Africa Telecoms Online

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Wednesday, 02 December 2009 00:00

q&a with Dr Mohammad Shakouri of wimax forum

With this edition of the Africa Telecoms focusing on the IP Revolution in Africa, do you have any opening comments or views on the Topic when specifically looking at the African Landscape? What does the IP Revolution mean to you?

The IP Revolution is helping the world to connect in new and amazing ways. Specifically looking at the African landscape, we see a great opportunity for each country to raise its own global profile. This is because in addition to the IP Revolution, there is another revolution happening: true, scalable, affordable wireless broadband. And the flagship technology for this revolution is WiMAX. The emergence of wired broadband made the Internet integral to people’s lives and made the Internet a mass market consumer phenomenon. Similarly, cellular voice (as it became affordable) changed the way people communicated and lived. WiMAX is bringing these two shifts together to make the Internet integral to daily life on the go. Just as people no longer have to look for a phone booth, now they won’t have to go to the Internet, the Internet now comes them. Meanwhile, the difficulties inherent in building comprehensive wireline infrastructure have caused problems in increasing broadband penetration, and therefore economic development, in certain parts of the world. Africa is one such place, with vast geographies that make wireline a tricky proposition. Now, with true mobile broadband provided via WiMAX technology, African nations have the opportunity to truly connect large swaths of their previously unconnected populations. Studies have shown the economic benefits of broadband penetration. According to a 2009 World Bank report, a high-income economy with an average increase of 10 broadband subscribers per 100 people would enjoy a 1.21% increase in per capita GDP. For developing economies the increase is 1.38%. To give you a sense of the magnitude of this figure, according to the ITU the average growth rate of Developed Economies between 1980 and 2006 was just 2.1%. All African nations should take a hard look at these numbers, and consider the benefits WiMAX can bring to their countries. Every African nation has the opportunity, through careful use of spectrum policy and government oversight, to connect their countries to the global IP Revolution already occurring today, through WiMAX. There are many examples of other countries that have successfully managed broadband policies, and WiMAX Forum stands ready to help regulators understand these strategies. We believe that every person has the right to broadband access, and we are happy to represent a technology that can truly deliver this potential today.

Please give a brief overview of where WiMAX currently is in Africa?

According to our partner and data provider for WiMAX Maps, Informa Telecom & Media, there are 110 WiMAX deployments in Africa. According to WiMAX Forum research done in February of 2009, at least 52 million people in Africa are covered by WiMAX deployments. An update to the POPs number and forecast for Africa will be available by the end of 1Q2010.

Currently in Africa many countries are still rolling out 3G technologies. Does the WiMAX Forum believe it is feasible for 4G technologies to be rolled out en masse into an African market where this is the case?

Africa is not the only area of the world rolling out 3G networks while still considering WiMAX. 3G is an important voice technology, and African nations will certainly make good use of it in addressing the need for better support of voice services. WiMAX is an IP-based, data-centric technology that perfectly suits the African nations in their drive to increase broadband penetration and to connect to unconnected. In this case, it is helpful to consider what is happening in India. India plans to auction both 3G and then WiMAX spectrum, with the goal to use WiMAX as part of its main thrust to connect 100 million broadband subscribers by 2014. In addition, 95 2G operators across the world have chosen to deploy WiMAX networks. The bottom line is that 3G cannot support the capacity needed for large-scale deployments of broadband services. Take the United States as an example of this case. AT&T’s 3G network is currently under considerable scrutiny because of its addition of a single, high end device – the iPhone. If AT&T cannot use 3G to satisfy the broadband needs of mobile users, who can? If African countries want to deploy true broadband, they will need a 4G technology such as WiMAX. For a broadband success story, look to Packet One Networks in Malaysia. P1 is quickly covering a country with traditionally low broadband penetration with a high speed WiMAX network. In just over a year of operations P1 signed up over 130,000 subscribers, and in its first year it signed up 30% of Malaysia’s net new broadband subscribers. This is with a network that does not yet cover most of the country.

With WIMAX being seemingly a true 4G technology do you believe with the implementation of WIMAX that true convergence is attainable? Worldwide, and with specific reference to the African Market. Our thought leadership Interview in this edition is with Harald Braun the CEO of Harris Stratex, where we asked him the same question. With LTE and WIMAX seemingly competing in the same space at the moment, in your opinion do you believe that WIMAX and LTE can work together or do you believe that one technology will become dominant?

Technically, WiMAX and LTE technology are very similar. We believe WiMAX and LTE will co-exist. WiMAX has passed its proving stage and now offers millions of customers across the globe the freedom of broadband. WiMAX is gaining traction in both developed and emerging markets and we look forward to greater adoption of WiMAX technology across the globe in 2010. Currently, there are 519 WiMAX deployments in 146 countries. With 110 WiMAX deployments already live in Africa (Nov 2009) and 52,000,000 POPs covered (Feb 2009), we believe WiMAX clearly has a head start in this region.

With current LTE deployments being planned to only start in 2010, do you feel that the time that WIMAX has had to establish itself has been beneficial?

WiMAX is the first multi-megabit, 4G technology available today. It is a wellbacked technology with a future-proof roadmap. We are confident WiMAX remains in a very strong market position, and the time-to-market advantage that you mention is certainly one of them. WiMAX is the first deployable true mobile Internet technology, meaning it enables Internet at anywhere at any time regardless of the usage model. It has over 500 deployments and conservatively covers more than 430 million POPs worldwide. It has a robust ecosystem that includes the world’s top silicon manufacturers, network equipment manufacturers, device manufacturers, application developers and content owners. It is a mature, tested technology that has proven itself to be effective in a variety of deployment scenarios across the world including Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Grand Cayman Islands, Russia, Europe, and the United States. WiMAX has revolutionized the way that people think about mobile Internet, and has enforced change on business models. For example the frustration caused by the royalty structure of the cellular industry caused the WiMAX Ecosystem to band together in the Open Patent Alliance, which has help to create a revolutionary flat IPR structure that has kept WiMAX costs significantly lower than competitive technologies. At their first release (before economies of scale), dual-mode WiMAX-Wi-Fi modules cost considerably less than standard singlemode 3G modules – a technology that has been commercially deployed for a decade. LTE is technically similar to WiMAX, it also an OFDM-based technology. It will take many years for LTE to ramp up its ecosystem and begin to launch significant deployments. And, the first LTE systems (3GPP Release 8) -- which could be commercially available in late 2010 to early 2011-- will have performance comparable to Mobile WiMAX Release1.0 systems which have been available since 2008. · Below are a series of quotes from a report commissioned by the UMTS Forum in June 2009 entitled ““LTE Mobile Broadband Ecosystem: the Global Opportunity.”

1. Wide-scale LTE deployment will take some years to achieve, during which time some of the advantages to operators (e.g. Long term cost reduction) will only be partially achieved.”

2. “LTE Devices will need to support pre-LTE standards (to allow non-LTE voice services and roaming to non-LTE regions), and may also need to include other licensed technologies such as video codecs and mobile graphic functions. These incremental IPR licensing costs will increase the cost of devices, which will be an inhibiting factor as the industry tries to get new devices and services accepted in the market.”

3. “A projected six-fold increase in global IP traffic between 2007 and 2012 (driven mainly by video) will impact mobile as well as fixed networks, with mobile data projected to double every year from 2008 to 2013. This growth projection will be supported by LTE operators’ initial focus on data services. Network operators carrying this traffic will benefit from the increased radio network efficiency of LTE; indeed, a recent report published by UMTS Forum indicates that the cost per megabyte for LTE services will be 83% lower than Widebanc Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) and 66% lower than High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).”

4. “The full benefits of LTE will require handheld devices, which are expected to become available in 2011-2012. The risk is that without an adequate supply of devices the ecosystem could replicate the slow introduction of 3G in the early part of this decade.”

5. “To benefit from the efficiencies that LTE holds, mobile operators must undertake a major overhaul of their businesses, migrating from their legacy networks, systems, business processes and working practices. New operational systems and processes will be required to effectively manage the new architecture.”

Currently the WIMAX standard is IEEE 802.16e which is equates to WiMAX Release 1. The evolutionary IEEE 802.16m (WiMAX Release 2) has been submitted to the ITU for IMTAdvanced standardization and is said to have a 4 times faster data speed. The presumption is that then the current deployments are all currently using the release 1 standard, are there currently any plans for release 2 deployments worldwide? Specifically then in Africa?

At ITU Telecom World this October 50 companies came out in support of IEEE 802.16m as an IMT Advanced technology. In addition, at the WiMAX Forum Press Conference at ITU Telecom World leading suppliers and operators expressed their commitment to build and trial WiMAX Release 2. Ecosystem backers included Alvarion, Beceem, Cisco, Clearwire, Huawei, Intel, KT, Motorola, Samsung, Sequans, UQC, Yota and ZTE. In addition to coming out in support of the technology, Yota – a prominent Russian WiMAX operator – stated that it would add WiMAX Release 2 base stations to its WiMAX network upon their availability. WiMAX Release 2 is planned to be fully backwards compatible with the current WiMAX release, so all current devices will continue to work on the new infrastructure, and new devices will continue to function on the current infrastructure. The developing 802.16m standard offers new capabilities and efficiencies to meet the challenging IMT-Advanced requirements, with many commercial deployments which promise peak performance rates of more than 300 Mbps in the 2011-2012 timeframe. Further, the IEEE’s IMT-Advanced proposal documents that, according to the ITU-R’s rigorous definition reflecting aggregate throughput delivered to multiple users in a practical deployment, using 4X2 MIMO in the urban microcell scenario with only a single 20 MHz TDD channel available system wide, the 802.16m system can support both 120 Mbit/s downlink and 60 Mbit/s uplink per site simultaneously. This is breakthrough performance. Higher data rates can be obtained with additional spectrum resources or more complex antenna schemes. The WiMAX Forum Release 2 profile will also incorporate these capabilities for improved VoIP capacity, spectral efficiency, latency, handover speed, cell range, and coverage, with support for wider operating bandwidth in both TDD and FDD duplexing. One of our top priorities is to bring WiMAX Forum Certified Release 2 networks and devices to market by the end of 2011. Even better, with double digit WiMAX deployment growth every month, the next release of WiMAX will have an even more substantial installed base upon which to build.

