Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Indoor Mobile Locationing: Beyond Pick and Pay

This guest post was written by Ofer Talmor, VP Products, Saguna

Ofer Talmor, VP Products, Saguna

Ofer Talmor, VP Products, Saguna

With the high usage of mobile devices in almost every aspect of our lives, mobile retail revenue stats are hardly a surprise: In Q1 of 2014, retail revenue generated via a mobile device was up 35 percent over first quarter of last year, with mobile owning 13.7 per cent of total e-commerce orders in Q1 2013 compared to 18.5 percent during the first quarter of this year.

But while a lot of data is aggregated about online shopping habits, a big piece of the puzzle is still missing – how do you track brick and mortar customers to identify the optimal point of conversion in-store? How can you identify when a shopper walks in the store, and offer him the best retail experience?  Can the experience that can be amplified by mobile usage?

At the same time, the human need to ‘touch the merchandise’ is still a dominant one. So is the desire to get it immediately, rather than browse online, and wait Combining mobile and in-store engagement for retail success

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Enriching the LTE Experience in Qatar – Interview with Ooredoo Qatar’s Cody Postier

Cody Postier, Senior Manager Mobile Data Services, Ooredoo

Cody Postier, Senior Manager Mobile Data Services, Ooredoo

Ooredoo is working hard to build bigger, faster networks across all their markets and in particular in their home market of Qatar. Ahead of the LTE MENA conference in Dubai, we caught up with Cody Carver Postier, Senior Manager Mobile Data Services at Ooredoo Qatar to find out how Ooredoo’s LTE networks will be enriching the lives of their consumers in 2015 and beyond.

“We’re giving them access to the best content and apps, providing the fastest upload and download times” he said “We believe the key to encouraging customers is to introduce new devices, offer incentives to upgrade and to make it as easy as possible for customers to move to 4G.”

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LTE Deployments in Emerging Markets – Interview with Marc Zirka, Head of Corporate Strategy, Bakcell

Marc Zirka, Head of Corporate Strategy, Bakcell

Marc Zirka, Head of Corporate Strategy, Bakcell

Some of the discussions at LTE MENA 2015 will examine the challenges of deploying LTE in the emerging markets in the region. One of the key questions at the event will be what does it take to rollout a successful commercial LTE network?

To help us understand the challenges of LTE rollout, we caught up with keynote speaker Marc Zirka, Head of Corporate Strategy at Bakcell, ahead of their commercial LTE launch. He gave us a breakdown of the challenges they faced preparing to deploy their network and key insights into the strategy and thought process behind their decision to deploy LTE.

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Senior Manager LE Mobile Pre & Post-Paid Marketing Commercial, Du: “It is of utmost necessity to have a continuous program of analysing your market and offering customized packages accordingly.”

Lee Lin Liew, Senior Manager LE Mobile Pre & Post-Paid Marketing Commercial, Du

Lee Lin Liew, Senior Manager LE Mobile Pre & Post-Paid Marketing Commercial, Du

Keeping ahead of your customers’ needs is important for an operator that wants to stay ahead of the market. Find out more about this from Lee Lin Liew, Senior Manager LE Mobile Pre & Post-Paid Marketing Commercial, Du, who is a discussion leader at the Operator Mind Share 2014, taking place at the LTE World Summit on the 23rd June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.

Can LTE continue to be expected to generate significant ARPU over 3G?

Yes I believe so. LTE rollouts and its subscriber base are gaining momentum. LTE can also support a couple of new business models such M2M, smart cities, and eMBMS, which could generate better revenue than UMTS.

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Interview: VP Marketing, Du: “The race to connect the ‘next billion’ has never been so intense.”

Vikram Chadha, VP Marketing

Vikram Chadha, VP Marketing

In this interview Vikram Chadha, VP Marketing for du gives his passionate views on the ways that operators can look forward to a rosy future where they can use their smart pipe know-how to monetize new services. Catch Vikram in person speaking on the topic of “Moving to a data centric world”, on Day Two of the 10th annual LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 23rd-26th June 2014, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands.

In your view what are the best ways the operators can market themselves as more than just a “pipe”?

The value-add that telecom service providers are capable of goes well beyond the realm of services they currently offer – it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the potential is virtually limitless. The telecommunications industry is currently at a crossroads, and as a result it is undergoing an upheaval as more and more people access the Internet across multiple devices and platforms, driving up data traffic growth. The race to connect the ‘next billion’ has never been so intense, and therein lies the opportunity. As per industry research figures, we will have soon have 20 billion connected devices and as if that’s not enough, the prediction is that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020!

The laws of economics kick in as more and more people adopt the smartphone/devices wave – enabled by telecom service providers. In a nutshell, the key factors enabling this growth are:

1) Better affordability of increasingly-fast mobile broadband;

2) The battle of the screens: Availability of intensely feature-rich smartphones with super high resolution screens puts the power of high-end computing power in the palms of users. This battle of one-upmanship among the device manufacturers is driving down prices leading to increased adoption of smart devices and bandwidth consumption.

