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.


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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.

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