Spectrum regulation is clearly an issue worldwide, however in Africa with many regulators being slow at allocating spectrum even to current operators for GSM or CDMA networks, has this been a hindrance to further WIMAX deployments in Africa? If so how do you feel that this situation could be improved?

The WiMAX Forum Regulatory Working Group (RWG) has been working hard to gain access to spectrum for WiMAX in Africa. Our approach has consisted of the following:

· Personal engagement with regulators, mainly through the excellent work of RWGs Middle East & Africa Regional Task Group (MeaRWG).

· WiMAX Forum responses to formal public consultations and requests for information directed specifically to the WiMAX Forum. We have provided a very significant number of consultation responses to African regulators.

· Facilitate an Informal engagement with African regulators during ITU-R (ITU Radiocommunications Sector) meetings, and indeed the recent ITU World Telecom 2009 event in Geneva during which we met several important politicians and regulators from African Countries. Our ITU-R communications is mainly via our active participation in ITU-R and ITU-D. We have also participated in ITU-D symposia.

Published in December 2009

Africa Telecoms attended the recent Inaugural Qualcomm CDMA Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, to find out more about the future of the technology. The goal of the Summit was to bring together the entire CDMA ecosystem in Africa for discussion, debate and information sharing. Each African market has its own unique challenges, and hence requires different solutions, and through collaboration with partners and peers, real innovation can occur within this ecosystem across the continent. For many years, the wireless world has been divided between the Code-Division Multiple Access (CDMA) standard and Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) technology. The need to provide essential ICT wireless services to the African continent through the use of high-speed mobile broadband can only be fulfilled by CDMA technology. James Munn, VP Sub-Sahara Africa, Qualcomm, states that CDMA is a minority player but has a pivotal role to play, through innovations such as EVDO Rev. B (EV-DO Rev. B is the next generation of CDMA mobile broadband technology) and has the potential to be the next movement in the Mobile Broadband space for Africa. In this regard, CDMA1x is a superior technology over its rival. GPRS/EDGE (General Packet Radio Service), usually offers a slower data bandwidth for wireless data connection than CDMA’s high-speed technology (1xRTT, short for single carrier radio transmission technology), which has the capability of providing ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)-like speeds of as much as 144Kbps (kilobits per second). However, 1xRTT requires a dedicated connection to the network for use, whereas GPRS sends in packets. This is the starting point where CDMA mobile broadband currently stands on networks that are EV-DO enabled. These networks are seeing download speeds of 3.1Mbps and with EV-DO Rev. A as the next evolution, download speeds will reach between 9.3Mbps and 14.7Mbps with Rev. B and DO advanced again increasing those rates to 32Mbps. Dr Bitange Ndemo, who has been a major advocate of CDMA technology, opened the summit, describing CDMA technologies as more robust than others currently used in Kenya, with CDMA being a great solution for the provision of Last Mile services in the country. He also reiterated that rural areas continue to be a priority area for the Kenyan Government through the formation of “Digital Villages and E-Learning Facilities” being very high on the government’s spending agenda. According to Dr Ndemo, 60% of the Kenyan population are covered by CDMA. He closed his address explaining that adoption rates for data usage had far exceeded the government’s expectations and that this is expected to continue. For Sachin Bhatmuley, Senior Director Business Development at Qualcomm Inc, there are some key drivers for development of the sector: “Qualcomm’s focus for Africa can be split into 3 areas; firstly, on the adoption of 3G services in Africa, secondly, the success of current 3G operators in Africa and increasing their market penetrations and finally, the conversion of 2G networks to 3G networks.” Three main trends were highlighted to improve rates of adoption for CDMA technology:

TREND ONE - Reduced price of Handsets

CDMA device costs are declining and have been for a number of years. In 2004, CDMA2000 devices were around the US$80 mark. By 2008, they had reduced in price to under US$17. There is strong evidence to suggest that as demand grows for CDMA handsets, these prices will continue to fall. There are 3 predominant reasons for this drastic reduction in price over the past few years; firstly, increased demand for CDMA devices is increasing the scale of production reducing the cost. Secondly, the Global CDMA Certification Forum (CCF) is reducing the time and development costs of taking new devices to market. Thirdly, the Open Market Handset Group (OMH) is assisting in the unification of standards across the CDMA ecosystem which is allowing for the handsets to be used across multiple networks. OMH is an industry initiative led by the CDMA Development Group to enhance the CDMA ecosystem by offering a greater selection of devices through multiple distribution channels. Similar to what is seen today with GSM phones and SIM cards, CDMA industry partners are working together to introduce devices where the complete set of configuration data to support operator and subscriber identification is stored onto Removable User Identity Modules (R-UIMs), or SIM cards for CDMA devices. OMH results in lower ASPs (Average Selling Price) due to volume aggregation, thus increasing device variety and affordability. The initiative is gaining momentum. Currently, Visafone and Starcomms in Nigeria, PT Bakrie and PT Smart in Indonesia, and Citycell in Bangladesh are all providing OMH-compliant CDMA networks. In August 2009, Samsung announced the world’s first OMH handset in India. Since then, several additional OMH handsets have been introduced and a number of Tier-1 and Tier-2 device OEMs are designing and producing OMH-compliant devices.

TREND TWO - Smartphone Proliferation

This is the fastest growing segment in the mobile phone market: Smartphones are expected to total 40% of total handsets shipped by 2014. Smartphone growth hit 34% in 2009 and 36% in 2010. According to Gartner, over the coming 12 months the number of smartphones on the market is expected to outnumber the number of PCs globally. This presents huge opportunities for African operators to bring the internet into the hands and mobile devices of communities across the continent. This is allowing operators the ability to increase subscriber ARPU by offering data services that would not previously have been accessible.

TREND THREE - Devices becoming more diverse & data oriented

Voice revenues are continuing to decline and operators are investing in capacity where they are seeing returns, and these returns are deriving from Data. Services such as mobile entertainment, e-readers, education, social networking, locationbased services, mobile commerce, mobile healthcare, mobile machine to machine are all potential lucrative revenue streams for operators.

What does all this mean? According to Bhatmuley, it is time to “Prepare your networks!” Think innovative VAS, as this will be crucial for increasing ARPUs on operator networks, and providing consumer-driven content. For Bhatmuley: “Think beyond phone: New devices, new services, new revenue streams.” The emphasis on data was repeated throughout. For Russell Southwood, Chief Executive, Balancing Act, we are now looking at a very different Africa from a few years back. Some key trends that are being seen in the African space include the shift from satellite to fibre, services such as mobile banking, mobile internet, and triple play. Handsets have historically been a serious issue for CDMA operators and potential subscribers as they have been more expensive than GSM devices with less choice. This is changing substantially with a wider range of handset options and reduced prices on the handsets. According to Said Said, CEO Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited, the future is going to see fibre cables reducing broadband costs and then the true benefits of CDMA will become apparent as a superior data technology. It was hypothesized that LTE could in the future allow for WORD FROM THE GROUND Dr Bitange Ndemo, Kenya 1Peak rate for 3 EV-DO carriers supported by initial implementation. 2Peak rate for 3 EV-DO carriers with 64QAM in the DL. Rev. B standard supports up to 15 aggregated Rev. A carriers. 3DO Advanced peak rate for 4 EV-DO carriers, assumes 2x2 MIMO and 64QAM in the DL and 16 QAM in the UL. 4Capacity increase possible with new codec (EVRC-B) and handset interference cancellation (QLIC). 54x increase with receive diversity the evolution of CDMA The path to success the convergence of GSM and CDMA technologies. Until this happens, it is imperative to fairly represent CDMA technology as a practical and effective technology for the African continent.

Sidebar 1: CDMA's World War 2 Foundations - A Glamorous Past

Once described as the most beautiful woman in the world, actress Hedy Lamarr was one of Hollywood’s most glamorous silver screen goddesses of the 1930s and 40s. But Ms Lamarr had another talent: she was brilliant. Working together with avante-garde music composer George Antheil, Lamarr came up with the notion that multiple frequencies could be used to send a single radio transmission – a concept that’s now known as frequency hopping. The concept would eventually provide the basis for the CDMA airlink, which Qualcomm first commercialized in 1995. The idea remained dormant until 1957 when engineers at the Sylvania Electronic Systems Division in Buffalo, New York took up the idea, and after the Lamarr- Antheil patent expired, used it to secure communications for the US during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. After becoming an integral part of government security technology, the US military, in the mid-80s, declassified what has now become CDMA technology, a technique based on spread-spectrum technology. The technology soon caught the attention of the nascent wireless industry. CDMA, incorporating spread-spectrum, works by digitizing multiple conversations, attaching a code known only to the sender and receiver, and then dicing the signals into bits and reassembling them. This meant that CDMA resulted in extremely secure transmissions. Qualcomm, which patented CDMA, was attracted to the technology because it enabled many simultaneous conversations, rather than the limited stop-and-go transmissions of analogue and previous digital options. In the prescient words of Hedy Lamarr : “Films have a certain place in a certain time period, but technology is forever.”

