LTE – how can Africa prepare for this evolution?
MOBILEBy BiztechAfrica - Aug. 20, 2012, 10:21 a.m.
By Martin Ferreira, Executive Head: Technology and Operations, Jasco Carrier Solutions
Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology is the next step up from 3G. This all-IP network technology will give users three times the wireless throughput and increase network capacity considerably.
It’s much needed in South Africa as the uptake of bandwidth hungry smart devices – smartphones, tablet PCs, etc. – grows and the backhaul capabilities of the networks become increasingly stressed. However, LTE technology is not compatible with 2G and 3G – it calls for a totally new technology installation and rollout. For new players, the first investment will be high but in the long run the cost per Megabit per second (Mbps) will make this an attractive solution.
With every major network provider in South Africa trialing LTE technology and ICASA looking like it may soon finalise the spectrum allocation issue, 2012 may well be the year of LTE. But trialing LTE is not the same as rolling out an LTE network, or offering an LTE quality service. Without doubt it’s the direction every network provider needs to take, but there are challenges and considerations. An evolution rather than a revolution is on the cards.
The big challenge is to exchange the Telkom copper currently used on the backhaul with fibre. While there is now a lot of fibre rolled out, primarily by the big network players, smaller players are also rolling out fibre and presenting a new “open fibre” model. This model essentially opens up use of the fibre to any network provider with a need, for a fee of course. The technology used by these smaller players is going to be an important influencer as network service providers will want to easily integrate to and across these networks.
Current trends are leaning toward use of technology from vendors who represent the entire digital echo system in their product set. Samsung offers a good example with its end devices for consumers (smart phones and tablet PCs already equipped with LTE chip sets) as well as other carrier grade equipment and solutions.
Of course, few networks will migrate completely to LTE in the near terms. While this technology is per Mbps of capacity cheaper than the 3G technologies to install, it remains a significant investment.
It is after all not a complementary network, but an additional one. Network providers will want to sweat their existing assets, most likely deploying LTE in metropolitan areas to service the large broadband demand here, and using current CDMA/WCDMA technologies for voice. In addition, older WiMAX technologies could be put to good use if redeployed to rural areas.
Alternatively the reuse of Wimax frequencies (3.5Ghz) on LTE can have very positive impact on the network, eliminating the need to pay additional frequency costs. In this way, the networks can evolve, introducing new technologies to users of smart devices with the quality and speed of service that they desire, but also targeting new users and introducing new services and products to them as infrastructure build-out and demand allow. They will also have the providers of open fibre and specialised telecoms services to rely on to close gaps.
Smaller, new and hybrid telecoms players now on the scene may well change the traditional playing field and offer strategic advantage to existing local and international players entering the South African market.
The picture is bleaker for Africa due to lack of high capacity backbone infrastructure that the Broadband solutions rely on. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Ghana are moving towards LTE technology with many other countries trialing LTE. But the LTE challenge for Africa is much higher.
While the landing of the EASSY, WACCS and SEACOM undersea cables means there is a huge amount more bandwidth capacity available to the continent, fibre reach to the shore to access that bandwidth is slow. In addition, budget to acquire and install LTE is limited. Nonetheless there is huge opportunity here, especially for greenfields players to launch with pure LTE offerings.
The big players in South Africa have the appetite to move to LTE – indeed are being driven to this new technology as their cells fill up and gaps are left in their RF coverage. For network providers, a hybrid technology strategy followed by the full launch of a LTE network is on the cards. My advice for consumers: ensure any new end devices you acquire are LTE ready as LTE services are likely to be here by the second quarter of 2013.
MORE MOBILE NEWS
Orange launches loyalty programme for virtual service retailers.Integrated telecommunications service provider Orange has launched a Loyalty Programme for its electronic top-up service retailers. Read More
Mobile roaming: 8% of global operator billed service revenues by 2018A new report from Juniper Research has valued operator revenues generated from mobile roaming at nearly $90 billion by 2018, compared to $57 billion this year. Read More
MTN Ghana warns against SMS fraudMTN Ghana says it remains committed to working in partnership with all stakeholders to eliminate the problem of promotional scams originating from foreign and local numbers. Read More
Samsung Unveils GALAXY S5, designed for what matters mostSamsung Electronics announced the fifth generation of the GALAXY S series, the Galaxy S5, designed for what matters most to consumers. Read More
TNM launches new airtime credit facilityTelekom Networks Malawi (TNM) will next month launch an airtime credit facility product called “TNM Pasavute”. Read More
MTN SA expands LTE footprint to PEMTN has reaffirmed its technology leadership by extending the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to Port Elizabeth. Read More
MWC: Big Trust emerges as key issueAt Mobile World Congress, strategies for earning trust can be seen everywhere as the telecoms industry realises that to successfully monetize of subscribers’ big data they need to first earn far greater trust from them, says Ovum. Read More
Econet supports Tokwe-Mukosi flood aid driveEconet Wireless has joined the government, aid agencies and other concerned partners to send humanitarian aid to thousands of distressed people that have been affected by the flooding at Tokwe-Mukosi dam. Read More
Safaricom marathon 2014 registration openThe 15th Edition of the Safaricom marathon will take place this year on the 28th June 2014 at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Read More
Tigo pioneers mobile money transfer with currency conversionTigo has launched what it describes as a world first mobile money transfer service between Rwanda and Tanzania. Read More
FEATURED STORYMACRA demystifies spectrum management
Malawi's regulator explains the issues around spectrum allocation. Gregory Gondwe reports.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHYouthConnekt launches Mobile Apps for Human Development Challenge in Rwanda
Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth and ICT and the UNDP, in close collaboration with Motorola Solutions, will power a Mobile App Challenge that will be implemented by YouthConnekt.