 MHz.

Uzmobile have also started testing 5G technology, Huawei equipment was used for these trials, and they have placed their first 5G base stations “into operation for pre-trial testing” on “frequencies up to 6GHz”. The testing will use non-standalone network infrastructure built on top of its 4G network, and will involve “multiple non-hierarchical (disproportionate) access and Massive MIMO” technologies.

The test results will inform the operator’s procurement and deployment plan, which is expected to take ‘more than one and a half years’. According to one of its engineers, the operator has achieved data connection speeds of 1.455Gbps (downlink)/114Mbps (uplink) on its Tashkent network.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

MTN: Connecting Rural Africa

I wrote about MTN on the Small Cells Blog last year, where Babak Fouladi, Technology and Information System (Group CTIO) at MTN delivered an insightful talk. In addition to providing a lot of valuable insights on how they plan to tackle rural connectivity, they talked about their RFP for Rural, Ultra-rural and Ultra-ultra-rural sites.

In the latest TowerXchange, Navindran Naidoo, Group Executive, Network Design & Planning, MTN Group explained this and a lot of other details. The article is available here. I will just look at what he said specifically about this RFP below:

The RFP is an attempt to source full turnkey vendors for our different categories: rural, ultra-rural and ultra-ultra rural. The RFP should close in September. 

We are interested in the role that independent telecom tower companies (towercos) can play in enhancing rural connectivity. Leasing space on towers could be an important enabler of investment in rural and ultra-rural areas. However, the leasing model is unlikely to be operable in ultra-ultra rural areas where low ARPUs will be unable to support more than one operator. Sharing infrastructure is an option for reducing the cost of roll-out and opex too. 

I cannot comment on how the pricing structure and economics of the sites will work, as we are waiting to see what is proposed in the responses to our RFP.

There are a few ways we identify and categorise sites, such as determining the distance from the urban areas we already serve. We can use satellite imagery to complement that and identify the best areas to serve, as we cannot rely on census information in these areas. 

For backhaul we expect to use a variety of technologies. In rural sites we have specified microwave backhaul as these sites should not be too far away from our existing network. For ultra-ultra-rural sites, we have specified optimised Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) backhaul. Ultra-rural sites will see a mixture of the two solutions. 

The towers will also differ from site to site. At normal rural sites, shareable macro towers will be used; at ultra-rural sites we expect shorter towers of between 10m and 20m. While at ultra-ultra rural sites, we are leaving the details of the structure to our vendors to propose depending on what they think will work best.

We don’t only need sites which have a low-cost bill of materials, but we need structures with minimal maintenance and a quick implementation timeline. It should take up to a week to erect a rural site, but our ultra-ultra rural sites should be complete in a day or two. 

Site availability will differ to what we expect for our core sites. At rural sites we are proposing > 98% availability; at ultra-rural sites > 95%; and we will wait to see what our vendors propose for ultra-ultra rural sites. At these most rural sites we need to keep maintenance and repair visits to a minimum, so while we expect to use solar power and battery back-ups at our rural and ultra-rural sites, we may opt for solar-only sites at our most remote sites. Eliminating diesel generators cuts maintenance and refuelling, cutting batteries from our most remote sites further simplifies the maintenance of the sites and eliminates sites going down due to battery theft. 

Most rural sites, with their larger towers and more demanding initial specification could be upgraded, but ultra rural and ultra-ultra rural would require complete rebuilds. But that would be an excellent problem to have.

We think offering data and internet connectivity is essential. Even at our ultra-ultra rural sites we want to be able to offer at least 3G levels of connectivity. 

Our CHASE programme helps us focus on what matters for our users: Coverage, Handsets, Affordability, Services and Education. We have to ensure sufficient data coverage in low-income areas; affordability of handsets and data services; bundle together the correct services for our customers; and enhance digital literacy and awareness so that people can make the most of the services we deliver. 

The complete article is here.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

New Zealand: New age of 5G

There are three main mobile operators in New Zealand they serve a relatively small population of approximately 4.8 million. All three of them own and operate their own network of towers.


Vodafone is the market leader with 2.55 million subscribers (41% on contract) and claims to cover 98.5% of the population using their extensive  2G, 3G, 4G/LTE network.  In 2019 Vodafone sold its NZ unit to local Infratil, an investment company that owns airports, electricity generators and retailers, renewable energy and a public transport businesses. It will maintain the network under the Vodafone brand.

It has a good overall network in 4G, 3G and 2G at a range of prices. It's 4G network is good, with fast coverage in all urban areas, many towns and some rural areas.
Vodafone (working with Nokia) will flick the switch on its 5G network in December and it wants New Zealanders to know this isn't some futuristic, space-aged technology far removed from the present. They will offer services in four cities using a 40MHz slice of 3.5GHz spectrum which they says they have warehoused for "many years."  They are aiming to have at least 100 cellsites upgraded by December when they switch on the 5G network for customers to access and are also upgrading 400 existing 4G mobile sites to become 4.5G.

In a 5G ad campaign that launched nationwide on Sunday night, Vodafone pulls at the heartstrings with the story of an elderly man who takes his dog to the vet:

Spark the second largest operator with coverage over 97% of the population using their 3G and 4G network. Spark's network provides superior coverage (especially 4G in rural and suburban areas). Their number of subscribers: 2.46m (49% on contract).