Sidebar 2: A Case Study Mickael Ghossein, CEO, Orange Kenya

Kenya is about 580,000 km2, of which only about 10% is covered by a power grid. This has a huge effect on opex costs for mobile operators, as power generation is then needed for their base stations. Telecoms in Kenya – 250,000 fixed lines and addressable market of 20 million wireless subscribers across CDMA and GSM networks, with two landed submarine cables (Seacom and TEAMS), with EASSY expected within the first half of 2010 (before going to print this was imminent in the last week of March). Telkom Kenya offers fixed line services for Voice and Data, a GSM mobile network and a CDMA mobile network for voice and fixed data. This makes it the only fully integrated telecoms network in Kenya. CDMA was the natural answer for Telkom Kenya as vandalism of copper cable into rural areas was becoming a problem and wireless was the route to take. The technology needed was to cover large areas and this is why CDMA was initially chosen. It works at a lower frequency than GSM (less than half), giving it a larger coverage area. An additional benefit is that capex and opex are reduced due to fewer base stations needed. In 2008 Telkom Kenya started to roll out green CDMA base stations to help manage capex and opex costs, as well as for environmental and conservation reasons. This has meant Telkom Kenya has seen cost savings of up to 60% of the opex for those sites.

Published in April 2010

Serving up the broadband alphabet soup

If you want to put your finger on the pulse of the digital divide, look no further than television. No, not the migration to digital transmission, which is occupying broadcast authorities across Africa. We’re talking about TV content via broadband connectivity. While Africa wrestles with getting networks in place, and every new roll-out of a local 3G network is big news, in the developed world that is old hat. The latest announcement from Hutchison 3G UK is a case in point: a deal to provide access to episodes of American channel HBO’s television shows to British viewers through Hutchison’s subscription video-ondemand service. Not that HBO is a big deal, or that Africa should be rushing for on-demand subscription content. It merely highlights what is made possible once 3G networks are mature. And this, in turn highlights how far back we are kept when we hold back on communications technology. In fact, just as 3G begins to spread the benefits and challenges of wireless broadband across Africa, the next generation of connectivity is joining the alphabet soup. 4G is not an official standard, but is broadly accepted as including WiMAX (fixed and mobile broadband), LTE (Long Term Evolution, a highspeed mobile broadband) and UMB (for Ultra Mobile Broadband). The standards are approved, equipment is available, but both business strategies and government regulatory sloth holds it back. World Wide Worx research in South Africa has shown that mobile broadband grew four times as fast as fixed line broadband last year. And there is a single reason: South Africa boasts one single supplier of fixed line broadband, while it has six suppliers of mobile broadband. The more competition, the greater the supply, the greater the competitiveness, and the greater the take-up. More important, the greater the regulatory openness to competition, the healthier the market. A new Africa-wide research project from World Wide Worx reveals great expectations for prices of connectivity to come down and competition to increase as new undersea cables begin to connect the continent. These expectations are beginning to be met in some countries, notably Kenya, Morocco and Mauritius, where the emphasis is not only on getting the country connected, but also on doing so in a way that will reach as many citizens as possible and, in the case of Morocco, using the best technology possible. The missing ingredients continue to be the next generation of customer access equipment for those who are connected, and affordable availability of access for those who are not. But, once Africa is getting connected, there is no excuse for regulators to keep that connectivity to old alphabets, or for networks to do so using technology that will date faster than you can say “1-2-3-4G please”.

Published in May 2010

Where is Africa in the great data race and will cellular connectivity be the way the continent bridges the digital divide?

Where South African users have begun to embrace the power of mobile Internet connectivity with telecommunication companies starting to look beyond HSPA and HSPA Plus technologies towards fourth generation solutions such as LTE and Wimax, the rest of Africa is at the point where 3G connectivity is only now becoming an option. And depending on who you speak to, the story varies between being extremely positive and downright disheartening. While on paper a number of telcos have technically rolled 3G out in their regions of operation, that should by no means imply that 3G is available across the entire reach of their coverage area – or even in areas with a healthy saturation of users. It seems like, 3G is still reserved for the most built-up urban areas and set up as an overlay of a blanket GPRS or EDGE network. But it’s not because the telcos don’t see any potential. It’s among other things because Africa is a market with an extremely low average revenue per user (ARPU) and in conditions such as these telcos need to gauge what the uptake and revenue generating capability of a new service is likely to be before they launch that service. It really isn’t a case of ‘build it and they will come’.

Expensive licenses, limited returns

Douglas Lubbe, Group Executive for Vodacom Group’s International Business says the first hurdle to get through is acquiring a license and justifying the associated capital expense. Acquiring a 3G license can be a costly affair, so costly in fact that often there’s little hope of recovering that expense through adding 3G revenues to the mix over the short-to-medium term. That could be why the Vodacom Group has 3G coverage in Mozambique, Lesotho and Tanzania, but not in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the government is asking $55m for a license to deliver 3G services in its country. Bertus Ehmke, Senior manager for technology strategy and the MTN Group agrees. He says that telcos paid ridiculous sums for 3G licenses ten years ago and when the technology under-promised somewhat in terms of the revenue it delivered, prices came sliding down. But, now they’re on their way back up to a ridiculous level. “Take another emerging market like India for example,” he says. “The base price for the country’s 3G spectrum auction is already at the $2bn market,” he says. It seems like the market sentiment is that regulators want too much for a decent size chunk of 3G spectrum and aren’t willing to consider the limited revenue generation opportunities for telcos, which in turn hinge on the disposable income in a country, the level of cellular penetration and lastly, the telco’s ability to backhaul Internet traffic into and out of the country. One positive Ehmke points out is that the growth and adoption of HSPA on 900MHz is going well. “We’re especially excited by the ability it grants telcos to serve a three times larger coverage area at the same price and with the same capabilities,” he says. And Ehmke says this service is already being trialed by MTN’s operations in Uganda, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Botswana. Once the license has been acquired, it’s also not realistic to expect the 3G coverage area to be vast.

Conservative rollout planning

“When we embark on a 3G rollout in any market, we start with the major urban areas i.e. where it makes most financial and business sense, and then extend into other areas based whether there’s a business and commercial rationale to do so,” Lubbe says. He says that for many customers, it’s more about having some form of reliable connectivity than having enhanced speed of connectivity, and Vodacom is not convinced that by extending 3G capabilities to areas that already have EDGE or GPRS coverage, there will be a massive increase in revenues. “In Mozambique for example, some of the biggest revenue generating data connections we have are in the rural areas, where a handful of game lodges require Internet connectivity and GPRS or EDGE suits fine,” he says. That said however, Lubbe says that Vodacom is focused on constantly expanding its 3G network in these markets. “But we have to make sure there’s a market for 3G services before we deploy into an area,” he says. Furthermore, Lubbe says there’s no hard and fast rule for when a region or a coverage area needs 3G. The company conducts extensive research into a piece of geography and its population’s usage patterns, and then makes a decision from there. Lubbe says the Vodacom Group is also not stopping with 3G. “We do envisage rolling out nextgeneration technologies such as HSPA and LTE out into Africa, but it’s not likely to be in the near future,” he says.

Is there backhaul?

Another big factor Vodacom weighs up when gauging the readiness of a market for enhanced data services such as 3G is whether or not there’s adequate backhaul infrastructure in place to feed users what they need – whether that’s access to a website in the U.S. or Europe, or a piece of content or functionality that is available on a local server. While the international bandwidth issue is in the process of being solved, right now there’s no redundancy of which to speak, as was demonstrated by the massive outages companies across the continent faced while the Seacom cable was being repaired a month ago. He says the local loop in many African countries is also a massive issue, since there’s not enough working fibre cabling in the ground to connect major business centres together and ultimately provide a speedy, reliable link to the much needed undersea cables carrying traffic to and from the more developed world. Lubbe says that Vodacom is making investments into fibre principally at local loop level. But it’s important to note that these investments are not at the same level as Vodacom’s investments in South Africa, both in terms of the volume of capital being spent or their long-haul nature. 

Customer equipment costs

Once the economies of the network are out of the way, Lubbe says there’s also the availability and price of terminal equipment to consider. “3G is still a relative niche and the client-side equipment that enables 3G tends to be more expensive than 2G equipment,” he says. “The prevalence of notebooks equipped with internal 3G modems is also not as significant in Africa as it is in other parts of the world,” he says. “We are seeing encouraging growth here however,” he says. Given time, these markets will develop. “It’s contingent on factors like the reduction of terminal and handset pricing and since many of the markets Vodacom is interested in have upwards of 98.5% on prepaid plans, there’s little that can be done to bring terminal pricing down with subsidies,” he says. “That will change, though. “A couple of years ago we were dreaming about handsets that cost less than $20 a unit and that’s now a reality. The next step is for 3G handsets to get to that level and we’re hoping it can happen in the next three to five years,” he says. MTN’s Ehmke says that 3G terminal equipment is already in the region of $50 for a USB modem-type device and that it’s already much less of a barrier than what is used to be. “And with the industry’s help, the price of 3G equipment is getting driven down even further,” he adds. While Lubbe says that businesses currently have the core drive for mobile data requirements in these regions, the consumer market is catching up and this is where the momentum will come from. But the point is, enhanced third generation and new fourth generation technologies are still some way off.

Looking beyond 3G, HSPA

Ehmke says that internationally LTE has grown in maturity rapidly over the past 18 months and this is largely because mobile Wimax, another fourth generation technology is being relatively successful in emerging markets. The recent maturation of LTE is largely because the GSMA has been encouraging mobile operators to hold off on Wimax and instead start investigating LTE. “The problem in Africa,” he says, “is although LTE is hugely diverse and adaptable, it does have a ‘favourite spectrum’, namely the 2.5GHz to 2.6GHz band. This means it’s subject to higher levels of attenuation (noise) and a lower range than 3G/HSPA and other technologies.” It also means the coverage area of LTE is smaller, making it increasingly difficult for telcos to build a financial model that works. While Ehmke says LTE can work in the 700-900MHz band, because there’s less traction for the technology between those frequencies, the equipment capable of operating within that spectrum will bear a price premium. “Chances are this will be a very different discussion in two years’ time,” he says.

