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Airtel to offer 5G with 4G bands ahead of commercial rollout

Karim Hussami

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Airtel to offer 5G with 4G bands ahead of commercial rollout

Traditionally, telecom operators run trials on any of their new products or devices for further updates before offering them commercially. That is the case with Airtel, which announced on Thursday of being the first telco to successfully demonstrate live 5G services over a commercial network in Hyderabad, India.

The operator demonstrated live 5G services on its commercial 4G network in Hyderabad using 1800 MHz band.

The fifth-generation network offered is supposed to deliver 10 times the speed of existing network technologies; allowing users to download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds on a 5G-powered smartphone.

The India telco – which partnered with Swedish equipment partner Ericsson to bring this experience live – claimed that it had the capability to operate its 5G network over existing technology-neutral spectrum in mid-bands that are at 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2300MHz frequency alongside the sub-GHz bands available at 800MHz and 900MHz.

The Ericsson Mobility Report of November 2020 reported that India is estimated to have 350 million 5G subscriptions by 2026, accounting for 27 percent of the total mobile connections within the country.

“The transition to 5G is available through software upgrades over the existing network infrastructure,” Airtel said in a statement.

However, the telco can commercially launch the service in a matter of months without the mid-band as its network fully supports the high-speed technology, according to Gopal Vittal, chief executive office of Airtel.

“When we launch 5G and make it available commercially, it must have a full power of 5G instead of marketing. Delivering experience is a must and you need more spectrum, especially in the mid-band. That doesn’t mean 1800, 2300 and 2100 MHz can’t be used…true 5G will be enabled through mid-band,” he added.

To better understand the meaning of such developments, analysts noted that Airtel is looking to position itself as the main 5G telecom operator in India.

The announcement made by India’s second largest telco follows Reliance Jio’s chief exec Mukesh Ambani’s claim that his company will launch 5G using its own technology within the second half of 2021.

Regarding the pricing of those services, Randeep Sekhon, CTO of Bharti Airtel said that there are already a million 5G devices active on the telco’s network, which are broadly priced in the range of $342.

“Pricing will play an important role, and we feel that prices need to fall between Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 range for mass uptake. 4G was successful due to lower prices. We will work with all device partners to bring 5G smartphones to support all new and existing bands and technologies like dynamic spectrum,” Sekhon said.

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Journalist for 7 years in print media, with a bachelor degree in Political Science and International Affairs. Masters in Media communications.

Telecoms

STL signs record high $100 million deals across MEA

Inside Telecom Staff

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STL

India-based digital network integrator Sterlite Technologies (STL) announced on Monday that it has renewed and extended deals with leading telecoms providers in the Middle East and Africa region (MEA).

According to a company statement, the deals are worth more than $100 million, taking STL’s order book to a record high, while exhibiting the company’s unwavering focus on building future-ready digital networks within the region.

“STL is building solutions to empower its customers in the MEA region for optical connectivity and network software, enabling FTTH and 5G deployments.  We are proud to be a part of the progress of the Middle East and Africa. With our deep technology expertise and growing talent base, we will continue to deliver on the full potential of digital networks, providing enhanced experiences to consumers and businesses alike,” speaking on the deals, Sandeep Girotra, Global Sales Head, STL, said in a statement.

The global pandemic has pushed many telcos to heavily invest in building digital networks to be able to meet the rising demand for connectivity from people remaining indoors due to lockdown measures. STL has capitalized on this and expanded its presence in the region with their fully 5G ready Opticonn and Software Solutions.

“Our unique end-to-end solutions enables customers to build 5G hyperscale networks at a fast pace with lower long-term Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). These multi-years, multi-million-dollar deals range from optical connectivity solutions to network solutions,” the company said.

According to STL, one of the large-scale deals has been signed with a leading telco in the UAE to advance its 5G, 4G and FTTX network infrastructure through STL’s Opticonn Solutions, including onshore logistics and warehousing. Another multi-million-dollar digital transformation partnership has been formed with the leading telecommunications group in North Africa.