3) As more and more people go online to access their banking services and conduct e-commerce transactions – fuelled by the easy availability of plastic money, there is a tectonic shift in banking and the way people conduct monetary transactions. This in turn further leads to growth of the Internet and related ecosystems.

4) Shift in mindset of an average user and the need to be ‘always connected’ has led to a proliferation of smart apps, data and video.

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What‘s in a Dot?

The LTE MENA conference finished earlier this week, and as we were following Twitter, we noticed back in the LTE World Series office HQ, we noticed a several mentions of the Ericsson ‘Dot’.

So just in case you were wondering what the Dot was, here’s a quick reminder.

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Interview: CTO, MobinNet, Iran: “Customers won’t tolerate service quality downgrades even for a short period of time.”

Nima PourNejatian, CTO, MobinNet

Nima PourNejatian, CTO, MobinNet

Nima PourNejatian, CTO, MobinNet will be talking about the challenges of migrating from WiMAX to TD-LTE at the 4th annual LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE.

What is the status of your transition from WiMAX to LTE and what challenges is it throwing up?

MobinNet has made some tangible progress since we decided to migrate to TD-LTE technology according to the roadmap of the WiMAX Advanced published by the WiMAX Forum. MobinNet could secure some bandwidth on a new frequency band—2.6 GHz. Meanwhile, the infrastructure needed to completely cover one of our existing markets will be supplied. We estimate that by the end of the year, MobinNet’s first TD-LTE-based market will be launched.

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Interview: Senior Manager Data Experience, du: “The key is to win the customer’s confidence with regards to data charging, to prevent bill shock and deliver superior data experience.”

Khalid Siddique, Senior Manager Data Experience, du

Khalid Siddique, Senior Manager Data Experience, du

Khalid Siddique, Senior Manager Data Experience, du is taking part in a panel discussion entitled, “Competing through service differentiation”, on the Day One of the 4th annual LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show he tells us a little about what Du is doing to attract and retain customers.

What carriers around the world have impressed you when it comes to innovative data packages and service propositions?

I believe Verizon Wireless has been at the forefront of LTE offerings. It has dominated America well with its LTE coverage and has impressive data and handset offers such as shareable data and cloud storage.

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Interview: Chief Technology Officer, Wataniya Telecom: “In the next five years the name of the game will be spectral efficiency.”

Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology Officer, Wataniya Telecom

Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology Officer, Wataniya Telecom

Hisham Siblini, Chief Technology Officer, Wataniya Telecom is speaking on Day Two of the LTE MENA 2014 conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show we get his views on how networks will have to adapt and change to face increasing demand over the next five years.

What are the major challenges you are facing as you upgrade your network to LTE?

In my views and based on our recent experience in upgrading our network to LTE, the major challenges can be summarised as follows:

  • Modernizing the network by building a single RAN based on a Software Defined Radio access platform. This will enable the efficient reuse of available spectrum.
  • Upgrade the network backhaul to support native IP.
  • Upgrading the core network and building an efficient and state-of-the art packet core network including Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and PCEF functions

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Diameter–SS7 IWF: Bridging the Signals between New and Old Worlds

Ohad Ramot, F5

Ohad Ramot, Principal Software Engineer, F5

F5’s Ohad Ramot explains the challenges of translating signals between a 4G network using Diameter signaling and 3G networks using legacy SS7.

It’s widely known that LTE (4G) networks are spreading rapidly and are being deployed all over the globe. However, while 4G networks are growing, 2G/3G networks still serve most of the subscribers as they have been doing successfully for the last decades, and it seems these legacy networks are here to stay for a while. This requires operators and roaming mediators (IPX) to face the challenge of maintaining and interacting with both network architectures in parallel.

4G and 2G/3G network architectures differ in many aspects. One of the major differences is the signals mechanism that enables network nodes to interact with each other for authentication, billing, subscriber profile provisioning and more. While 2G/3G signaling mechanism is based on SS7 protocol stack, 4G networks use the relatively modern Diameter protocol on top of TCP/SCTP/IP stacks. Although both signaling methods provide solution to the same set of problems, they stem from different architectures and design philosophies.

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LTE in MENA: Looking for the killer monetization service

Suzanne Rankine

Suzanne Rankine
Conference Researcher, LTE World Series,
Informa Telecoms & Media

What makes LTE monetization different in MENA from the rest of the world?

Within the MENA region, the current state of the LTE market varies hugely from country to country. As of April 2013, all the GCC states had commercially deployed LTE. Yet, some of the emerging markets in the MENA region – particularly those  in North Africa – have yet to deploy 3G.

However, the growth of LTE in the Middle East and Africa is set to outstrip any other region in the world. Cisco’s 2013 report predicts that the number of 4G connections in the region will grow from over 3.6 million in 2013 to more than 86 million in 2018.

For any market considering deployment of an LTE network or even if it’s established, there seems to be a common question – what are the advantages of an LTE network and how can the network be monetized?

