Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Network Sharing:  African Telecoms’ Newest Growth Story

This post is by Terry Young, Director of Marketing, Stoke

LTE network sharing is on the rise, encouraged by regulators to speed penetration of advanced broadband and increasingly adopted by operators to improve the economics of entering or expanding their LTE base.

The LTE industry in Africa has grown steadily over the last few years, but slowing revenue growth, increasing costs and shareholders demanding returns are forcing operators to consider the next wave of investment. Over-the-top services are gaining traction in Africa as smartphone usage grows, but the willingness to pay among consumers is limited, and enabling payment is also an ongoing challenge. Mobile money continues to be an area of intense interest for the region, and for service providers, given the size of the opportunity among the unbanked.

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Interview: CEO, MTC Namibia: “In terms of maintaining business mobile sustainability into the future the price-per-gigabyte is critical.”

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC, Namibia

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC, Namibia

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC Namibia is speaking on the subject of LTE launch strategies in Africa at the second annual LTE Africa conference, taking place on the 11th-13th November 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.

You’ve already launched LTE in Namibia? What have you learned from the experience?

Indeed, MTC launched LTE in May 2012, with an aim to increase speed and capacity, especially for mobile broadband users (dongles and routers), as well as the new smartphone users. MTC’s strategy since 2008 was to compete in the broadband market, first using 3G, and thereafter LTE to fight against ADSL. To become the market leader in the broadband segment using mobile pushed MTC to deliver a more efficient service in terms of speed and latency against the fixed services, and against WiMAX in the wireless. But as a third of the customer base was already using advanced smartphones, not providing LTE was not an option.

What makes launching LTE in Namibia different and more challenging than doing so in Europe?

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Interview: Lead consultant, PS Core Operation for MTN Nigeria: “in the coming days the Internet will become as ubiquitous as utilities such as the electricity and the water supply.”

Lead consultant, PS Core Operation for MTN Nigeria

Lead consultant, PS Core Operation for MTN Nigeria

Mustafa Golam, lead consultant, PS Core Operation for MTN Nigeria will be speaking on Day Two of the LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE. In this interview ahead of the conference we find out more about how the importance of data access is growing at the most valuable resource in Africa.

What are the major challenges to upgrading your network to LTE?

The major challenges that we have faced during LTE Trial in our network are:

a)      A lack of adequate resources with the expertise and understanding of planning and integration of LTE networks.

b)      Issues related to planning and network dimensioning with operators.

c)       License and frequency issues with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) or other regulatory bodies.

d)      Improper handshaking and lack of troubleshooting expertise in multi-vendor scenarios.

e)      A lack of measurement tools or guidelines performance of the LTE core.

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Interview: Senior manager for applications and services for Smile Communications, South Africa: “The biggest challenge we face right now is the lack of availability of true VoLTE devices.”

Jason Penton, senior manager for applications and services for Smile Communications, South Africa

Jason Penton, senior manager for applications and services for Smile Communications, South Africa

Jason Penton, senior manager for applications and services for Smile Communications, South Africa is taking part is panel discussion on managing network traffic on Day Two of the inaugural LTE Voice Summit, taking place on October 1st-2nd at the Hilton Paddington, London.

What are the biggest challenges to implementing VoLTE on your network and when do you foresee it being rolled out?

The biggest challenge we face right now is the lack of availability of true VoLTE devices. When we refer to a true VoLTE device, we mean a device that supports VoLTE natively, not through an over-the-top (OTT), add-on application. We have already tested VoLTE on our network using OTT IMS applications on an LTE access device but this to us does not represent a true VoLTE device. We will be ready to launch VoLTE services on our network as soon as true VoLTE devices become readily available.

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LTE in Africa – Different Dimensions

Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services

Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services

This post is by Mauro Fondacaro, Sales Manager IPX, SAP Mobile Services.

Africa is a varied continent and the first few countries and operators that have launched or are testing LTE in Africa provide a variety of reasons to do so. Beginning with the obvious choice, South Africa, three key operators have launched LTE in the country. MTN, Cell C and Vodacom have all launched FDD-LTE networks in bands ready for LTE roaming.

South Africa has a mature telecom market with the highest ARPU among all African countries and is an expected choice to launch LTE. With reduced profit potential from core services, operators here are looking to push profitability through high speed data services.