Similar issues to 3G

Another reason LTE is not the perfect solution for Africa right now is that Telcos all recognise that voice revenues are under pressure and remain a massive portion of income made in the Africa markets. “Voice is an afterthought when it comes to LTE,” Ehmke says, “and having solid voice capabilities available in Africa is key. It’s far more difficult to build a business model based on a purely data service,” The terminal equipment is also too expensive. Ehmke says customers need to contend with average price tags of $150 for normal USB-type data modem for LTE and closer to the $300 mark for a router-type modem for a small office. “All of these factors make LTE too early for Africa,” he says, “and besides, there’s a huge amount of headroom that can still be extracted from 3G and HSPA.”

The headroom is there

Ehmke says that this is also a more logical route for telcos to follow, since the majority of the 3G radio equipment available and being installed today is already capable of providing HSPA services. “All it takes is the telco licensing itself for that technology and bolting a handful of enhancements onto its infrastructure, like taking advantage of MIMO by adding more antennae elements,” he says. HSPA is also very capable of offering the kind of speeds and services that allow telcos to deliver ‘actual value’ to their markets. “The next billion customers being connected to the Internet will not necessarily be using the next billion PCs to be connected to the Internet,” he says. “Many of them will be engaging and experiencing the Internet over a mobile device – whether the experience is as trivial as a WAP browser embedded on a low-end cellular phone or a 3G-enabled iPad type device. “And this leads me to believe that once the network has reached the 7.2Mbps mark – as is comfortably offered by HSDPA today – it reaches an inflection point in terms of what one can appreciate on a device that’s not a PC or a notebook. “I mean, we’re talking about devices with a maximum of ten inches worth of screen – and that’s too small a screen to appreciate or even need high definition visuals or sound,” he adds. “Considering this, even from an multimedia perspective, there’s little need for much faster connectivity than what our current networks have the headroom to provide,” he says. This substantially changes the way we need to think about things on the African continent. It makes it less about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ than making sure today’s technology is capable of scaling linearly with what future demands are. And from the looks of things, the technology being installed by telcos is capable of just that.

Published in May 2010
Friday, 02 July 2010 00:00

q&a with shirin dehghan of arieso ltd.

This issue of Africa Telecoms is dedicated to Voice and Data in Africa. Arieso, is described as a location aware network management solution provider, what does that mean to modern mobile networks and how can you assist in optimizing their networks?

We believe in the next five years, mobile networks will operate very differently. Increasingly business models will become Application Focused as the emphasis for network management shifts from ‘network centric’ to ‘customer centric.’ Arieso will play a pivotal role in this shift. Arieso’s technology will help mobile operators change their approach to network engineering. Arieso will help operators to directly align their networks with customers’ needs by evaluating each individual subscriber’s experience as when and where it happens - down to resolutions that have never been possible before. Arieso is a trusted partner who is committed to providing mobile operators with superior technology that is carrier grade, proven and reliable. Arieso’s technology enables operators to deliver high quality services which meet consumer demands which are constantly evolving.

Having founded the business in 2002 Arieso has grown substantially and now has an impressive client base and enviable track record, with yourself being included in the Mobile Communications International’s “Leading Ladies” for 2009. To what do you attribute this success to?

Tenacity and determination, for which my staff collectively presented me with an award recently at the Arieso annual summer ball for staff and partners. At Arieso we employ some of the brightest stars of the mobile industry and working closely together with our T1 customers this journey has been an extremely satisfying one.

Arieso made a significant leap into the Africa Market late last year with the deployment of AriesoGEO for MTN. This solution is described as a Geo-Location Solution. Can you tell us more about the development and deployment of this solution with MTN. With the World Cup Football successfully over, has the feedback been positive from MTN?

Sameer Dave, Chief Technology Officer, MTN South Africa has said, “our partnership with Arieso has enabled us to determine accurately which geographic areas need the most attention to ensure that our network coverage is up to speed to handle the expected demand for both voice and data services. As Africa’s first global sponsor of this major international event, MTN has a responsibility to ensure that our network provides a seamless service to our current customers, and the thousands of international visitors expected in our country for the World Cup.” Thaigan Govender, General Manager of Radio Network Planning and Optimisation, MTN South Africa also contributed by saying, “we needed to explore different ways of enhancing our customer experience. AriesoGEO has provided MTN with all the information it needs to make these decisions and puts it in a strong position to provide a high quality user experience ahead of this major tournament.”

Are you going to be rolling out the service across the entire MTN Group in Africa, or was this an investment by MTN specifically for the World Cup Football in South Africa?

Arieso has signed a framework agreement with MTN Group. The agreement makes Arieso the preferred supplier of software and systems for subscriber-centric network design, planning and optimisation to MTN Group. Under the terms of the agreement, all 21 of MTN’s operating companies can use Arieso’s full suite of mobile network planning and optimisation solutions to manage and improve the performance of their 2G and 3G networks.

AriesoGEO won the Alcatel-Lucent’s Communications Innovation Challenge at the end of 2009. Can you provide some insight into the award and its importance for Arieso?

It’s always nice to get an award, especially when it is unexpected. We are honoured and pleased to be recognised as pioneers by one of the leading vendors within the industry. This gives credence to us not simply being about power points. Instead, we deliver carrier grade, reliable, field proven technology that is breaking down the engineering boundaries. This ultimately allows our customers to deal with the challenges of the new data era.

Africa having both GSM and CDMA networks, does Arieso work on both or are you focusing on one in particular?

Arieso technology can cover both network types. We are working closely with MTN to roll-out our GSM solution on a massive scale to those operators who have not yet or begun migrating towards 3G and LTE. MTN are true pioneers. They have a fantastic team of people running its operation. We are proud to be associated and working with them.

In addition to AriesoGEO you also offer the AriesoACP and AriesoCMP. Can you give us a short summary of what these services are and what they offer network operators?

AriesoACP enables automatic setting of network configuration to better optimise the network. When integrated with ariesoGEO, it can use actual subscriber data as its source to generate network models and simulations in order to deliver the optimum design for a mobile network. It can also use this data to explore and identify the effects of any changes to the network design. The AriesoCMP solution, meanwhile, focuses on managing an operator’s capital expenditure on its network, for when all other methods for improving network performance have been exhausted and the only option left for the operator is to add more sites or carriers. AriesoCMP integrates with GEO so that the network manager can accurately evaluate what ROI they will get for each dollar that they spend on the network.

Are you involved with any other operators in Africa? If so, can you specify? If not, are there discussions taking place that could lead to further business for Arieso in Africa?

Africa is a key market for us right now, especially following our recent success with MTN Group.

Arieso’s services are able to assist in reducing Energy and Opex costs for Mobile Operators. Can you give a brief description of how this is done? Do you have any specific examples of where you have seen these services deployed and what the experience has been for the Operator?

AriesoGEO’s software automatically determines the network performance and the spatial characteristics of the subscriber. Subscribers’ quality of experience is measured in terms of dropped calls, low data throughput, coverage “holes” and capacity bottlenecks in mobile networks. This valuable data is transmitted by mobiles in the normal course of conducting a call. It requires no additional hardware, such as network located probes, or GPS-enabled handsets. The above data offers a powerful combination to operators and is fundamentally game changing. This subscriber data enables operators to:

• React quickly to subscriber issues, or even be proactive when linked with their customer support

• Focus new capital where it really matters; covering data hotspots to relieve the capacity crunch

• Avoid lengthy, resource intensive and CO2 producing drive testing. By using ariesoGeo, each subscriber drive tests the network. The best part is, subscribers are mobile, limitless. They go everywhere, indoors, outdoors and with such high numbers of subscribers on a network they offer a much better statistical representative of network quality versus one individual monitoring network performance by making calls in a van

• Take care of your most valued customers, VIPs, Corporate, Roamers.

Arieso runs its Middle East and African operations out of London, should Africa develop as a region for Arieso are you going to be opening offices in the region?

We are already employing our own staff in the region and we will expand as we make further progress in these markets.

Stated in your product offering information, you offer 4G/LTE deployment planning solutions. From this can we assume that Arieso is not working in the WIMAX space? Do you see a trend more toward LTE networks as the preferred option rather than WIMAX? From your perspective what do you see the reason for this being?

No, we do not cover WiMax. We made the decision sometime ago to focus on technologies which are dominating the industry such as Edge, 3G and LTE. Even before LTE penetrates the mass market, we are delivering unique value to operators who want to be the leaders in migrating towards LTE. Arieso’s technology allows operators to accurately plan their investment by geo-locating their 3G subscribers and providing subscriber data such as types of devices, quality of experience, voice and data usage patterns etc. This data which Arieso’s technology gathers, in conjunction with being able to identify network hot spots, enables operators to better plan their network infrastructure and ensure high quality of user experience no matter where or when calls are made. Arieso’s technology is proven, reliable and actively deployed by tier 1 network operators who are migrating towards LTE and/or working towards mitigating the impacts of the capacity crunch.

Mobile Apps are increasing the usage of data across all networks worldwide. How is Arieso assisting mobile networks to identify any potential bottlenecks? Also, how does Arieso’s suite of products assist in optimizing the networks to accommodate for this growth in data usage?

For a number of years, we have been at the forefront with helping operators tackle the challenges brought by the data tsunami and the iPhone. Having worked with major operators, we understand the impacts on the network caused by ‘data hungry’ smartphones, such as the iPhone. From our experience we are able to provide solutions to solve issues such as:

• Where do I put my WiFi/Micro/Pico to relieve my capacity crunch in the macro layer

• How can I more effectively and surgically optimise my network? A pre-requisite is to know where and what quality from your sub base and this information is available 24/7 for totality of subs, specific handheld users, specific group, specific person

• Keeping VIPs is the most important thing a network operator can do to keep margins high - Corporate customers, Roamers, and high value customers are key.

In order to achieve the above, Arieso’s carrier grade technology provides invaluable, real-time subscriber data. Arieso’s technology currently processes nearly one billion calls per day across all of our deployments.