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How timing distribution demarcation ensures low cost performance for LTE/LTE-A and small cells

This post is by Ilan Tevet, Head of Service Provider Line of Business, RAD

Ilan Tevet

Ilan Tevet, Head of Service Provider Line of Business, RAD

All LTE networks need an accurate Time Of Day (TOD) reference delivered to eNodeBs and small cells. But the large, expensive and centrally-located 1588 Grandmasters typically used for this purpose do not fit all deployment scenarios or performance requirements.

Moreover, GPS receiver deployment at every cell site also might not fit all use cases, cost considerations or performance requirements.

A GPS receiver can be used to deliver local timing at every cell site with very high accuracy. But while it is impervious to network conditions such as delay and packet delay variation (jitter), it nonetheless poses several challenges to network operators.

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Interview: Vishwanath Madhugiri, Chief Innovation Officer, Lycamobile “Development of key user-friendly applications such as WhatsApp and VoLTE are already driving data usage growth in the Lycamobile communities.”

Vishwanath Madhugiri, Lycamobile

Vishwanath Madhugiri, Chief Innovation Officer, Lycamobile

Lycamobile is an MVNO that is really going places. Its customers certainly are – all over the world in fact, with the company offering low cost calls in Europe, Asia and now the US. 2014 is certainly set to be a big year for it. Ahead of the 4th annual LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 11th-13th May 2014 at the Conrad, Dubai, UAE, we speak to Vishwanath Madhugiri, Chief Innovation Officer who is speaking on the subject of innovative services as revenue stream for operators on Day One of the LTE MENA conference. Madhugiri explains how even though data usage however is only at a nascent stage. working with Lycamobile gives MNOs access to customers in ethnic communities for which they would otherwise not be able to cater. 

Please tell me more about Lycamobile and what makes it unique?

Founded in 2006, Lycamobile is the solution for those who want to connect back home. Currently providing low-cost high-quality international calls to over 30 million customers across 17 countries, Lycamobile’s sheer span, sharp focus on customer service and innovative business model has seen us outgrow our competition; achieving greater coverage of the European population than any other network operator. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator initially developed for the expatriate communities in Europe; Lycamobile has fast become a global brand synonymous with connecting customers with their loved ones across oceans, borders and networks at the cheapest possible price. This is what makes us unique.

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Interview: Director Mobile Network, Etisalat, UAE: “2014 is the year of LTE-A.”

Mohamed Nadder Hamdy, Director Mobile Network, Etisalat in the UAE

Dr. Mohamed Nadder Hamdy, Director Mobile Network, Etisalat in the UAE

Etisalat is one of the biggest operators in the Middle East and has a 55 per cent market share in the UAE according to Informa WCIS stats of which 4G is a small but growing part. Ahead of the LTE MENA 2014 show we speak to Dr. Mohamed Nadder Hamdy, Director Mobile Network, Etisalat in the UAE to get some insight into its network deployment and his predictions for the future.

You’ve had an LTE network for a couple of years now. What would you say are the key learnings you have made about next-gen network deployment?

We’ve learned that devices eco-system and network infrastructures are a chicken-and-egg problem. Operators realise that new technology traffic pickup is mainly dependent on the spread of devices, especially smartphones. On the other hand, device manufacturers are dependent on the operator’s technology adoption plans for their mass production, economy of scale, plans.

A typical clash was the iPhone 5 LTE launch, which lacked support for 2.6GHz despite the fact that at that time this band was the most deployed amongst European and the Middle East operators. Nowadays, operators are facing the same challenges concerning their forward planning for LTE-A carrier aggregation bands. Regional operator alliances that can guide device manufacturers are a clear necessity to solve this issue.

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IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran: “Deploying a ubiquitous fibre network is a time and cost consuming project.”

IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran

IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran

Ali Tahmasebi, head of IP transmission manager, Mobinnet, Iran, is speaking on Day Two of the LTE Backhaul Summit, collocated with the LTE World Summit 2013, taking place on the 24th-26th June at the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we delve into details over backhaul technology choices and find out what he is looking forward at the LTE Backhaul Summit.

What challenges will the move to LTE have on your backhaul strategy?

Our main strategy to make our backhaul LTE-ready is to have a hierarchical structure with access, hub and metro levels. In this regard, the rollout of the network is very clear and straightforward. Nevertheless, it does raise a number of challenges, such as the number of metro and hub sites per city, and leasing and building those sites in a technically coordination fashion.

The major challenges are technical. The final decision on RAN strategy and use of either LTE-TDD or LTE-FDD has a direct impact on backhaul product type and features. Planning an optimum synchronisation strategy to handle 1588v2, defining the advanced QoS and traffic engineering features to handle congestion, end-to-end IPv6 network deployment, interoperability between different backhaul products and backhaul to core connection topology are the main challenges.

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.

Is fibre always the preferred solution over microwave backhaul?

As a fibre optic connection can handle a huge amount of traffic on a long distance, without a negligible loss, it is very interesting for backhaul scenarios. However, deploying a ubiquitous fibre network is a time and cost consuming project and most of the time is out of a mobile network operators’ scope. Most of the fibre optic networks belong to companies that are not MNOs, so it is not cost efficient to lease fibre pass or leased BW for all the sites. The traffic of an LTE site with normal configuration is around 100-300Mbps. Todays, it is easy to handle this amount of traffic with MW radios from different vendors. As a broadband backhaul deployment scenario, the connections at metro level could be based on fibre optic rings, in hub level on high capacity nodal MW radio links and in access level they would be based on P2P MW radio links.