 Country Operator Frequency Status
Angola Movicel 1800 MHz Live
Mauritius Orange 1800 MHz Live
Mauritius EMTEL 1800 MHz Live
Namibia MTC 1800 MHz Live
South Africa Cell C Live
South Africa MTN 1800 MHz Live
South Africa Vodacom 1800 MHz Live
Tanzania Smile 800 MHz Live
Uganda Smile 800 MHz Live

But, it’s not all about South Africa; the small island country, Mauritius which has a population of 1.2 million is also one of the first few to launch LTE. Country’s mobile operators as the economy run on tourism. Tourism contributes about 10 per cent to the country’s GDP and an astounding one million tourists are expected to visit Mauritius in 2013. Here, the evolution into LTE is not driven by the need for speed, but rather by the need to support LTE roaming customers.

Angola, Tanzania and Uganda have also launched LTE, and it would be relevant to highlight the penetration of fixed-line broadband in these countries- just 0.12%, 0.007% and 0.25% respectively, thanks to the lack of high capacity backbone infrastructure. Here, many mobile operators are jumping straight from GPRS to LTE, enabling a greater leap in data speed and some plan to evolve the parallel technology standard, WiMax to LTE thus making LTE the default broadband option in the region.

Fixed broadband penetration in these countries is very low and enabling data connectivity through LTE would give the subscribers immense economic opportunity. Operators understand the value of mobile broadband and are trying to shift the perception of mobile phone from something that lets you talk to a device to something that lets you connect to internet. For example, scratch cards that subscribers use to recharge their phone have started displaying their value in terms of data rather than voice.

ARPU in Africa is about $4-6 and data revenue contribution is even lower. Purchasing power apparently appears to be a big barrier to break in these markets, but in my opinion it’s about the value of the service and I would say that subscribers in emerging markets pay more than developed market subscribers. For example, a Kenyan operator’s ARPU is about 7 per cent of average income, whereas an American operator’s ARPU is about 0.2 per cent of average income. As African market players have leapfrogged the entry barrier to drive mobile penetration in spite of many odds, they can also leapfrog the LTE entry barrier.

SAP are exhibiting next week at the LTE Africa conference, taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the brochure for the event.

Mobile Operators Turn to Policy Vendors for Solution to One of their Biggest Problems

Ben McCafferty, VP EMEA, Volubill

Ben McCafferty, VP EMEA, Volubill

This post is by Ben McCafferty, VP EMEA, Volubill

By the end of 2016, research and analysis firm IDATE predicts that the number of global LTE subscriptions will reach 915 million. Right now, we’re barely over 100 million worldwide. As networks are inundated with rapidly increasing traffic volumes and quality of service (QoS) expectations from users, they’re looking to policy platforms for assistance.

It’s no secret that the expansion of 4G/LTE networks is being outpaced by the growing number of subscribers and their increasing demands for reliable and robust services. Mobile operators are working double time just to try and keep up. In the meantime, users will often find themselves traveling between coverage areas serviced by newer 4G/LTE networks and older, legacy 2G and 3G ones. This represents one of the biggest challenges facing mobile operators today.

While 4G/LTE networks have enough bandwidth to enable operators to offer voice and data services over the same technology stacks — we know this as Voice over LTE, or VoLTE — those older networks don’t. Instead, they separate voice and data into different streams. So, what happens when a subscriber is on a call and crosses over from a 4G network coverage area to one serviced by a legacy network? The answer: dropped calls, slowed or failed downloads, and a number of other inconveniences, any one of which could prompt customers to take their business elsewhere.

Policy vendors are tasked with evolving their technologies in order to help mobile operators offer high-quality coverage for both data and voice, without being tripped up every time a subscriber moves from a 4G coverage area to one running on an older analog technology. Subscribers don’t care if operators are in the midst of network transitions. They want 4G/LTE and the QoS they have come to expect with it. They don’t want to hear about legacy systems or complications. In their minds, if manufacturers are making so many 4G/LTE devices, networks must be able to support them without difficulty.

That’s exactly why mobile operators are relying on policy vendors to come up with a solution — one that makes the transition smoother, faster, and undetectable to their subscribers, all while maintaining the highest QoS possible. It’s a challenge that will require innovation and creativity — and the clock is ticking.

Next week, at LTE Africa, I will be speaking on policy vendors’ role in the success of VoLTE, as well as how operators can capitalise on the booming African mobile market.  Don’t forget to stop by and say hi!

The LTE Africa conference is taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the brochure for the event.

