Econet Pilot Tests LTE (4G) amid spectrum challenges

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Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless is piloting LTE technology, although it does not expect to begin a commercial rollout this year.
Speaking during a panel discussion – “Overcoming the obstacles to ensure successful LTE deployment” – at LTE Africa in Cape Town, Francis Mahofa, chief technical officer (CTO) at Econet Wireless, said its data subscribers were currently using 2.5G and 3G services.

Mahofa said: “We are currently testing a LTE network. It is more the techno side for now, the simplicity of an LTE network compared to the 3G network.

“If the test is positive then maybe we will launch it as well.”

Mahofa said they began discussing the possibility of testing the LTE network with the country’s regulator by refarming the frequency of spectrum they already had to make it more suitable for LTE services.

Jannie Van Zyl, executive head of data products at South Africa’s Vodacom, however, said refarming was not the way forward for new LTE networks and called on regulators to release new spectrum frequencies.

Mahofa put no time span on when a commercial LTE network may be rolled out.

Issues of Spectrum are not just limitided to Zimbabwe, South Africa Also has the same problem.
according to Jannie Van Zyl, executive head of data products at Vodacom.
the South African industry regulator’s inability to allocate the 800Mhz spectrum is the equivalent of a fighter “fighting with one hand tied behind his back”,

Speaking at LTE Africa in Cape Town this morning, Van Zyl said operators were struggling to deliver the best quality because the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was not allocating spectrum.

Maharaj senior managing executive of networks for Telkom also spoke at the LTE Africa conference in Cape Town on identifying and overcoming the challenges in rolling out LTE in “real life.”

“We’ve seen the growth of data from GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) days all the way through to 3G as it stands today. Typical 2G users were using on average 40 megabytes per month on average,” said Maharaj.

“Right up until now people are using two gigabytes per month on average. Making optimal use of spectrum that’s available is key to ensure future success.”

He said more than 50 per cent of the internet is consumed at home, which is why Telkom chose to deploy fixed broadband LTE.

“We see that the availability of spectrum or if you have access to a large amount of spectrum, that’s going to be the absolute key differentiator going forward,” said Maharaj.

This is because the demand for data is constantly on the increase. Devices have also converged in terms of 2G, 3G, TD and FD, thus the device ecosystem and device compatibility issues have been removed.

Maharaj said the only common denominator with converged devices is the availability of spectrum.

Due to nomadic data and other pressuring factors, Maharaj said Telkom has noticed 3G is beginning to “show some cracks.”

“One would ideally say it (3G) is not fit for purpose, but the ecosystem for 3G is still developing quite rapidly. So you can’t stop 3G for smartphones,” said Maharaj.

This is because data is not going to remain static at two gigabytes, it will grow “quite a lot” in future.

Maharaj said most data is consumed through through download rather than upload. He said when users log onto the internet, 90 per cent of the data goes towards the downlink with ten per cent on the uplink.

Furthermore, Maharaj said the uplink channel is underutilised. “Now if one has to say that spectrum is rare and hard to come by, choosing the most optimal way of transmitting is key.”

“We’ve looked at the ecosystem, and more importantly we looked at the markets that are driving TD (Time Division) LTE advancement… And it’s predominantly in markets where there’s a vast population, thereby indicating that scale will be achieved much quicker than… technologies that are six months to one year behind,” said Maharaj.

“We see sufficient scale in the market globally that tells us that the price of the devices are going to come down significantly.”
Credit humanipo

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