Some analysts say that the dedicated backhaul required for small cells could destroy the economic benefits that they might bring in terms of offload. What’s your view?

I don’t believe any dedicated backhaul is required for small cells. Full outdoor E-band MW radios are the best choice to handle the traffic. The main point is to offload Internet traffic directly to Internet without passing through the mobile operator’s core network. However, the charging and pricing method here is a challenge.

What is the most exciting development in LTE that you expect in the next 12 months?

From my personal point of view, the most exciting developments will be the move towards LTE-Advanced, standardization and releasing the new frequency bands, VoLTE improvements, small cells concept improvements and IMS deployments at the core of mobile networks.

Why is the LTE World Summit such an important show for you to attend?

This year, the LTE World Summit 2013, has been co-located with the LTE Backhaul Summit. Referring back to our experience at the LTE Asia 2012 and LTE MENA 2013, the event gives access to the leading LTE operators, vendors and opportunity to learn from the success stories of handling of data explosion, mobile broadband and LTE networks deployment. As the biggest LTE event in the world, I expect it to address operator challenges in data monetisation, OTT services, VoLTE and small cells.

Interview: CTIO, Etisalat, UAE: “Applications that enhance the customer experience will help us monetise our investments.”

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE.

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE.

Marwan Zawaydeh is the CTIO of Etisalat, UAE. He will be speaking on Day Two of the LTE World summit taking place on the on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Ahead of the show we speak to him about the latest developments in LTE in the region and learn more about his views on RCS, roaming and LTE monetisation. 

We spoke to you this time last year. How has your LTE network developed since then?  

These were very exciting 12 months for Etisalat and for our customers, and we are looking forward to build on this success to continue to lead innovation in the region and provide our customers the latest in technology. We were able to significantly enhance LTE coverage, which has now reached 80 per cent of the populated area. Coverage will be further enhanced further this year as the number of deployed sites will double. We were also able to bring a very rich portfolio of LTE terminals which includes dongles, a Mi-Fi, and popular smartphones from Apple, Samsung, and Blackberry. We were able to secure exclusive deals with these top manufacturers and were able to provide our customers with very attractive packages. This resulted in significant growth of our mobile data traffic as our customers adopted LTE enthusiastically. This has resulted in a significant increase in the ARPU from our mobile customers.

Can you give me examples of a couple of your biggest challenges that you faced?

The first challenge we had was to provide proper coverage to our LTE customers. We started with the 2.6GHz band because it was the only band available at the time. This gave us regional leadership in LTE until enough spectrum in the 1.8GHz band became available.  Another big challenge was the fragmentation of the LTE global deployment and the difficulty in bringing a comprehensive LTE eco-system to our customers. We had to expedite the introduction of the 1.8GHz band to be able to provide our customers the best-in-class LTE smart phones and LTE devices.

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 do you meet the challenge of offering good value to the consumer and at the same time monetising your investments?

This challenge can only be met when investments result in superior customer experience and access to new and innovative products and services. Fortunately, LTE is all about providing our mobile customers much higher throughput, lower latency, and an overall superior customer experience. But this wouldn’t be possible unless we looked at our network end-to-end. Many operators struggle in backhauling LTE traffic and that results in a deteriorated customer experience. Etisalat had a vision several years ago to invest heavily in the fibre network as a converged and future-proof platform. The UAE is currently number one globally in deep fibre deployment because of Etisalat. Our fibre-rich network enabled us to provide GigE connectivity to all our mobile sites to provide an unmatched customer experience. At the same time, continuing to flatten the network architecture helped us enhance the cost effectiveness of our deployment and significantly enhance the overall delivered value to our customers. Applications that enhance the customer experience will help us monetise our investments.

An example of that is eLifeTV, which provides our customers with access to live HD channels and HD video content. We are finding it to be very popular in our market and now we have the platform to enable it we will continue to introduce similar services.

How important is LTE roaming for your customers and what are the challenges in enabling it?

UAE has a unique characteristic of a huge expat population that roam a lot so it is important to facilitate LTE roaming as early as possible, but there are several challenges that still remain.

Current roaming agreements do not provide the required QoS, SLA, and security requirements for enriched LTE services. Etisalat is in the process of deploying an IPX Hub to enhance the roaming capabilities,not only for data traffic, but also for high value voice and rich communication services in the future. Etisalat’s goal is not only to provide roaming to customers in our local market but to become a roaming hub for other operators as well.

What are your plans for RCS-based services and are you excited about them?

We believe enriched services such as RCS are the future and we are actively exploring various options of introducing RCS services as part of our portfolio of innovative products and services. Actually, we already have the required back-end system, which will ensure a fast time to market. We are working with our marketing team to determine the right market-entry strategy for these services in UAE.