CEO, MTC, Namibia: “Will we be able to generate revenues in VoLTE as we do today in circuit switched?”

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC, Namibia

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC, Namibia

Miguel Geraldes, CEO, MTC, Namibia is speaking on how the African market is preparing for the LTE data surge on Day One of the LTE World Summit, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to him the many challenges that faced MTN as it looked to move beyond the limitations of its 3G network and launch LTE into the African market.

Please bring us up to speed with the state of LTE on your network and tell us some of the main challenges you are facing?

I believe that LTE is not a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but a ‘When’. We accelerated the introduction of LTE as our 3G network was limited – for several reasons. It operated at a relatively high frequency, which is not ideal for urban areas and impractical for rural areas, a limited number of subscribers could be attached per carrier, and there were admission control or power control issues. 3G smartphones, with their push e-mail and other features are generating a tremendous challenge as the WCDMA 3G radio sites are easily reaching their “power control” limit, blocking data sessions and migrating voice calls down to 2G EDGE. To cope with this heavy usage more NodeBs are required but MTC was limited in the number they could deploy in the Capital, due to regulatory and environmental restriction from authorities.

Based on this, LTE was an imperative because it was possible to be established at the same sites where we had WCDMA 3G. The 1800MHz frequency was awarded to us and was much better in terms of indoor coverage, with no “admission control” limitation, thus providing us with a way forward. Nevertheless, the challenge was first to migrate the heavy users of dongles/routers from 3G to 4G LTE, which we did extremely well, thanks to a tremendous marketing and offer campaign.

What were the chief technical challenges you are facing in optimising your network for LTE?

In our case, the move to LTE was smooth. Firstly, in 2010 we deployed a 2G/3G SingleRAN that was upgradable to 4G. Secondly, we had fibre metro rings connecting to parts of our network, including base stations, which could also easily accommodate IP microwave where needed. Thirdly, in 2011 MTC completed the deployment of a national fibre backbone. Next, in the first quarter of 2012 we were connected to the WACS submarine cable, with which we entered into a consortium venture in 2008. Thanks to all of this, the major elements were in place to introduce the LTE.

However, LTE represents a transformation of a mobile network’s architecture into a full IP network. The unified 2G/3G cores and 4G with EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and the HLR/HSS (Home Location Register and Home Subscriber Server), that includes CS fall-back for voice calls is an interoperability challenge.

This IP ecosystem delivers significant speeds, especially in terms of downlink, and requires a deep understanding of exactly how to manage the IP packages. Optimising the synchronization between the transport data elements (especially HD video) and the connection to the device requires a different mind-set than what most mobile operator are used to.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

How sensitive are your customers on LTE pricing?

Pricing is always an issue. Pricing LTE higher than 3G could be a problem if the customer does not recognise the relevance of the service. In advanced markets with the latest 3G HSPA and no capacity issues, the customer will have difficulty seeing the advantages of LTE, but where there are capacity issues, then the customer will look for 4G LTE and will even be keen to pay a premium – and that was the case for MTN.

MTC introduced 4G LTE dongles and routers to the market with packages that provided 10 times more speed and capacity than 3G – a much better experience, and charged a 10 per cent premium over 3G HSDPA.  Not surprisingly, when LTE was introduced the early adopters were the heavy 3G users and MTC migrated those early adopters for free and kept the same 3G charges for the first three months and only after that charged the premium.

Is VoLTE and RCS part of your plans and what benefits will it bring both to operators and consumers?

Where our networks are migrating to full IP, VoLTE is just a matter of time. Theoretically, VoLTE is the basis to migrate from the current CS to the full IP network, but I personally expect that the 2G/3G networks will be with us for several years.

The industry business model trend is that data represents 80 per cent of the CAPEX, but does not generate much more than 10 per cent of revenues. How we will monetise the migration properly from the current circuit-switched to a future voice over IP (VoLTE) might, in my humble opinion, be the biggest challenge that our industry will soon face. Will we be able to generate revenues in VoLTE as we do today in circuit switched?

Regarding the unified communication services, the rich communication suit (RCS) is a very comprehensive approach designed to cater to the future needs of the end-user, and to combat the OTT players. I believe the RCS approach is very relevant and a very positive move.

How does the move to LTE affect your backhaul strategy?

The strategic direction of our backhaul and backbones submarine cables was defined before we decided to introduce LTE. We were looking for bandwidth for our own transmissions, to move away from the old leased lines and renting international bandwidth, as well as extending our own fibre to the base stations. We accelerated our investment to improve our P&L in the future without the need to resort to renting connectivity, which has been one of MTC biggest OPEX costs.