Published in July 2010

LTE: The Future of Mobile Broadband

LTE is a global standard which is the natural development route for GSM/HSPA mobile network operators and is also the next generation mobile broadband system for many CDMA operators. The overall aim of LTE is to improve the capacity of the 3GPP system to cope with ever-increasing volumes of data traffic in the longer term – over 10 years. From the start, the LTE specification has stipulated spectrum flexibility. Therefore, as well as operating in scalable spectrum allocations, LTE is able to use both paired and unpaired spectrum depending on the local regulatory situation in the country. Recently, there has been significant progress in respect of TD-LTE (unpaired spectrum). In October 2009, China submitted TD-LTE specifications to the ITU for approval as a 4G standard – the next step from its current TD-SCDMA standard. If ratified, it will be officially recognised by the ITU as a 4G technology in late 2010. Since China’s announcement, there has been interest in TD-LTE from both India and Russia, and most of the LTE system vendors have announced TD-LTE products. This means that LTE is firmly on the map for developing countries. One of the most significant aspects of these developments is that LTE in its TD-LTE form becomes a much closer alternative to WiMAX which also operates in TDD. More than 100 network operators worldwide have committed their future to LTE. Whilst the majority of these are in developed countries, Vodacom and Cell C in South Africa, and several Middle Eastern nations including Libya have also nailed their colours to the LTE mast. Vodacom demonstrated its live LTE network in Midrand in June. This was a landmark development as the first such demonstration in Africa. Peak downlink speeds of over 70 Mbps and 30 Mbps on the uplink were achieved: this is sufficient for full HD video streaming, although actual speeds for users will vary. The network equipment used came from Nokia Siemens Networks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that LTE rollout is dependent on spectrum availability. In mid-2010 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) withdrew the invitations to apply for spectrum licences in the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands due to technological issues and a review of the auction process. Revised timescales will be published, but in the meantime LTE is some way off fruition. Juniper Research’s report entitled “4G LTE Hardware Opportunities: Subscribers, End User Devices & Vendor Strategies 2010 – 2015” evaluates the LTE opportunity. We are forecasting that globally by 2015 LTE subscribers will exceed 300 million. The top three regions (North America, Western Europe and Far East and China) will together account for 90% of LTE subscribers by 2015.

Key LTE objectives:

1. Significantly increased peak data rates, up to 100 Mbps with 20 MHz bandwidth in the downlink and uplink peak data rates up to 50 Mbps.

2. Faster cell edge performance

3. Reduced latency for better user experience

4. Scalable bandwidth up to 20 MHz

5. Works with GSM/EDGE/UMTS systems and utilises existing 2G and 3G spectrum and new spectrum

6. Reduced CAPEX/OPEX via simple architecture, re-use of existing sites and multivend or sourcing

7. Operation in both TDD (unpaired) and FDD (paired) spectrum modes

8. Wide range of terminals – in addition to mobile phones and laptops, many further devices, such as netbooks, tablets, gaming devices and cameras, will employ LTE embedded modules

9. Mobility up to 350kph

10. Developing Countries

Published in October 2010

The definitive first step to 4G Networks

Valérie Layan, EMEA Vice President for Wireless Solutions at Alcatel-Lucent, believes that it's LTE and not WiMAX that will champion the move towards 4G networks. Africa Telecoms caught up with her to more deeply explore what some of the reasons for this are.

With the seemingly insatiable hunger for higher speed data connections, driven by the fast approaching cloud computing trend, not to mention the foregone conclusion that voice traffic will simply become another form of data traffic in the foreseeable future, the race is on for technology vendors and cellular networks to build networks that eclipse the performance of current 3G and HSPAbased networks. As such, the current hot-button is 4G mobile networks - a term that still conjures up the possibility of true convergence.

Definition unclear

Valérie Layan, EMEA Vice President for Wireless Solutions, Alcatel- Lucent says that broadly speaking, the definition of 4G depends on the target audience that it is targeted at. “The term 4G is generally used to differentiate next generation networks from current networks based on 3G or 3G+ (HSPA+) technologies or in other words to designate “beyond third generation (3G)” technologies,” Layan says At a most basic level, the ITU’s definition of IMT-advanced details that 4G technology should deliver more than 100Mbps data rates in mobile contexts, more than 1Gbps in static or nomadic mode contexts, and end-end IP transmissions. Additionally, 4G should deliver a lower cost per bit on standard data connections and allow for VoIP services to function without (enabled by low latency connections), be supportive of service-aware management of quality of service and in the interests of allowing customers to transition to this newer technology as it suits them, also provide seamless compatibility with legacy networks and high-quality user terminals suitable for worldwide use. “Out of all of the technologies that are part of ITU’s IMT radio standards (IMT-advanced and 802.16m) only two are eligible to be called 4G, namely LTE-advanced and WiMAX 16m,” Layan says. “And the reality is, these technologies will not be deployed in the next couple of years, if at all, as is the case with WiMAX 16m,” she says. Features of what a 4G technology should deliver commonly include: Greater speeds, multi Mbps (vs. Kbps) average speeds in mobile or stationary usage scenarios, provide full mobility, be All-IP (to deliver a lower cost/bit, and in particular support VoIP services and low latency and bandwidth hungry applications like Video), enable service-aware management of quality of service (QoS) and also provide seamless compatibility with legacy networks and high-quality user terminals suitable for worldwide use. So, formally speaking, Layan says that neither the first LTE networks becoming available nor current WiMAX 16e networks can be considered 4G networks. “And this is the reason we say that the term 4G is being misused. “So, from a standards perspective neither first LTE networks nor current WiMAX (802.16e) networks are 4G. “However, if you look at it from the perspective technology evolution things have moved from amplitude modulation (1G) to frequency & time modulation (2G/GSM) to Code division multiple access (3G/CDMA/WCDMA) and now to the fourth generation of modulation/ multiplexing that is based on orthogonal frequency division (4G/OFDMA),” she says. Also, from an end-user perspective both LTE and WiMAX represent a step function and provide significantly greater quality of experience compared to 3G. “Both standard LTE and WiMAX 16e represent a step function and provide significantly greater quality of experience compared to 3G, hence, stakeholders (operators, device & infrastructure vendors, press) name both technologies as “4G,” but, they’re not yet 4G,” she says. “LTE provides a great step towards-LTE advanced, whereas it’s uncertain whether WiMAX 16m will make it to implementation,” she adds. “LTE is the best route for operators to follow because it’s part of the same family as existing 3GPP (GSM, WCDMA, HSPA, HSPA+) and 3GPP2 (CDMA, CDMA1x, EVDO) networks. “A great deal of work has already been done on standardization to ensure the smoothest possible evolution from 3GPP/3GPP2 networks towards LTE and interworking between networks based on these technologies,” she says. “WiMAX on the other hand is an IEEE standard, and interworking with 2G/3G networks has to be done via special mechanisms, where the WiMAX access network is used as a “trusted non-3GPP access.”” “There isn’t as precise a definition for interworking mechanisms for WiMAX and that causes challenges,” she says. For these reasons, it’s not surprising that Alcatel-Lucent has decided to focus its research and development on LTE. “Alcatel-Lucent believes that LTE is the next step for most wireless operators (2G/3G, CDMA, WIMAX). In terms of interoperability with existing networks LTE is the natural evolution path for all GSM/WCDMA/HSPA and CDMA/ CDMA1x/EVDO networks,” Layan explains.

LTE the clear focus area

Alcatel-Lucent’s belief is that LTE will be the dominant global technology choice for mobile service providers and will be unmatched in terms of performance, economies of scale, feature capabilities, device and applications ecosystem and delivering what today’s mobile users are demanding. The adoption of the LTE technology is already gaining traction across the United States, Scandinavia and Japan. Both Verizon Wireless and AT&T are moving forward with their 4G/LTE networks in the US, with Verizon Wireless promising to launch the next-generation technology in 38 major metropolitan areas by Q4 2010, covering a population of more than 110 million, and AT&T by the summer of 2011, with 70-75 million population covered by the end of that year. This clearly demonstrates the momentum around LTE technology and the scale of deployments. “We have completed the transfer of our R & D budget to support activities in LTE and we have decreased the team working on WiMAXwhile increasing the team working on LTE,” she says. “We are however maintaining a team of appropriate size so that we are able to continue to support our existing WIMAX customers with maintenance services and hold true to our business commitments,” she adds. “Alcatel-Lucent will continue to support its existing WiMAX customers over the next few years under a multi-year maintenance plan. We also will continue partnering with them on a scenario to transition their network to LTE at a later stage, should they express the wish to do so,” she says. Layan says that the company is still supporting the rampup of more than 17 active commercial WiMAX networks, with over 200 000 subscribers supported on Alcatel-Lucent’s WiMAX equipment to date. “We will also continue partnering with customers on a scenario to transition their network to LTE at a later stage, should they express the wish to do so,” she says. This is strongly in-line with what Layan says about LTE being the next logical step. “LTE is poised to deliver an unprecedented “always-on” quality of experience over traditional and new wireless devices, while supporting greater network scalability and agility. These new strengths will help operators further increase wireless data usage and revenues and explore new business models with media, content providers, Web partners and advertisers — all while containing costs,” comments Layan. “Furthermore, LTE holds all the critical ingredients for success: economy of scale as the first truly worldwide wireless standard, high-performance technology building-blocks (all-IP, OFDM), sound frequency spectrum regulation, and massive support from Tier-1 operators. This is why we Alcatel-Lucent took the decision to focus our efforts on LTE for newgeneration networks,” Layan says.

