Posts tagged ‘LTE Africa’

A network evolution needs a security revolution

Guest post written by Ilia Abramov, Product Director @ Xura

Ilia Abramov, Product Director, Xura

Ilia Abramov, Product Director, Xura

Signaling networks, enabling the exchange of information that sets up, controls and terminates calls, have been through multiple stages of evolution since the early days of telephony.

Signaling System No. 7, or SS7, was developed to exchange information over digital signaling networks specific to mobile operators, and requires specialised equipment to fulfil even simple connectivity.

The complexity of its protocols, and the fact that it is used only by a closed circle of mobile operators, means that SS7 offers very controlled access to the networks themselves. That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that an SS7 network contains crucial information regarding a mobile network such as subscriber data, and mobility and authorisation information.

SS7 networks have since evolved to become IP-based, making them more accessible to a wider community outside of traditional mobile operators. But, with the emergence of cheaper, and better performing IP solutions, the level of trust has dropped significantly.


LTE Africa 2015: Accelerating the Growth of Africa’s 4G LTE Future

2015 has been an exciting year for Africa, with LTE 4G services now provided in 24 African countries, and many more operators expected to launch commercial 4G LTE services by the end of the year. As LTE subscriptions in Africa continue to grow, and with 50% of the region’s population expected to be covered by LTE networks by 2018, LTE Africa 2015 (17-19 November) will return at a time when it has never been more crucial for operators to ensure they have the best plans for the future strategic deployment of LTE networks.

17054-LTE-Africa-web-bannerCo-located with AfricaCom in CCITC Cape Town, South Africa, LTE Africa will bring together leading LTE industry experts and operators to discuss the key issue of strategic deployment for 4G LTE and VoLTE services going forward in Africa. With over 4000 operators in attendance and more operator case studies than ever before, LTE Africa will provide the best platform for sharing key information crucial for revolutionising Africa’s digital future.

Currently few African operators of 4G LTE networks have deployed Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), the rising LTE standard for voice communication. As such, even networks offering LTE smartphones are still using GSM or 3G circuit-switched networks to carry voice traffic. The deployment of VoLTE will be one of the biggest technological advances Africa has seen, and so operators’ deployment strategies must be ready to handle this quantum leap.


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.


LTE in Africa : We are getting ready to rock n roll !!

Check out Sadiq Malik’s (Telco Strategist) thoughts on the recent LTE Africa conference.

Telco Global Connect

Presentation1The Africa LTE Congress in Cape Town was a well organised and well executed Event. The 2-day assembled over 300 attendees from across the continent to hear insightful presentations, network and discover the future of LTE in Africa . The general ambience was cautiously optimistic even exciting since there is so much riding on LTE to bridge the growing Digital Divide in Africa.

It seems South Africa is clearly taking the LTE lead in Africa with a reported 94% of Africa’s 300,000 activated LTE SIM cards earlier this year. However, the rest of the continent is quickly catching up with Econet wireless confirming they are testing their LTE network in Zimbabwe, Surfline Communications announcing an LTE rollout in Ghana next year and MTC Namibia reporting 33% of data currently used on the network is already from LTE. And more projects in the works including Govt backed Open Access Model in…

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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.

Interview: access field development director, Google: “We have to create more local content in Africa and keep it there.”

Kai U. Wulff, access field development director, Google

Kai U. Wulff, access field development director, Google

Kai U. Wulff, access field development director, Google is speaking on Day Two of the LTE Africa conference, taking place on 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town. Ahead of the show, we speak to him to find out more about his role, and why he is excited about Africa and its potential for growth.

In his keynote address at Mobile World Congress in 2012, Google’s Eric Schmidt declared that his company’s mission was to reach, “the next five billion”. Of the world’s population of 7 billion, only 2 billion are online, presenting a huge opportunity for Google and every company.

One of the great Greenfield areas is, of course, Africa. According to Informa WBIS statistics only 4.27% of household on the continent have fixed-line broadband internet access. While over 70% have mobile phone coverage, this is almost exclusively basic feature phones – the seemingly near ubiquitous smartphone world of the US and Europe is an adventure that is only just about to start.

Clearly Google has a desire to help get the continent of Africa online as quickly and efficiently as possible and accelerating that process is the task of Kai U. Wulff, access field development director for Google, who is delivering a keynote address on Day Two of the LTE Africa conference, taking place on 9th-10th July 2013 in Cape Town.

Wulff says he is driven by Google’s famous mission statement, to organise the world’s information.” “You can only do this if [people are] brought online,” he says. “The second part of our mission statement is to make information universally accessible, and it can’t be universal if it’s limited to sub-set of people.”

