Mobile Network Modernization in Africa

Africa Mobile Penetration Rates

Total African Mobile Connections and Penetration Rate (million, percentage penetration). Source GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011

Throughout Africa a wind of change is blowing as mobile network operators ponder, and in many cases implement, a wave of network modernization. The trigger for this is multi-faceted. Booming subscriber growth, introduction of new data services and arrival of new undersea fiber optic cable links are combining to strain existing network infrastructure to the breaking point.

Booming Mobile Subscriber Growth
According to the GSMA , as of September 2011 Africa has overtaken Latin America with 620m mobile connections, making it the second largest mobile market in the world after Asia-Pacific. The number of connections has more than doubled over the past four years, with growth expected to continue at the fastest rate of all global regions over the next four years.

First Voice, Now Increasingly Data
Most networks across Africa were built many years ago to serve the initial rollout of 2G/GSM mobile networks that were designed to provide basic voice services. Many operators have since introduced data services using EDGE, 3G WCDMA, and, more recently 3G HSPA, putting an incredible strain on these networks. These data services can be vital for the operator, as they are often supporting premium, prepaid subscribers or new fixed line data services being offered for small and medium-size businesses.

One example of network modernization in action is in East Africa, where a mobile network operator saw subscriber numbers increase 9 percent in 2011, with 3G customers increasing more than 85 percent. This operator was also offering fixed data services to private and corporate customers through the deployment of WiMAX base stations collocated with the existing mobile sites. All this new data traffic was growing exponentially and fast outstripping the legacy backhaul network capacity. The operator also had to ensure that existing voice traffic was protected.

Priorities Driving Network Upgrades
Today, several priorities are driving network operators to upgrade their networks including the need for:

  • Increased capacity
  • More efficient use of backhaul spectrum resources
  • Support for increasing volume of Ethernet/IP-based traffic
  • Network Simplification
  • Reduction in Capital and Operational Expenses

These five priorities are closely interrelated. For more details, download the complete article.

Stuart D. Little
Director Corporate Marketing
Aviat Networks

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Mobile World Congress Day 3: Connected Life Becomes Reality

Another update here from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This time we’d like to discuss a little about the trend toward using the next generation of mobile technology—LTE or Long Term Evolution—to support a growing number of connected devices across multiple different industries—not just the traditional mobile operator sector.

Across from our pavilion was the Connected Life booth that showcased how in the future, everyone and everything will benefit from a wireless connection. With more than 6 billion connections globally—and this is expected to grow to 24 billion in 2020—mobile is redefining and transforming the way we communicate and access information—cars, buildings, medical monitors, TVs, game consoles, consumer electronics and household appliances—even exercise equipment. It is all about seamless and intelligent connectivity between people, processes and products to be delivered when and wherever they are required.

24 billion mobile connections from devices like exercise equipment by 2020

By 2020, estimates place total worldwide wireless connections at around 24 billion counting devices such as exercise equipment.

The huge market opportunity offered by the connected life creates benefits for the mobile industry by enabling mobile operators to form partnerships with companies from other sectors to deliver compelling new services to consumers and businesses. The executive chairman of Ford Motor Company noted this in his Mobile World Congress keynote address. Not only does this create more opportunity for the entire industry supporting telecoms, but it will open up opportunities to increase efficiency and introduce smarter ways of working.

The GSMA estimates that the market for connected devices will be worth $4.5 trillion by 2020. By its estimates, the top 10 connected devices will account for 60 percent of the connected devices market by 2020.

Top Ten Connected Applications in 2020:

  • Connected Car – $600 billion
  • Clinical Remote Monitoring – $350 billion
  • Assisted Living – $270 billion
  • Home and Building Security – $250 billion
  • Pay as you Drive Car Insurance – $245 billion
  • New Business Models for Car Usage – $225 billion
  • Smart Meters – $105 billion
  • Traffic Management – $100 billion
  • Electric Vehicle Charging – $75 billion
  • Building Automation – $40 billion

Stay tuned to developments in this space as it certainly represents an interesting and incremental market opportunity for mobile operators and those vendors supporting them.

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Mobile World Congress 2012 Day 2

Aviat Networks meets customers at Mobile World Congress 2012

Aviat Networks personnel were busy on Day 2 of Mobile World Congress 2012 meeting customers, analysts and journalists.

So we are halfway done, and the crowds surged today. The GSMA should be pretty pleased with the attendance, with most halls being packed full. We had another busy day in our pavilion, meeting with customers, press, media and analysts, bringing them up to speed with our success in providing proven backhaul solutions for LTE networks around the world.

There has been lots of discussion at the show about small cells and possible backhaul solutions but not much in the way of visible solutions. On the backhaul side 60 GHz point-to-point seems to be the flavor of the month, with NEC launching its new solution, among others. Not long ago E-Band (70-90 GHz) was the favorite, but concerns about OPEX appear to be driving vendors to the lower frequency band, which is license-free, as opposed to the “lightly licensed” E-Band. Whether this actually will make any meaningful difference in the overall cost of providing backhaul for small cells may depend on a lot of factors. What is certain is that it is too early to tell, as many agree that deployment of small cells will still be one to two years away yet, so the best backhaul solutions may still be on the drawing board. All we know is that no single technology will be a clear winner, and that all solutions will need to satisfy the requirements of very low cost, sufficient capacity, size and ease of deployment.

On a similar and related front, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent among others were promoting their new integrated/Carrier Wi-Fi solutions, fresh off the recent news of Ericsson’s acquisition of BelAir Networks. Carrier Wi-Fi promises to converge mobile and Wi-Fi technologies to provide a seamless broadband experience for customers and improve network coverage and capacity as an alternative to deploying new cell sites.

Finally, for those willing to stay late and tolerate the queue into the conference auditorium, Google’s Eric Schmidt gave another thought-provoking and potentially controversial keynote about Google’s vision for the mobile Internet. You should be able to catch a replay on the GSMA’s Mobile World Live website sometime soon.

See you on Day 3!

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