Why is the LTE World Summit such a key event in your calendar?

It will be interesting to learn if all the communication industry is really aligned and to discover if we are at the front line and if we fully understanding the next steps to take with LTE.

Interview: “LTE and fixed-line will keep walking together for a long time”: CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo

Wilgon Berthold Tsibo, CTO, Equateur Telecom, Congo is speaking in the LTE Operator Strategies track on Day One of the LTE Africa 2013 conference, taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Ahead of the conference we speak to him about the particular challenges Africa is facing as local telcos look for roll-out LTE.

Please give me an overview of Equateur Telecom and tell me more about your customers and the wider MNO market in the Congo.

Congo is a country of four million inhabitants and there are more than 3.8 million mobile phone users; a penetration rate of 95 per cent. The MNO market Congo is composed of four operators : MTN Congo, Airtel Congo, Warid Congo & Equateur Telecom Congo (ETC),  known under the trade name of Azur-Congo. MTN and Airtel enjoy the largest market share (41% and 40% respectively) due to the length of time they have been established in the country – nearly 15 years. Warid, with six years market presence has 11% market share, and finally Azur Congo (ETC) holds 8% of the market after three years.

ETC is the fourth mobile operator in Congo Brazzaville and launched in 2010 in two main towns of the country – Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. ETC has a commercial 2G license at 900 and 1800MHz frequencies and currently ETC is engaged in a deployment to achieve nationwide GSM coverage by the end 2014. We also offers EDGE services.

The customer base is mostly composed of young people, ages between 16 and 29 years old who are addicted to new technologies.

What are the biggest challenges to rolling out LTE in the Congo and the wider continent?

Most of Congo’s networks are 2G networks with some 2.5G services. One operator has started 3.75G services, but success has been limited. The biggest challenges to an LTE roll-out in the Congo will be mastering the equipment swap from 2.5G to 4G. After the swap, the second challenge will be obtaining terminals that are compatible with LTE, in order to make the product accessible to the whole population.

The LTE Africa conference is taking place on the 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Click here to download the brochure for the event.

Will LTE act as a fixed-line replacement in Greenfield areas in Africa?

LTE won’t be a fixed-line replacement in Greenfield areas in Africa, but LTE is coming to reinforce the capacity and the diversity of services in Greenfield areas. LTE and fixed-line will keep walking together for a long time, because the availability of terminals constitutes a brake on the African LTE market boom.

What are the challenges around moving from WiMAX?

The challenges around moving from WiMAX to LTE are first and foremost adapting infrastructure to the Long Term Evolution technology and also ensuring the compatibility of terminals for the use of LTE services. Though they are close technologies in terms of development, the major challenges remain terminal availability.

FDD or TD-LTE – what is your technology preference and why?

Our preferred technology is Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD)-LTE because FDD is very good in situations where the uplink and downlink data transmissions are symmetrical (which is not usually the case when using wireless phones). More importantly, when using FDD, the interference between neighbouring Radio Base Stations (RBSs) is lower than when using TDD. Also, the spectral efficiency (which is a function of how well a given spectrum is used by certain access technology) of FDD is greater than TDD.

Are you considering network sharing agreements to lower costs and what are the regulatory issues surrounding this?

The strategy of sharing infrastructure is good as it reduces both CAPEX and OPEX. It reduces CAPEX for new operators entering into the business, because it does not have to raise large amounts of capital for its roll-out and it enables it to cover a large amount of territory through building sharing agreements. In return, the new operator will significantly reduce the OPEX of the site owner (fuel, electricity, maintenance, security, capacity) through its participation in the operational costs of the site. It will also enable the site owner to have a faster return on investment.

What particular challenges does Africa face in terms of backhaul provision?

The particular challenges are the availability of capacity at long distances from sites. Most operators use satellite links to serve remote areas but these links are very expensive and we cannot assure  quality during inclement weather. The emergence of different optical fibre platforms across Africa may be a solution.

How do small cells fit into your strategy?

In our strategy, small cells are a vital for 3G data off-loading, and we will also find also small cells vital for managing LTE Advanced spectrum more efficiently compared to using just macro-cells. The current cell architectures cannot support the exponential growth in demand for data transfer over the long term. The new radical concept of small cell networks can provide a viable solution economically and ecologically.

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