WiMAX not dead in the water

“We see WiMAX business opportunities for regional or small scale networks in the future and not for large scale deployment,” Layan says. “And this is evidenced by an increasing number of WiMAX operators moving their plans to LTE, or expressing interest in migrating to LTE at a point in time, as well as the growing interest for LTE in countries where WiMAX was seen as a de facto choice not so long ago. “It confirms that we took the right decision two years ago,” she adds. Even though WiMAX has a head start with regards to network deployments and the overall maturity of the ecosystem, Layan says that Alcatel-Lucent sees LTE catching up at a very fast pace. “According to GSA last report (issued at the end of Aug 2010), there are 132 operators in 56 countries investing in LTE with 101 commercial LTE network commitments in 41 countries. “Even if the first large scale network commercial launches are not expected before the end of this and next year, this clearly demonstrates the momentum around LTE technology,” she says. By contrast, the most recent figures from the WiMAX Forum indicate there are 592 networks deployed in 148 countries. “That said however, one should also consider that it includes a number of WiMAX 16d networks that were deployed years ago and that a large number of these networks are small scale/ local networks that can hardly compete with a mobile network in terms of size and expenditure,” she says.

Not an easy transition

Making the step shift change from 2.5G/3G to 4G networks, will not be easy since Layan says implementing LTE means significant changes in the architecture of mobile networks. “In particular, an all-IP transformation is required and a new air interface is introduced,” Layan explains. “Wireless is moving toward broadband and multimedia and this creates new and exciting business opportunities for service providers, but also comes with a set of challenges for them. “Network IP transformation should be carefully planned and managed at all steps, taking into account all the aspects to achieve performance and cost-efficiency objectives and enable service provider to transform their business models. “It requires knowledge and experience,” she says, “and very few mobile service providers are familiar with IP transformation that wire line networks experienced some 5 to 10 years ago.” Thanks to the company’s in-house IP and wireless capabilities, Layan says Alcatel-Lucent’s customers can build on its High Leverage Network (HLN) architecture which addresses the dual challenge of simultaneously scaling and managing network capacity to meet increasing bandwidth demands while delivering differentiated, revenue-generating services at a lower overall cost. “Alcatel-Lucent has the equipment, services, experience and vision to help operators successfully achieve their deployment or network evolution to LTE,” she says.

Partner of choice

“We see our role as the end-to-end LTE solution partner of mobile service providers worldwide,” Layan says. “We have the industry’s most comprehensive offer with an unmatched combination of wireless and IP expertise (we are leader in IP) and LTE leadership (with high performance, scalable and cost-efficient network), a proven network and business transformation experience with a full set of professional services and a rich and open ecosystem of devices, applications and content,” she says. According to Layan, this holistic approach and preintegration of a complete network solution with rich ecosystem brings unmatched values to service providers. Layan says that the company recently conducted a study with Bell Labs to quantify the additional benefits of our endto- end LTE approach versus the “siloed” approach used when  overlaying a legacy network with LTE. “Our end-to-end approach resulted in a 70% higher NPV (Net present Value) with incremental cost savings and incremental revenue growth for the operator. “On the end-user front, this is all about having the enriched quality of experience they have been waiting for and consumers are excited by the faster speed and remaining connected to a broadband network while on-the-go. “Businesses are also seeing the value of wireless multimedia for increased efficiency in business processes,” she says. “With speeds in excess of 10 times what 3G delivers today and to five times better latency than today’s networks, LTE promises to bring the wireless experience closer to a wired broadband desktop experience, enabling real-time applications like voice, video, and gaming to be delivered to the mass market over a pure wireless IP network,” she says. Layan says this panacea requires the combination of an LTEoptimized network, devices and innovative applications from service providers. “And the Alcatel-Lucent end-to-end LTE solution brings together solutions and services that ensure they will be able to deliver on all those aspects,” she says. “Alcatel-Lucent’s market leading end-to-end LTE solution resonates with wireless operators, as is evidenced by the successful conclusion of 50 trials and 7 contracts across the globe,” she says. “Beyond Macro LTE Radio Access and packet core network, we are convinced that a tight integration with IMS is critical to delivering advanced communication services, including VoIP,” she says. “Another key domain for Alcatel-Lucent is LTE small cells, which are poised to play an increasing role in new-generation wireless networks, as we believe that metro cells and Femto cells will be increasingly important to increase traffic density and complement LTE macro layer,” she says. Alcatel-Lucent has established itself as the leading end-toend Femto/Small Cell vendor, currently holding more than 20 ongoing trials and 14 commercial deployment agreements with operators around the world (as-of October ’10).

Viable for emerging markets

The broad perception in the market is that LTE is a technology for well-evolved countries that have been through the throes of 3G and HSPA and are now looking for even better performance in the mobile realm. As such, popular opinion is that LTE is still some way away from being viable for emerging markets, such as Africa that are only now moving forward with 3G rollouts.Layan says however that this perception is incorrect “Product wise, LTE roll-outs are totally realistic in Africa in the short-term,” she says. “This is confirmed by the increasing interest of African wireless operators to discuss and test Alcatel-Lucent LTE solutions, looking to confirm the performance, maturity and total cost of ownership the wireless broadband technology can offer. “Two pre-requisites exist however,” she adds. “This first relates to regulation around LTE, including the awarding of new frequency spectrum (typically in 2.6 GHz, 800 MHz bands) to operators or them being granted permission by the regulator to re-use 2G/3G spectrum for LTE (for example, 1800 MHz). “The second is that a sound ecosystem of devices, applications and contents matching African market segments develops. “Alcatel-Lucent is very active – through the ‘ng Connect’ program (gathering 47 partners as of Sept. 2010) – to accelerate the LTE ecosystem’s development,” she says.

Africa ready for LTE

Layan furthermore believes that African countries are well positioned to leapfrog from 2.5G technologies to 4G technologies using LTE as an intermediary step. “In some countries where 3G is either unavailable or scarcely available, such as Algeria, leapfrogging from 2G to LTE can make a lot of sense,” she says. “LTE ideally complements 2G by offering broadband Internet access on connected laptops or fixed residential gateways, while 2G continues to absorb the voice and data services on featured handsets and smartphones. “From an infrastructure standpoint,” she says, “introducing LTE on a 2G network is not only feasible, but offers real synergies.” For instance, she says, the 1800 MHz spectrum usually used for 2G operations can be partly re-used to operate LTE. Getting back to regulation, she says however that the African market can take comfort in the fact that its regulators are on the right track when it comes to spectrum allocation and that they have a sound understanding of the benefits of allocating spectrum correctly. “Even if regulation differs across Africa in terms of frequency allocated for LTE and the timetable they envisage for this, those regulators I met with are very aware of the opportunities brought by LTE and the right choices to unleash LTE in Africa while leveraging the global LTE ecosystem and economies of scale. “LTE in undoubtedly relevant for markets like Africa,” she concludes.

Regulating LTE Siderbar

Beyond infrastructure, regulatory issues play a key role in the evolution to LTE. The first challenge faced by regulators is to release wideband spectrum (nx20 MHz) In the frequency bands used worldwide by the LTE industry (2.6 GHz FDD/TDD, 700/800 MHz, 2.3 GHz TDD). This spectrum is often already carrying telecommunications services for national authorities (state and military), or analog TV (800 MHz Digital dividend). A further challenge that regulators must overcome is the definition of efficient rules combining social development objectives, technical constraints, and sustainable business casesfor the operators. Typically, regulators must find the right timetable and level for population coverage obligations in urban and rural areas, and take into considering their particular national context (demography, topology, wireless penetration). Beyond frequency allocation and regulation, telecom ministers have the huge challenge – together with other government agencies (Economy, Education, Health) to actively contribute to social and industrial development through broadband Internet adoption. The action of telecom authorities spans from incentive policy to increase PC and internet penetration, to partnerships between global and local stakeholders, universities and state organizations to foster a local ecosystem enabling local e-services (e-government, e-learning,e-health.) and productivity gain of local enterprises.

Published in October 2010

You’d think by the time a global technology reached its fourth iteration, the standards would have become pretty much, well….standard. Not in the telecoms business, however, where life would be very dull indeed if everyone agreed which technologies to use. Half your competitive edge comes from picking the right technology and beating unfortunate rivals that make the wrong decision. So it’s no surprise that the next generation of 4G communications is still as nebulous as a radio wave itself

WHAT IS IT?

4G technology is essentially a mobile broadband system with the built-in ability to handle enhanced multimedia services. Interest in 4G is largely fuelled by the rocketing demand for 3G wireless broadband, which is giving people mobile access to the content they have on their desktop PC, and giving people in developing countries their first ever internet access. The problem is that 3G lacks the carrying capacity, data speeds and economies of scale needed to cope with such explosive demand. So operators are preparing for 4G networks that will dramatically boost data speeds and capacity to handle the heavy loads created as users shift their landline internet habits into the mobile world, says Motorola Senior Vice President Bruce Brda. Most importantly, 4G networks will have the network architecture required to drive down the cost per bit, to ensure operators can afford to meet the heavy demands. Video consumption is a prime example of data traffic that is outstripping revenue, Brda says. Thanks to flat-rate 3G data tariffs, users are watching YouTube and movies at a rate that has astonished mobile operators. Recent research by Nielson reckoned that more than 15 million Americans watched videos on mobile devices in 2009 – a 70% year-on-year increase. “The internet has taught us that video is going to be one of the prime applications going forward,” said Brda. “Networks that are optimised for video performance will do the best.”