The unnamed telco will deploy STL’s digital billing solutions to 7 million subscribers across the region.

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Telecoms

Airtel won the most subscribers thanks to high quality network in 2020

Karim Hussami

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Airtel won the most subscribers thanks to high quality network in 2020

Airtel gained the most subscribers in India comparably due to better network quality by the end of 2020.

The latest data from OpenSignal, an independent global mobile analytics company, shows Airtel and Jio have gained more new subscribers by the end of 2020, but Vi (Vodafone Idea) lost by churning subscribers.

“Airtel and Jio were steadily gaining new users while Vi regularly lost users,” according to the report by OpenSignal who shared data from last year where it analyzed the mobile experience of smartphone users who switched network service providers (outgoing) in 2020.

“Outgoing people turned out to have a worse mobile experience before switching subscribers. They also saw a drop in 4G availability and spent less time connecting to a 3G or 4G mobile connection,” the report noted.

According to a report in Business Today, the total telecom subscriber base in India increased marginally to 1,168.66 million in the reported month from 1,167.81 million in August last year. “The total wireless or mobile telephony subscriber base increased to 1,148.58 million in September 2020 from 1,147.92 million in August 2020,” it added.

Poor network quality

In addition, analysts found that users dropped from a particular network because of poor network quality and for the fact that telcos increased tariffs in 2019. Across all the private operators (Jio, Airtel, and Vi), users who ported to other networks were spending 74 percent to 155 precent more time without being connected to a mobile signal compared to the average scores on the respective networks.

Therefore, OpenSignal indicated that most of the users who were porting to other networks had an issue with the network quality they were getting with their operator. Reliance Jio needs to enhance its network quality as fast as possible to keep leading the mobile telecom market in India, according to analysts.

The report from OpenSignal comes in line with a TRAI report that says that Airtel added 4.05 million new wireless subscribers in December 2020, bringing its total wireless subscriber base to 338.7 million as of December 31, 2020, although still below Jio’s wireless subscriber base.

With the loss of Vi subscribers and the flattening of Jio’s growth curve, Airtel continued to gain subscribers due to the churn rate.

By the end of 2020, it had gained more subscribers due to better network quality, which also matches Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) data for December 2020.

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Telecoms

Beeline Telecom to become 4th provider in Zambia

Inside Telecom Staff

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Beeline Telecom

Beeline Telecom has become Zambia’s fourth provider earlier this week after receiving its license to commence mobile phone operations from the country’s ICT regulator ZICTA.

Beeline, a Zambian wholly owned company, has been granted a period of 6 months to kick start its operations, unless determined by the authority, or the license will be revoked. Zambia enjoys a diverse telco presence with South African MTN and Indian Airtel being the heavy hitter names within the market.

The newly welcomed company stands alongside Zamtel as local providers within the country. According to a statement by Beeline, the local company has been offered the international network and national services licenses with associated resources and becomes the fourth mobile network services provider in the country.

“This was in line with its regulatory mandate under the ICT ACT No. 15 of 2009, which includes the promotion of competition in the ICT sector. In September 2020, the Authority invited, through the Request for Proposals, applications for a Network License under the International Market Segment and a Service License under the National Market Segment with associated resources,” Patrick Mutimushi, Director General of ZICTA, said in a statement.

Mutimushi added that following a thorough evaluation process, and Beeline having met the minimum criteria, the Authority resolved to award the licenses in question to Beeline Telecoms Limited.

On September 4, 2018, ZICTA, under the guidance of the parent ministry – Ministry of Transport and Communications, issued a Network License under the International Market Segment and a Service License under the National Market Segment with associated resources to UZI Zambia.

“Unfortunately, UZI Zambia failed to commence operations by March 3, 2019, the final deadline issued by the Authority. This was notwithstanding two earlier deadline extensions – the first being November 30, 2019 and the second on May 30, 2020. The above scenario left the Authority with no choice but to cancel the licenses issued to UZ! Zambia,” the director general noted.

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