Why is the best thing for you about attending the LTE World Summit?

We are always keen on attending the LTE World Summit to share our experience and learn from other leading operators. The telecom industry is very dynamic and mobile technology is evolving fast. Etisalat takes pride in consistently taking a leadership in the MENA region and providing our customers with the most innovative technologies and best in class products and services. Attending the LTE World Summit helps us travel fast through the experience curve via engagement with the top operators and vendors in the industry.

Interview: Safdar Imam Hyder, senior costing specialist at Omantel, Oman: “US operators are doing it better and Omantel should learn its pricing lessons from them.”

Safdar Imam Hyder, senior costing specialist at Omantel

Safdar Imam Hyder, senior costing specialist at Omantel

Safdar Imam Hyder, senior costing specialist at Omantel is appearing on Day Two of the of the LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013 at the Amsterdam RAI, NetherlandsAhead of the show Hyder tells us how device launches are boosting excitement for LTE in the region amongst consumers, how LTE is a revenue opportunity for operators and why RCS services are critical for operators to be able to compete with OTT.

What major developments have there been with regards to the LTE industry in your region this past year?

We are witnessing a broadband explosion in the MENA region, especially in the GCC where broadband revenue has been growing steadily at a double digit rate over the last three years. Telecoms revenue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is expected to grow by 27 per cent between 2012 and 2017 according to Analysys Mason, mainly due to data on 3G and 4G networks rolling out faster and faster.

Since the first launch of LTE in Saudi Arabia in September 2011, LTE has been launched in all the GCC countries such as UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. Here in Oman, LTE deployment is in full swing with both the tier one operators Omantel and Nawras launching – Omantel using both TDD and FDD and Nawras using FDD. Roll-outs have been accelerated in 2013 after the TRA issued spectrum licenses to both the operators at 1.8GHz.

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.

Omantel, a pioneer LTE service provider in the Sultanate of Oman, has announced the launch of the second phase of its FDD 4G LTE network with coverage extended to new areas. With the latest LTE devices launches from Samsung, BlackBerry and Huawei, LTE fever is catching up fast with the general users in the Omani market, especially with the youth in the gaming and video applications. Expectations are high for launches of newer devices and Omantel is progressing well on expanding LTE 4G coverage to almost all major cities of Oman by the third Q313, with its vendor, Huawei.

Pricing for LTE is a controversial subject. Are operators getting it right?

I see LTE as an opportunity to boost ARPU for operators, but it all depends on pricing. Ever since the advent of the technology, billing and charging systems have been riding a wave of change. If Omantel is able to adapt to the new ecosystem we can lead our market to a new era of data connectivity and technological advancement; what is known as the “smart society”. This country has all potential parameters for developing as an e-society with one of the highest ratio of utilised bandwidth per user.

The biggest challenge that operators here are now facing is to get their charging models right. Having learned from their 3G experiences, we know that unlimited offers are a risky proposition in LTE era. In a recent survey, out of 65 operators polled, only three per cent are offering unlimited plans. The combination of new billing options and reluctance to offer unlimited plans is bringing about a new wave of pricing innovation.

Most of the pricing alternatives currently used for LTE are conventional in concept except those of shared plans. Simply, already implemented pricing schemes are being perfected and developed. However, LTE pricing is still in its infancy, evolving differently in various regions. As LTE pioneers European operators are wary of unlimited pricing and have opted for LTE rental premiums in the range of 50-80 per cent, with unit costs per megabyte of almost half compared to rest of the world.

US operators, after an initial fumble in the race to launch 4G networks, are developing new pricing models. They are choosing to be technology-agnostic and have opted to price the new generation telecoms access (mostly data) according to the number/type of connected devices and the data volume consumed. This provides users with an affordable way to use data either stationary or on-the-go and for operators to increase revenue per customer. In my opinion US operators are doing it better and Omantel should learn its pricing lessons from them.

Do you think that LTE offers great opportunities for monetisation or does it present challenges?

I think LTE or any high-speed mobile data network offers great opportunities for monetisation. This is because mankind is undergoing an amazing ‘mobile revolution’. Every day we see new upcoming developments in fields like mobile video, social media applications, mobile marketing, mobile health, mobile money and M2M, and all are made easier via LTE. Both the clients and consumers side have great business need for LTE and there is immense potential in that. But the challenges are fierce and unequal competition with OTT providers, whom are more focused and faster at executing on services and product development. As such, mobile operators are in great danger of becoming simply utility service providers with low-value dumb data pipes for third parties.

Do you believe that RCS services can genuinely help the industry compete with OTT?

Internet penetration is growing massively in Oman with more than two million users. OTT services such as Viber, PalTalk, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger have already been unblocked in Oman by a memo issued by the Oman TRA to all operators in April 2012 and are now easily accessible on desktop and mobile devices. Skype might also follow the suit.

RCS does provide a competitive advantage to MNOs by introducing IP-based communications services to their own platform and enabling them to compete with OTT service providers. Realising the importance of multi-service IP network in the lives of the people and the economy in general, regulators all over the world are aggressively protecting or promoting OTTs. As these OTT players eat into traditional telco revenues, technologies such as RCS provides a solid foundation for crafting a compelling user interface, building a brand around services and incorporating differentiating features that most operators traditionally do not seem to be good at.