IMPLICATIONS FOR MOBILE TELEPHONY AND MOBILE INTERNET

The cheaper costs of 4G will also make other applications more feasible, including e-readers, machine-to-machine communications and mobile TV. Cheaper costs coupled with enhanced data speeds will drive a wider audience for broadband, making it an essential part of economic growth, Brda believes. “Governments are beginning to view broadband as an essential utility. They support broadband because it can be an engine for economic growth, education opportunities and lowers the cost of delivering key government services.” The European Union estimates that greater broadband access will create a million European jobs and boost the economy by 850 billion Euros between 2006 and 2015. The affects could be even more dramatic in Africa, where broadband access would not just be an incremental improvement to existing services, but would give millions of people entirely new opportunities. While 3G supports a wide variety of mobile voice and data applications such as music, video, mobile games and social networking, the idea behind 4G is to support similar services at faster speeds, says Qualcomm vice president James Munn. But there is a lot of exaggerated talk and misunderstanding. “For example, some people are talking about 4G providing mobile data speeds that you can’t even get now using a landline connection. There is also a mistaken belief that mobile operators will walk into work one day, switch off their 3G network and switch on 4G. If this were true, what would happen to consumers with 3G phones? You would wake up one day and have no mobile service,” Munn says. The reality is that the fastest mobile network in the world right now — Telstra’s Next G network in Australia — is based on 3G HSPA+ technology. This is the same technology used by MTN and Cell C in South Africa for their high-speed 3G services. Mobile operators in various regions of Africa will look to implement 4G networks sometime in the future, Munn says. “While they’re making these plans, though, they’ll continue to use and upgrade their existing networks, making them faster and faster using the latest 3G technologies. This is good for consumers because it means they don’t need to wait for 4G to begin enjoying high-speed mobile services.”

SETTING THE STANDARD

It falls to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to set the standards, but it’s been a work in progress for years. In October 2009 the ITU declared that 4G would revolutionise mobile communications, and began to assess six technology submissions aiming to be categorised as 4G mobile wireless broadband, known as IMT-Advanced. The submissions were made to the ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) Working Party 5D after a request issued in March 2008. The six proposals include Long-Term Evolution (LTE) Release 10, LTE-Advanced and IEEE 802.16m, or mobile WiMax. They are being assessed against ITU-R requirements in a rigorous year-long process supported by 14 independent evaluation groups around the world. The evaluation groups represent all stakeholders, including equipment manufacturers, technology developers, network operators, service providers, user organisations, research institutions and national administrations. Stephen Blust, AT&T’s Director of Radio Standards and Chairman of Working Party 5D, said: “In 2002 when the strategic vision for 4G was laid out in anticipation of the longer term future needs of the marketplace, it established a new level of expectation for the capabilities and performance of global mobile wireless broadband systems that many thought was something that could not be reached in this decade.” Detailed performance requirements set out by the working group in 2008 raised the bar for mobile wireless, Blust said. “It is gratifying to note that stakeholders in the mobile wireless industry have risen to the challenge. We have every expectation that with these proposals the vision can indeed be achieved in the near term.” However, there is still no ultimate definition for 4G technologies. So far the ITU has confirmed that 4G will be an all-IP (Internet Protocol) based solution and must offer peak data rates of 100Mbps for high mobility applications such as mobile access, and 1Gbps for low mobility applications such as local wireless access.

4G/LTE – CURRENT DEPLOYMENTS

In June this year the ITU confirmed that LTE-Advanced and IEEE 802.16m mobile WiMax meet its 4G requirements, although other specifications may only be finalised by March 2011. A reader comment posted to Sprint’s community forum described the problem neatly: “Everyone is waiting for them to define 4G, but they really have not. The reason being it is very complex. Here is a basic ideology of it: most industry leaders look for 4G to be a ubiquitous network. A network that will probably engulf open wireless architecture and smart phones that can detect, authorise, register and connect onto any network.” That user-friendly philosophy relies on many companies with different technologies to reach some agreements on functionality for 4G to prosper. So far only about 30% of the 4G specifications have been set out. The remaining 70% still to be resolved are more challenging aspects such as horizontal handoff, latency issues, package losses, billing accountability, security schemes and quality of service. So years after they first started talking, no final decision has been reached on inter-carrier conformity and common processing features that will make the systems work.

DOES IT REALLY MATTER?

Not to Sprint, which launched a WiMax 802.16e network earlier this year and touted it as 4G. T-Mobile then hailed its new HSPA+ network as 4G, drawing heavy criticism from rival AT&T. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T and several other carriers are converting their networks to LTE technology, while TeliaSonera already operates LTE networks in Stockholm and Oslo. Kenya’s Safaricom is also planning to roll out LTE. Although LTE is often marketed as 4G, the first release was actually a 3.9G as it fails to fully comply with 4G requirements. LTE is not backwards-compatible with 3G systems, although LTE Advanced will be backwards compatible with LTE and uses the same frequencies. Its main advantages are high throughput, low latency, an improved end-user experience and a simple architecture for lower operating costs. Motorola’s Brda doesn’t support the quest to ratify one defined standard, and advocates having both LTE and WiMax 802.16e exist side by side to serve the different needs of operators around the world. “The 4G decision isn’t really a technology decision at all — it’s a business decision for operators,” Brda says. He thinks operators should define the needs they are trying to fulfill with mobile broadband and adopt whichever solution does it best, without getting tangled in a technology debate. “The LTE customer base already knows who they are, while the WiMax customer base also knows who they are,” he says. “LTE will be the natural upgrade path from today’s networks by mobile operators. WiMax will be a factor in any other decision, namely greenfield operators or those operators that want a time-to-market advantage. Both technologies are viable.” Mobile WiMax now has hundreds of deployments in more than 145 countries and is filling a business need for a variety of different players, many of which are not traditional mobile operators. Malaysia’s REDTone is using mobile WiMax to take broadband access to underserved communities, while Unwired in Fiji is using it to deliver educational resources to remote areas. In the end, the 4G world should be characterised by a combination of solutions to meet end user demands for data services, Brda says. But that means the mobile industry must abandon its technology debates. “The reality is we will connect more people at a faster pace with more than one viable solution,” Brda says. “Operators need to do what they do best: use the most appropriate technology to solve their business problems.” Operators in South Africa are waiting for the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) to hold an auction for the 2,6GHz and 3,5GHz spectrum they need for mobile broadband networks based on technologies such as WiMax or LTE. Icasa has warned that no company already holding spectrum in those bands can bid for more, prompting Vodacom to sell its 24% stake in WBS, the parent company of iBurst. Vodacom had bought into iBurst specifically to gain access to its 2,6GHz spectrum, and has invested about R100m in building 100 WiMax base stations. Once 4G networks are commonplace, they will help the ITU achieve its goal of seeing more than half the world’s population gain access to broadband networks by 2015, and having access to high-speed networks as a basic civil right. In September ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré challenged political leaders to meet those goals when he spoke at the Broadband Commission for Digital Development. “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness,” he said. A report drawn up by the commission says: “In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power. Broadband will serve as tomorrow’s fountain of innovation. What price will be paid in the brave new world of digital opportunity by those who fail to embrace broadband inclusion for their citizens?”

SO WHAT IS THE REALITY FOR AFRICA?

There are huge disparities in global broadband affordability, with nations that can least afford it paying the most, relative to their income. Subscribers in the UK, US, Canada or Australia pay under 1% of their average national monthly income for fast broadband. Yet in many of the least developed countries, such as Ethiopia, Malawi or Niger, even the slowest broadband connection costs many times the average monthly salary. That naturally has a direct impact on take-up, so while fixed broadband penetration stands at around 30% in Western Europe and the US, it is under 1% in the world’s poorest nations. The ITU says mobile broadband will be the access technology of choice for developing nations, where fixed line infrastructure is sparse and expensive to roll out. To help achieve that, it is urging governments not to limit market competition nor tax broadband services too heavily, and to make ample spectrum available to support mobile broadband growth. “The new realities and opportunities for digital development must be firmly fixed in the minds of world leaders as a leadership imperative,” the ITU says, urging leaders to drive a ‘broadband boom’ to create affordable and accessible 4G resources for all. They also benefit the bottom line.

Published in October 2010
Sunday, 03 October 2010 00:00

the journey towards 4G by Brett Haggard

Fourth generation networks are some way off, but in the interim, two technologies are competing for their day in the sun. Which is due to win?

While the argument continues to rage on between fourth generation mobile network pundits favouring long-term evolution (LTE) or WiMAX as the technology that will drive the future of their wireless networks, too few commentators, vendors and market experts consider that there are scenarios in which the two technologies can comfortably coexist. A fourth generation network, according to the International Telecommunication Union is capable of delivering data rates in excess of 100Mbps data rates in mobile contexts and in excess of 1Gbps in static or nomadic (fixed-mobile) contexts. Presently LTE seems to be the technology that’s favoured by the world’s cellular operators, since it provides a good stepping stone between both CDMA and GSM based mobile networks and LTE-advanced – the only standard that currently conform to the ITU’s definition of a fourth generation network. WiMAX on the other hand is receiving encouraging traction with telecoms operators – mobile and fixed – that have very little existing infrastructure, but an overwhelming demand for high-data rate Internet connectivity. While it is still very conceivable that the two technologies will ultimately end up duking it out for dominance, it’s unlikely that one will fall at the hands of another. That’s because the technologies are fundamentally different and have their own benefits and drawbacks that in turn make them suitable to overcoming various challenges or in other cases, non-viable routes to follow. In order to explain this thoroughly however, we’ll need to take a closer look at each technology.

What’s the fuss with WiMAX?

WiMAX is more formerly known as IEEE standard 802.16 and originates from the LAN/MAN subcommittee. That straight from the word ‘go’ should speak volumes about WiMAX’s roots and its intended use. Borne out of the almost ridiculous growth of the 802.11 wireless standard that is today responsible for the amazing number of WiFi hotspots we find in the workplace and public areas, such as parks, coffee shops and university campuses, not to mention modern homes, the basic idea behind WiMAX was to take the same tenets on which WLAN technology was built and extend it into the WAN environment. While more developed parts of the world could rely on fibre-optic backhaul networks, WiMAX was envisaged as a technology that would provide a wireless alternative for telcos that had limited budgets and couldn’t hope to contend with the timeframes associated with installing fibre. The broader WiMAX standard has derivatives that are perfect for fixed last mile connectivity, derivatives that are ideal for providing backhaul for high-speed telco networks and even derivatives for more mobile applications – hence the reason it is touted as a possible competitor for LTE. And as mentioned, previously, WiMAX is currently the top choice for telcos and Internet service providers looking to provide high-speed Internet services where relatively little or no current infrastructure exists. The technology has undoubtedly been more successful than LTE, with numerous successful deployments of WiMAX being undertaken in both the developing and developed world (by contrast to LTE that is only now beginning to gain any traction). But WiMAX adoption hasn’t been without challenges.

