Posts tagged ‘FDD’

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.

MWC: FDD vs TDD. Who wins? There’s only one way to find out. Fight!

MWC 2012. A bit crazy.

So that was the week that was. I managed to make it to Mobile World Congress this week for the first time, and though I was only able to do so for a little over one day it was a pretty interesting experience.

If you’ve ever been to any kind of large industry trade show you’ll know that they can be pretty intense affairs. MWC though has to be on another level – it’s nuts and probably only outdone by CES – but then that’s in Las Vegas so there you go.

Everyone who is everyone is there at MWC, so much so that to really make a statement, you have to not be there – but be big enough for people to notice. So that’s Apple then.

In terms of LTE MWC afforded me the opportunity to actually pick up and hold my first LTE enabled phone: and would you believe it, they feel much the same as 3G phones. That said the phone in question was the Samsung Galaxy Note, which is about the size of a small Galaxy, so well named in that regard.

LTE wise one of the most interesting things I heard was a comparison between the performance of FDD LTE and TD-LTE (Frequency Division Duplex vs Time-Divison). This was conducted in the field by 3 Sweden, which has just launched its LTE service. Jorgen Askeroth, CTO of 3 Sweden said that as a company they had no religious bias towards one technology or another, it was more a case of spectrum availability. It just wanted to offer the best service to its customers – which is refreshing to hear. But some operators might be ‘afraid’ of bidding for the more affordable and more widely available TDD spectrum, when it fact it would be a great choice, as Sweden UK’s testing proves.

Askeroth said that every site had both LTE and TD and has separate antennas for LTE on order to maintain a good 3G experience for its customers. In its comparison tests, FDD was better in 28 locations but TDD was better in 20 locations. Latency in particular was comparable. When you take into account the fact that TD-LTE spectrum used was 20MHz compared to 40MHz for the FDD, Askeroth said that there was no doubt that, as often assumed but not often proven, TDD offers much greater spectrum efficiency than FDD. Askeroth was happy to state that with an equal amount of spectrum to throw at it, TDD would be “materially better”.

In the same session, the rather quirky chief strategist of Dutch operator KPN, Erik Hooving stepped up to say that LTE was being marketed entirely wrong – starting with the name as it was entirely meaningless to most consumers. However, his argument would be negated by the fact that in reality LTE will simply be sold at ‘4G’, which is a clear enough message for most. Hooving admitted that in Holland, KPN’s HSPA network would be sufficient to deliver what its customers actually needed in terms of bandwidth, but said that it was important to get on the LTE bus now, simply to be ready. His key message to operators – don’t build for coverage – build for capacity. There’s little point having 99 per cent coverage is 99 per cent of the time no one can adequately use the network.

It’s a good point, and one I hope to hear more of at the LTE World Summit in May.

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