According to Jeremy Green, a principal analyst in Ovum’s Telco Strategy Practice, by 2020 VoIP alone will have cost the global telecoms industry $479bn in lost revenues. Therefore the importance of adopting RCS is all the more critical.

Interview: Senior technical operations management expert, TRA Lebanon: “Operators are looking for partnerships with OTT providers.”

Dr Imad Holballah, activng CEO of the TRA Lebanon

Dr Imad Holballah, acting CEO of the TRA Lebanon

Dr Imad Holballah, acting CEO of the TRA Lebanon, is delivering the opening day keynote on Day One of the LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show we find out more about the complex challenges regarding spectrum that are impacting the roll-out of LTE in the Middle East.

How advanced is data usage in Lebanon?

The dominant player in the mobile arena in Lebanon is the Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT). The MoT has rolled out two 3G HSPA+ networks throughout the country and these are being run by two network operators, Alfa and Touch. The 3G networks can theoretically deliver speeds up to 4Mbits/s. However, the average speeds users experience are normally only in the range of 0.3 – 1 Mbits/s – so the need to move to next generation technology is clear. In Q1 2013, major ISPs entered the 3G data market by introducing new prepaid data SIM cards for tablets, dongles and Wi-Fi routers. In addition, the MoT has recently been testing LTE (mainly at 1800MHz) on both network operators, in preparation for a full launch in the near future.

The LTE MENA conference is taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Click here to find out more about the event.

Can you tell me about the spectrum auction process in your region and how it has impacted LTE deployments?

LTE spectrum bands are generally not being auctioned in Middle East countries. Rather LTE network deployments within the region have been utilising frequencies already assigned under current licenses, e.g. Mobily Saudi Arabia, Nawras Oman, Ooredoo Qatar and Etisalat UAE. An auction to sell LTE radio spectrum in Bahrain was halted after a wireless broadband operator appealed against its exclusion from the sale. In Lebanon, the Ministry of Telecommunications assigned spectrum on the 800 and 1800MHz bands without going through a spectrum auction, given that the mobile market has not  been liberalised yet.

What are the key challenges that the TRA is facing in terms of getting LTE deployed?

There are many challenges facing LTE deployment in the region. One of the key challenges we see involves the availability of combined spectrum bands for coverage and capacity purposes and to ensure optimal indoor coverage. 800MHz is currently licensed for analogue TV operators awaiting the digital switchover so it could be used for coverage along with other capacity bands (e.g. 2.6MHz)

There will also need to be rules and procedures to encourage infrastructure sharing, particularly involving active sharing (e.g., Single RAN and spectrum sharing) and passive sharing of towers and ducts. A decision on coverage obligations will need to be made on whether it will be applied to specific spectrum bands or licensed to mobile operators irrespective of the operating band. Another issue is that there is a shortage on backhaul spectrum frequencies to satisfy LTE deployments and we need to speed up the process of deploying optical fibre cables for E-node B backhaul. Finally, the availability of multimode multi-band LTE devices is a problem as these are not widely available in the market.

What are the primary concerns of operators in your region and what are the key challenges that they face in the next 12 months?

The major concern of mobile telecom operators is riding the data tsunami in the MENA region while the voice market continues its gradual decline.  OTT applications (such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber) that bring “free voice” and/or “free SMS” are a direct challenge to legacy voice and SMS revenues.

To counter this, operators are looking for partnerships with OTT providers to bundle their services into their triple-play packages. There will also need to be investment in data compression technology to better manage growing data volumes. Additionally, the availability of a simplified and flexible spectrum licensing regime will reduce administrative burdens and spectrum harmonisation and the greater availability of multi-modes multi band devices are essential.

Is there a strong desire from operators for lower frequencies for LTE and is there a desire for a common band (e.g. 1800MHz)

Operators in the region are certainly interested in acquiring low frequency bands for LTE deployments due to their excellent propagation characteristics (e.g., better indoor coverage and greater outdoor coverage). In MEA, operators have started to deploy LTE deployment on 800MHz band. The UAE is preparing to launch it soon and Ooredoo Qatar launched its first LTE network on 800MHz Band 20. In Lebanon, the two mobile operators also started LTE pilot projects early this year for networks on 800MHz. 1800MHz is also popular as an international frequency to aid global LTE roaming and about 10 out of 16 LTE Networks in the Middle-East were deployed on that frequency.

Does LTE throw up any specific issues such as bill shock through excessive data usage?

The LTE issues are essentially the same as that of 3G. To avoid ‘bill shock’, mobile operators in Lebanon are currently relying on sending several SMS messages to warn the subscriber of their data usage at 50 per cent, 80 per cent of their data limit, when they have hit it, and of the charges when they are roaming. Despite these efforts some consumers in Lebanon are still facing high bills such as when roaming for the first time, due to the lack of experience in the data usage, and sometimes when they sign up for a lower cost plan that does not fit their data usage needs. 