It has a good nationwide coverage, but no fall back to 2G. Spark has the largest 4G network of all 3 networks in New Zealand, with universal 4G coverage in nearly every populated area, as well as many touristed areas and national parks. 4.5G (LTE Advanced Pro) is now available in many urban centres and rural areas on compatible devices.

2degrees is a relative newcomer, they claim coverage of 98.5% of the population (which includes areas where customers roam onto Vodafone's network). Its 4G network has less coverage in comparison to its competitors, and reception can be worse in rural areas particually in the South Island. However they have good coverage in urban areas including all cities, most towns and many rural areas in the North Island. Their number of subscribers: 1.41m (31% on contract).

2degrees closed down its entire 2G GSM/GPRS/EDGE network in March 2018. The provider's 3G network (including roaming on Vodafone's 3G network) now provides coverage of 98.5% of New Zealand’s population. They are also switching on 4G in the 900 MHz frequency band previouly used by the 2G network. That is helping improve their 4G coverage in rural areas as well as adding more capacity in urban areas.

Due to 2degrees's poor network coverage in comparison to its competitors, WiFi calling is available on compatible devices, meaning that you can use your call and text allowances over a WiFi network, whether you are in New Zealand or overseas. 

Both Spark and 2degrees have long standing relationships with Huawei which has been banned by the government from participating in 5G on security grounds and neither has given and definite indication of when it will launch 5G services. Spark is also waiting on the 3.5GHz auction.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Fastweb and the Shared 5G Network in Italy

Fastweb, an Italian subsidiary of Swisscom since 2007, was already a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), but now the company will run its own infrastructure-based network and following approval from the Ministry of Economic Development become the fifth mobile operator in Italy, building and marketing their own 5G services. The operator has 2.6 million broadband customers but only 1.6 million subscribers to its mobile services.

Having acquired Tiscali SpA 's fixed-wireless business and full ownership of its 5G-friendly 3.5GHz spectrum and 835 of their towers in a deal worth around €150 million (US$176 million).  Since December 2016 Fastweb has had the right to use 3.5GHz spectrum in the main Italian cities and allows them to provide fixed-wireless connectivity to all market segments in Italy.

In July 2019 Fastweb announced a network-sharing deal with CK Hutchison’s Wind Tre “to accelerate the roll-out of a nationwide, state-of-the art 5G network”. Fastweb said then that “the shared 5G network will include Wind Tre and Fastweb macro and small cells, connected through dark fibre from Fastweb, to be deployed nationwide, with a targeted coverage of 90% of the population by 2026”.

As a result Fastweb will be able to compete with TIM and Vodafone as well as with Wind Tre, and with French-owned Iliad, which started up in the market when Wind – then owned by Veon – merged with Hutch’s Tre.

Due to the astronomical prices of spectrum licenses and fighting competition on all sides, Italy's telecom operators are increasingly engaging in network-sharing partnerships as they roll out their new 5G services. Network sharing is hardly a new thing in Europe, of course, and has already taken off in Italy. Under competitive and regulatory pressure, Telecom Italia and Vodafone are sharing mobile towers and will even use the same 5G basestations outside the big cities. Across the entire European region, market dynamics are spurring interest in similar arrangements.But Fastweb and Wind Tre are going much further.

The two operators are pooling spectrum resources and site equipment to build a single 5G network that each will use to provide retail services to its customers. If the scheme works, it may validate network slicing, an advanced technique that allows operators to run different "virtualized" network services over the same physical infrastructure. It could even become the preferred model for other European operators struggling to fund the deployment of 5G networks. It will also allow Fastweb to deploy 40MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum acquired in a private transaction last year. Adding this to Wind Tre's 20MHz they hope this will give the operators the means to challenge Telecom Italia and Vodafone.

The details of their approach, confirmed by a Fastweb spokesperson, mean each company will effectively become a virtual operator of a shared 5G platform. While some of the commercial arrangements are still unclear, the companies will use the same mobile sites and network equipment across the entire country. The first 5G services are scheduled to arrive next year. By 2024, Fastweb and Wind Tre expect to have nationwide coverage.
Fastweb believe network slicing can overcome much of the concern about control and efficiency. This untried technology, which is due to be standardized in future 5G releases, usually attracts attention as a means of guaranteeing service levels for different enterprise customers. To Fastweb, it is above all a way to guarantee service independence from Wind Tre on a shared 5G network. "Thanks to the slicing capabilities of 5G, both Fastweb and Wind Tre will have complete end-to-end control on our virtual networks," said Fastweb's spokesperson. "This agreement allows us to achieve the utmost level of synergies and efficiency in the deployment, without compromising on independence and control."

Realizing this vision would mean proving that network slicing can facilitate the most extreme form of network sharing. To give itself the best chance of success, Fastweb is also developing software tools for the full automation of 5G network management. "5G is more than just a new mobile technology. It is a new way to think and develop services, processes, IT systems and networks," they say. If it can persuade the industry that a single 5G network used by multiple operators holds no major drawbacks, it could usher in a new 5G paradigm.

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