Google is not a charity of course, and it naturally has a vested interest in growing its market, which Wulff admits. “Of course, Google is an internet company, so why wouldn’t we want to promote anything that increases the usage of the internet, as that what makes our company.” However, Wulff insists that his role is not to promote Google but to promote internet access in general. “My focus is not to bring people online to use Google products. Whether they want to use our products or not, it is my job is to bring more people online and then give them a much better experience online.”

But is internet access really a priority for people who might have more pressing concerns that sharing something on Google+? Actually, Wulff is certain that internet access is crucial for improving the lifestyles of those in Africa. “In today’s world I could not live without the internet in my job, so how can we expect to help to develop a continent if we are depriving them from access to the biggest source of information? You can’t solve the problem of poverty without giving people an incentive to use the internet. It may be a different incentive to the way the people in the Western world have it – people use it for pure entertainment, or a way to spend their money. In Africa it’s about how it makes their lives better.”

He gives the simple example of a tomato seller who can go online to check the optimal prices that he can sell his produce for, without having to spend a large amount of time physically travelling to the market. “I think that’s a tangible improvement in lifestyle.”

Indeed he thinks that there are many in the West who might start to worry about competition from Africa once it really starts to get online.  “If we give them access to the internet and give them proper tools some people might start to worry about competition from those markets.”

For that to happen though Africa needs to have move online local presence. One of the things that concerns him is what he refers to as the ‘trade imbalance’ of content. “I’m a bean counter by trade, I’m not a techie. As a bean counter you learn that no market can be sustained if you have a constant trade imbalance. If you look at the internet and Africa then there’s a massive trade imbalance – 99 per cent of the usage is downstream. [That] can’t be healthy long term.”

It’s not just that imported content is not as relevant as local content he says, it’s also important for content to be stored and maintained locally. “It’s distorting the whole picture. It’s distorting the peering costs, the incentives that people have. I think it’s paramount that people put their content online and put it on the continent. This might be controversial because we have a lot of data centres in the US, but I think we have to create more local content in Africa and keep it there.”

Aside from simple coverage, one of the reasons that content sharing is not popular in Africa is cost. In the West, while we might complain about our data bundles we are used to being able to upload our pictures and videos without normally incurring large costs. But Wullf points out that in Africa every picture you might upload costs money and will compete with you being able to do something online that is important for the basic necessities of daily life. “That’s one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing,” he says. “To make usage easier, faster and hopefully cheaper.”

One of the key areas that Wulff is focussed is to try and promote network sharing agreements between telcos to make a more efficient use of infrastructure. Duplication of effort is, as he frankly puts it, “really stupid”. “[If] everybody has his own masts, his own backhaul, his own generator you’re tripling the cost to the market. Especially when you’re talking fibre deployments because one fibre deployment has [effectively] unlimited capacity and [instead] you have three fibre running out at a very high cost. It would be like everyone who has a supermarket building their own road network. It doesn’t really make sense.”

Aptly then what Wullf is working on is improving the lines of communication between telcos. “Before you run three fibre lines up a hill, think about it. Speak to each other,” he advises.

This cooperation could really reap benefits for everyone in the eco-system. “Only a very small portion of Africa is covered, so if we were to deploy the capital a little bit more efficiently across the continent then everybody wins – more users, more usage, more money for the operators at lower operation costs, and lower prices for the end users.”

With much work to be done in terms of bringing basic mobile coverage to Africa some might see LTE as a luxury, but Wulff thinks that LTE is actually a great fit. “It’s about cost-per-bit. It’s that simple. Cost-per-bit delivers. The first high capacity IP MPLS networks that Siemens ever deployed with state of the art technology was in Nairobi – it wasn’t in New York City or Berlin, it was in Nairobi. Why would somebody deploy technology that has a higher cost per bit with the argument that it’s ‘good enough’ for Africa? You always go for the tech that offers the lowest cost per bit.”

He does concede that it’s unlikely to make sense to bring LTE to rural areas, and that initially LTE will focus on the high revenue markets. However, it should enable Africa to essentially bypass the slow evolution of mobile networks that the West experienced as it moved from 2G, then 3G to 4G.

Putting a techie hat on for a moment, Wulff says that LTE ability to lower costs while maintaining quality is one of its key assists for Greenfield areas. “You can do air interface per device ,per end user, so you could theoretically have one LTE networks and five operators and they could sell five different offerings based on QoS, depending on how much they want to spend on their air interface. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. I’m not representing an operator, but I like LTE from that aspect.”

Ultimately, Wullf comes across as being very optimistic for the prospects in the region. He warns that African operators should be careful to tailor their offerings for their own market and not simply try and mimic what has worked elsewhere. “That’s [been] one of the problems in some of the deployments, where basically the business case is just a copy/paste of developed markets. And then people figure out that this was not a great idea. We need to depart from the idea that a five-year old version of a European business case will work in Africa. It’s something that needs to be very, very specific and then it can be truly rewarding for everybody.”

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

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