Interview: IP Transmission Senior Manager, MobinNet: “Mobile broadband is a foundation not only of how people work but how they live.”

IP Transmission Senior Manager, MobinNet

IP Transmission Senior Manager, MobinNet

Ali Tahmasebi, IP Transmission Senior Manager, MobinNet is speaking on mobile broadband strategies on Day One of the LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show he tells us more about the pressures on networks and how LTE is helping operators deal with the traffic growth.

Most markets have seen exponential data traffic growth. What are the patterns you are seeing in your region?

The mobile broadband networks in the region have continued to explode and traffic has increased exponentially. This increase has been related to an increasing number of broadband users and their demand for high-speed services due to a proliferation of end-user devices such as tablets.

The enabling factor has been the broadband technologies that have evolved to address the exploding amount of data traffic. This has been through several means such as improved spectral efficiency and enhancements such as dual-carrier, MIMO and smart antennas that have increased the number of bits per second and Hertz, of which LTE is the most impressive example.

As the Middle-East’s largest WiMax operator, here in MobinNet, the traffic pattern has increase exponentially as well. Fortunately the traffic-speed slope has increased a bit more than that of traffic volume.

What steps can operators take to mitigate the effect of ‘chatty apps’ placing too much signaling pressure on a network?

Today, mobile broadband is a foundation not only of how people work but how they live – they communicate in a mobile oriented world. As the many different types of smartphone are increasing daily, the impact of ‘chatty apps’ is becoming ever more evident.

One of the way to resolve this to offload through wifi networks in order to route data traffic directly to the internet without passing through the mobile operator’s network. Considerations have to be made to address pricing and charging issues for this such as a flat/fixed monthly rate.

What are the challenges around maintaining customer satisfaction under increasing pressure on the network?

Customer satisfaction is a core concept and in a very competitive market it is one of the key areas of focus for mobile operators. The main parameters in this regard are users’ connection speeds, network performance and availability and pricing methods. Multiple access technology in the network, wifi offload, flexible quality of service (QoS) and policy based charging are the methods to deliver the desired service to the end users.

Despite the growth and opportunity around data, will monetisation of LTE be difficult?

I don’t believe it will be difficult; it is feasible. We have enough experience on mobile broadband networks such as 3G and WiMax and with its features such as flat architecture and spectral efficiency LTE has further decreased the overall cost for operators to deliver data.

How are you going about predicting what is required in terms of network expansion over the next 2-5 years.

Trends show mobile broadband traffic increasing at an exponential pattern in both traffic speed and traffic volume. From a technical and commercial point of view it is possible to calculate and predict the slope of the traffic growth curve for the next 2-3 years.  The existing 3G networks will adopt with the latest HSPA+ release to enable users to enjoy high-speed services. Most operators are looking to trace in detail the success story of the big operators that have already deployed LTE. Wifi offload and roll-out more new sites play the main role during this transition time.

In terms of backhaul the aim is to provide more flexibility in order to handle the surge of data traffic generated by HSPA+/ LTE networks. As such it is necessary to define a hierarchical topology including access, hub and metro sites. The backhaul dimensioning should be based on the theoretical peak data rate of access technologies and consider statistical multiplexing in aggregation nodes. As a deployment scenario, the main backbone connections and backhaul to backbone interfaces should be 10G ports. The backhaul will also depend on the location of the sites.

The LTE MENA conference is taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Click here to find out more about the event

Interview: Technical manager, Mobinnet, Iran: “The biggest challenges for us will be transitioning into an IPv6 world.”

Shamim Nael is the Technical director of operation and maintenance at Mobinnet Iran.

Shamim Nael is the Technical director of operations and maintenance at Mobinnet Iran.

Shamim Nael, technical manager, Mobinnet, Iran is speaking on Day Two of the LTE MENA conference, taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Ahead of the show we speak to him about the transition of Mobinnet from WiMAX to LTE and about his concerns regarding the development of the TDD eco-system.

How are you managing the transition from WiMAX to TD-LTE?

By carefully considering the future of our network growth, we ensured that we were future-proofed by buying equipment that supported LTE. We also designed the backbone to be powerful enough to meet the all the standards and features that are already being used in modern high-tech telecom environments.

What are the chief technical challenges you expect to face over the next 12 months?

One of the biggest challenges for us will be transitioning into an IPv6 world. Despite several committees working together on a conversion program (including Mobinnet), there is still no announcement from the regulatory organisation about how and when we’re moving over.

Does it make sense to think of LTE as a fixed-line replacement in certain cases?

I don’t think so. In my opinion fixed lines will not be replaced by radio technologies. History shows both fixed and mobile networks developing in parallel, supporting high-tech services with no harm to each other. I remember what happened when IP technology leaked into Telecom world and made a huge revolution on it. We need to keep in mind it’s not the first nor last time that some major technologies may cause remarkable changes in core systems.

What do you consider to be the greatest benefits of the TD-LTE eco-system?

