The deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) or rather 4G technology by telecom operators, whether in the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), is seen as a solution for advancement in the telecom industry, as stakeholders in the sector have been hammering on its benefits when the time is suitable for it.
A recent comment by Engineer Lanre Ajayi, president of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (Atcon), showed that LTE deployment would pave way for increased capacity by the GSM and CDMA operators, thus resolving some of the issues resulting from congestion which would in turn lead to improved quality of service. This also brings to fore the views of Logan Pather, former chief executive officer of Starcomms, who postulated that the ailing telecom company would do better if it deploys the LTE technology, and that with the acquisition of more spectrums, the company would be able compete with other GSM network providers in the lucrative telecom market.
He stated that LTE will enhance the network, increase its capacity to accommodate more subscribers, even at a larger percentage than the GSM companies; as the CDMA technology has the infrastructure to accommodate larger subscribers due to its architecture.
Pather then, was of the view that Starcomms and Visafone, the CDMA operators in the telecom industry with network capacity to roll out services, would merge to either form Starfone or Visacomms, each retaining half of its brand name.
However, these statements by stakeholders in the industry is a clear indication that with the release of more spectrum by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the migration to LTE will boost the services of telecom operators and also further place them on a better position at the global level. According to Ajayi, LTE technology would further deepen competition in the sector, as more investors would come on board to set up new telecom companies to meet with the demand for quality service. “By the time the operators migrate to long term evolution (LTE), we would have more operators coming in, we would have the CDMA operators upgrading to LTE, we would have more operators using the same technology to deliver services to subscribers on their networks, then giving consumers more choices and also deepening the competition,” he stated.
Equally, Ken Wirth, president, 4G/LTE Wireless Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, stated that extensive study conducted in several developed countries by the Bell Labs Business Modeling team, shows that consumers and businesses are ready for 4G LTE applications, and the interest in new LTE-optimised applications could be translated into a significant market opportunity for telecom service providers. They have expressed willingness to switch operators in order to obtain such services, and in the European countries, almost 80 percent of medium to large enterprises has indicated plans to sign up for the service in order to enjoy its benefits.
Commenting on its deployment in Nigeria by telecom operators, Mr. Kamar Abass, managing director, Ericsson Nigeria, said telecom operators in the country could as well utilise the licences offered to them by the NCC to deploy the 4G LTE network, as the choice now lies within them to do so.
He stated that the advancement from 3G to 4G technology would create major impact on their networks, considering the huge difference between infrastructures entrenched and the utilisation capacity.
According to him, the rapid increase in mobile devices such as; smartphones and tablets has prompted the need for the deployment of LTE technology that would propel the increase demand for high speed broadband services.
LTE, which is built on Internet Protocol (IP) architecture, extends network transformation and capabilities substantially further than others. It is aimed at bringing dramatic improvements to subscribers’ mobile broadband experience, with 10-times higher data speeds and lower latency, and more than three times more efficient than 3G.
However, one trend pushing network operators towards LTE is the growing consumer demand for smartphones and the accompanying desire to stream video content over those devices. The move to more efficient mobile broadband services is also being hastened by the incredible marketing push from larger operators that have engrained the notion that customers need “4G” services.
According to Andrew Seybold, an analyst in the wireless industry, there is buzz in LTE deployment, because it is the most spectrally efficient wireless technology based on Internet protocol. With this technology, network switches will be replaced with routers and computers, making them a thing of the past. Each new generation of LTE will add more capacity, better edge-of-cell data rates, and even more spectral efficiency.
As the deployment of the advanced technology deepens, developed economies the world over, have taken great measures in ensuring its utilisation in the near future. In line with this, telecom operators have been embarking on infrastructure modernisation to expand their network capacity, by replacing them with cutting-edge technologies to meet with the growing demand of telecom service on their network, so as to further enhance advancement into long term evolution (LTE) deployment.
According to the operators, the need has risen for network expansion and the deployment of fibre Optic, and necessary infrastructure to underserved areas to deepen penetration. In line with that, MTN Nigeria has concluded plans to install 9,000 base transceivers stations on its 2G and 3G networks for voice and data services, a situation also applicable to Etisalat Nigeria, which earlier reiterated its move towards realising the installation of 1,000 BTS on an annual basis.
This according to Atcon president is an indication that the sector in Nigeria would experience an improved development in the sector in 2014.
From the global perspective, China Mobile in 2012 selected ZTE, a global provider of telecom equipment and network solutions, to install 4G networks in a total of 13 cities, and plans to install 20,000 LTE enabled base transceiver stations (BTS), which would rise to 200,000 twelve months later.
Etisalat had also made plans to extend its network coverage to more than 99 per cent of the population of the United Arab Emirate with 4G LTE network by 2015. Mr. Saeed Abdulla Al Zarouni, senior vice president, Mobile Networks, Etisalat, said with this initiative, subscribers will experience maximum download speeds of up to 300Mbps when devices that support such speeds become available.
EE, the UK’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, has announced plans to double the speed offered by its LTE services, while it also aims to enhance capacity on its 4G network. Under its plans, EE has said that it would boost headline speeds to 80Mbps, with the average speeds for its 4G customers expected to increase to more than 20Mbps, and also double the amount of 1,800MHz spectrum from 10MHz to 20MHz.
On the other hand, Brazil’s Ministry of Communications has affirmed that it expects the standardisation of the 450MHz band for 4G LTE technology. The country wants to set out its position as a global reference point for LTE-450 technology, something it claims has no precedents within the telecom industry.
In view of this, Mr. Sailesh Iyer, managing director and chief executive officer, Visafone Communications, stated that NCC should think of allocating more spectrums for LTE service to enable CDMA service providers expand coverage, and to be more competitive like the big GSM operators.
“We will compete effectively with LTE deployment, as it would enhance our service, improve the quality of our network and this would lead to increase in our subscriber base, as the CDMA network can accommodate more voice traffic than the GSM infrastructure,” he stated.
Speaking on LTE deployment in the country, Dr. Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman NCC, said the Commission through its initiatives is preparing the telecom industry towards its launch.
He said the operators should be prepared for LTE with the acquisition of more spectrums from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the vacation of the 2.5GHz band by 2015.
Responding to the issue, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, corporate service executive, MTN Nigeria stated that the operators are waiting for NCC to allocate more spectrums for LTE deployment and this would commence in 2015, and that it may not necessarily be the 2.5GHz.
“It may be the 2.6GHz and other spectrum used for LTE. We are waiting f or the allocation by 2015,” he said.
This according to him would lead to the upgrade of network infrastructure for improvement in service delivery.
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