What’s in a name?

The largest stumbling block WiMAX faces is not technological. Where the name WiMAX makes the technology easier for the average user to understand – inferring that it’s nothing more than WiFi taken to the max – WiFi’s numerous stability, security and performance related-issues kept it in the consumer market until recently. While WiMAX has good provisions for all of these stumbling blocks, its close name association with WiFi has meant it hasn’t been taken quite as seriously as many of the vendors might have liked. Outside of these concerns, it’s also worthwhile noting that WiMAX makes use of regulated and leased spectrum, as opposed to WiFi, which operates inside open spectrum. Apart from this meaning that the spectrum assigned to WiMAX isn’t likely to interfere with, or be interfered with by other wireless devices, these networks are also professionally installed by experts and as such are more likely to deliver on its performance promises.

Long term evolution

As opposed to the IEEE standards process that was followed with WiMAX, LTE was developed by the 3rd generation partnership project (3GPP) – a body that consists of the numerous contributors and stakeholders responsible for the evolution and maintenance of the GSM standards. As such, LTE is part of the evolution from the circuitswitched GSM networks of old, through the early General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)-based (2.5G) networks and more recently, Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution, 3G, High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and HSPA+ networks in operation across the world today. While LTE is a much younger technology than WiMAX, what makes LTE so attractive is that it exceeds the performance level of current HSPA+ networks, which have a theoretical down link data rate of 56 MB/s and that it is entirely IP-based, from one end to the other. While WiMAX is a strong offering, LTE is the logical choice for existing mobile telcos because it builds logically on everything they have in place from an infrastructural point of view. In fact, the existing infrastructure vendors being used by the world’s mobile networks all have rollout plans that are able to predictably transition their customers from their current 3G infrastructure, through to HSPA+ and LTE. And quite possibly beyond.

And the winner is?

Looking at where the roots of each technology likes, predicting which technology will win is by no means cut and dried. In fact, even though the market is expecting either LTE or WiMAX to prevail, it’s unlikely one will unseat the other entirely. It’s plausible that the two will continue to coexist – LTE as the natural, higher speed evolution in the GSM realm and WiMAX as the solution to purpose-built networks designed to connect users’ homes and possibly even their notebook computers to the Internet. It’s also worthwhile noting that the two technologies are complementary enough to coexist in the same ecosystem, with WiMAX assisting with ever growing backhaul requirements of mobile network operators and LTE being used at the client end, for providing fast data service to mobile phones and computing devices. Of course, it’s also not outlandish to predict that a combination of LTE and WiMAX will be used on the client end – each playing to its strengths as a data delivery mechanism for mobile phone service and connecting personal computers to the Internet, respectively. It’s interesting to note however that the vendors in this industry have, instead of choosing a middle ground that would see both technologies being supported indefinitely, drawn battle lines and begun pursuing one or another technology. Whether or not this will see an ultimate leader developing in the coming years or not isn’t clear. It will almost certainly mean that things will remain interesting in this space for the foreseeable future.

Published in October 2010

In this issue of Africa Telecoms, we are focusing on 4G Technologies, both Wimax and LTE. The evolution path for CDMA technologies is towards LTE. Is this correct? What are the plans of the CCF moving towards that point of convergence?

Yes, that is correct. The CCF certifies any device that incorporates CDMA. We are extending that capability to include ensuring proper interworking and inter-technology handoff between CDMA and LTE. To avoid duplication of testing, the CCF is leaving certification of LTE specific functionality to the GCF.

What does the CCF contribute to the CDMA ecosystem?

The CCF is a forum of CDMA industry’s leaders that believe certification is a critical part of the before market process. We believe that by bringing to the market quality products that have been thoroughly tested and that all meet the same minimum requirements, we ensure consumers’ satisfaction and networks’ health thus making CDMA devices a symbol of quality. The objective of the CCF is to evolve its certification process so it always meets new industry standards and evolving technology.

What is the relationship between the CCF and the CTIA Certification Program, and more specifically the CTIA Certification Programs CDMA Working Group that you co-chair?

The CTIA certification program administers a number of certification programs for operators in North America to meet the specific needs of their markets. To this end, the CTIA works with the CCF to ensure devices meet both global CCF certification requirements plus North American specific certification requirements. The CDMA Working Group that I co-chair focuses specifically on certification of CDMA devices for the North American market.

Being an African focused magazine, how much work is the CCF doing in Africa? And can you specifically talk about any current projects in Africa that the CCF is working on?

The CCF has been working actively with operators across Africa since the first CDMA networks were launched. We have worked closely with the Africa CDMA Forum to identify challenges specific to Africa. A key challenge has been the broad availability of quality handsets. To address this challenge, the CCF has visited numerous operators and vendors across Africa to educate them on how the CCF certification process provides the most comprehensive test solution to ensure only the highest quality handsets reach their markets. However, the more price sensitive markets in Africa and other parts of the World require a more measured approach to quality, achieving a more affordable balance between the cost and quality of the device. To this end the CCF has recently launched a self-declaration process that gives vendors more control over the time and cost of certification testing. This enables vendors to deliver a higher quality device at an affordable price point.

CDMA networks have always had a smaller market penetration than GSM networks worldwide, with a move to more digital 3G and 4G networks and a convergence of GSM and CDMA technologies into LTE. How will this affect the CCF in the future?

For as long as there are devices in the market incorporating CDMA technology, there will be a need for CCF certification testing.

Do you believe that the Wimax technology will be in the same position as CDMA technologies (having a smaller market penetration) in the future? What is the CCF’s view on technologies options moving forward?

CDMA technologies have a clear evolution path towards LTE and converging on 3GPP. The CDMA ecosystem addresses mass-market demands in voice and data while WIMAX may have a more niche focus.

The CDMA ecosystem is an interesting one with Device Vendors and CDMA Operators having their own agendas and requirements. How does the CCF get involved in these relationships and how has the CCF improved the ecosystem?

These individual agendas and requirements are exactly what drive the high time and cost of qualifying devices for market. The CCF provides a venue for operators and vendors from around the world to gather and identify challenges in qualifying a device for market. By implementing a common certification solution, the CCF has demonstrated a five-fold reduction in time and cost to test and approve a device for market. To achieve even further savings, it is critical for operators and vendors operating across Africa to join the CCF now – to identify device quality challenges specific to the Africa market and work within the CCF to resolve those challenges.

The CDMA ecosystem has various organizations working on the development and cohesion like the CDMA Development Group (CDG) of various parties within the ecosystem. Does the CCF work with the likes of the CDG, in what capacities do you work together and are there any other organizations that you work with?

The CCF works closely with organizations such as the CDG to ensure we’re all focused on identifying and solving the greatest challenges facing the industry. The CDG has a number of efforts (e.g. Global Handset Requirements for CDMA) to identify and define feature requirements that are essential to the successful adoption of CDMA world-wide. The CCF develops certification solutions to ensure devices meet industry standards used to implement those requirements.

The CCF has recently worked with the CDG and CTIA to successfully merge the now retired CDG 1, 2, 3 test process and the CTIA certification process into the CCF. This resulted in a single process for CDMA device certification world-wide. The CCF states there will be various efficiencies garnered from using the CCF certification program like, time to market and cost savings for vendors. a/ How is this achieved? b/ What are the benefits for CDMA Operators in using the CCF processes?

These efficiencies are achieved by operators and vendors agreeing on a common test plan and test process. This allows vendors to understand and master one set of certification requirements early in their device development process. With this knowledge, the vendor can ensure they will meet industry agreed upon quality requirements, greatly increasing the probability of hitting their market window. Meeting these quality requirements also reduces greatly the cost of customer support. Releasing quality products are a great way to ensure customers’ loyalty and positive brand recognition. Operators enjoy greater efficiencies in their acceptance process. Devices entering their process are of a higher quality level resulting in as much as a 3-fold reduction in their acceptance test timeline. This frees their engineers to focus on more important tasks such as differentiating their services in a highly competitive market. Higher quality devices helps ensure customer access to their network and protection of their infrastructure investment. I invite you to visit our web site and hear advantages first-hand from Lou LaMedica, Director or Verizon Wireless’ Device Evaluation and Implementation Laboratory.

Earlier in the year, you were quoted as saying: “With LTE deployments augmenting CDMA2000 networks this year it’s important that multi-mode devices be tested and certified to perform optimally across both technologies. Critical to seamless 3G and 4G interoperability is the interworking between multimode devices and their radio access networks. The completion and validation of our test platform will allow the CCF to provide the only comprehensive testing and certification process for CDMA2000 1X and EV-DO devices incorporating LTE by the end of 2010.” Have you started testing Interoperability of devices between 3G and 4G LTE networks? Furthermore, have the results of these test been positive and what are the difficulties being faced by the manufacturers?

The CCF is working to implement interworking certification solutions at the earliest opportunity. Test equipment vendors are presently working hard to deploy test solutions to support launching of multi-mode CDMA/LTE devices in the near future. Formal platform validation can begin as soon as these devices and test solutions become commercially available. Finally, what are your thoughts of the development of CDMA into LTE in Africa specifically? Considering that many African operators are still deploying 3G networks, is there a case for these operators to leapfrog 3G and start deploying 4G networks now as opposed to 3G networks? I don’t see a compelling case for operators to leapfrog 3G networks across Africa right now. LTE spectrum in the majority of the countries is yet to be auctioned and may be some time until the regulators of these markets are ready. In more than half of the SSA market 3G spectrum is yet to be auctioned. Internet penetration in the region is still below 10% while voice is still below 50%. CPE cost is also a very strong commercial consideration that for some time held up the adoption of 3G in CDMA and WCDMA flavors, though this is no longer the case.

Published in October 2010
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