What are the trade-offs between FD-LTE and TD-LTE? The main differences between them lie in their band type. FD-LTE requires paired spectrum with different uplink and downlink channels. TD-LTE uses unpaired spectrum, transmitting uplink and downlink assignments on the same channel. Thanks to the TD-specific frame structure, TD will typically have a smaller link budget than FD. This means that TD-LTE usually caters for smaller cells than FD-LTE. So it’s up to provider’s policies to choose whether use TD, FD or mixed of both in their network. In short, I believe TD-LTE offers more robust radio performance in city environments and also a simpler network implementation because of single-band operation.

The LTE MENA conference is taking place on the 13th-14th May 2013 at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, UAE. Click here to find out more about the event.

Too little, too late for Blackberry?

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Something incredible happened last week. Over at Telecoms.com, The Informer, revealed that Nokia has made a profit. Yes Nokia. An actual profit. At least in Q412. It was €439m, and, just for handy comparison, Apple made $8.2 billion in the same time period. Still, while I’m not great at maths, I know a profit is better than a loss. Of course, it still made a massive loss overall in 2012, but for a company that everyone had pretty much given up the ghost on it’s a welcome, if surprising, bud of recovery.

Today another company is looking to return from the near dead. RIM, the Canadian owner of the Blackberry brand was once synonymous with phones that were smart, (email – in your pocket! Wow!) but times have changed. In 2010 RIM had 14 per cent of the smartphone market. In 2012 it was four per cent. Again, I’m not great at maths but… it clearly can’t continue to drop at the same rate as by the end of 2013 it wouldn’t exist.

So what’s the plan?

The plan is Blackberry 10 – an OS the company has bet the farm on. Things haven’t gone to plan so far though, and the OS, which was due to arrive in mid-2012 has been delayed not once, but twice.

However, as I type, are announcing Blackberry 10 OS and two new handsets to go with it – the touchscreen only Z10, which will feature LTE support, and a keyboard equipped X10 (because as we know, hardcore Blackberry fans will only give up their physical keyboard equipped handsets if you prise them from their cold, dead hands).

The Z10 is the flagship device and early reviews have been mixed. Joseph Volpe, Engadget tech site journalist described the hardware to the BBC as a, “full-on Monet, to borrow a line from the movie Clueless – attractive from afar, but disappointing up-close.” It seems that only Apple is able to churn out devices that have a truly premium look and feel.

As for the software, some analysts and tech journalists have had a preview and reports seem to be positive – a cool UI, and fast switching between apps and the BlackBerry Hub, which combines all your messaging services (email, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook etc.) into one location, are highlights.

Gartner’s Phillip Redmam has said that Blackberry 10 offers the best UI on the market, and that it has comeback potential. Stuart Jeffrey, Nomura Securities analyst observes that there is pent-up demand for new Blackberry’s from its existing fans, so there’s still a core market to tap into. I’ve always found it rather bizarre that this audience seems to be either be-suited, lawyer types, or streetwise, hooded, sexting obsessed teens.

At the launch the company made some smart moves, changing the company name from RIM, to Blackberry, which is what most people called it anyway. However, the show was clearly not up to the standard of Apple’s keynotes – PC Pro’s News Editor Nicole Kobie described RIM, sorry, Blackberry’s CEO Thorsten Heins as having, “all the charisma of a cheese sandwich.”

All the more impressive then that despite its precarious position in the market Blackberry has managed to line up a strong suite of names to offer apps compatible with BB10 OS – Skype, Amazon Kindle, SAP, Whatsapp, Angry Birds (this one is the most crucial, obviously), which at least prevents it from being a lame duck on day one. (Blackberry Playbook, I’m looking at you).

And with the flagship Z10 offering LTE it will be able to keep up with the rest of the competition. At least in the US – it supports LTE 700/850/1700/1900MHz, – but not 1800MHz, meaning that if it’s to support the UK and Australia it’s going to have to release a separate flavour capable on 800MHz and 1800MHz and 2.6GHz. So can RIM ­‑ sorry, sorry – Blackberry, make a comeback? Well the jury is not so much out, as having announced that it is leaving the igloo and may be some time.

So can RIM ­‑ sorry, sorry – Blackberry, make a comeback? Well the jury is not so much out, as having announced that it is leaving the igloo and may be some time.

Yesterday I talked to Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of strategic wireless business consultancy, Northstream. Will we be reading next year of a Nokia-like bud, showing signs of recovery?

No, he said. (Nordstrom is never one to mince his words). Blackberry’s time has passed was his view. “It was a phenomenal thing. It was unique when it came 10 years ago but that era is over- we’ve moved on. I don’t think there is any way back”

Based in Sweden, Nordstrom expressed his surprise in the continued interest in Blackberrys that he sees in London and other parts of the world. “Every time I come here and Indonesia or the Middle East, Blackberry is big. The lawyers love it!”

So there we are, back to the  lawyers. And when you’re relying on those who practice the dark arts for your continued success you know you’re in trouble.

Blackberry will be taking part in a panel discussion on content and OTT applications at the LTE MENA 2013 conference, so if you can make it to Dubai on the 12th-14th May, download a brochure so you can find out more.

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