Future stage is set for Africa’s 4G as Telcos unveil 4G rollout plans

November 11, 2013

African Telecom operators are switching on 4G LTE services in major cities by launching the next-generation mobile network. As I have written before, Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the fourth generation (4G) telecommunications standard and is among the two 4G standards in the world with the other one being WiMAX. With LTE technology, mobile network operators in Africa that are able to manage their data within their networks securely in light of the increased demand will be most successful and most profitable in the long term in this ever changing telecom industry. As for the users’ they should expect fundamental changes to the mobility ecosystem and new capabilities beyond traditional voice and data services. Higher-bandwidth and lower-latency will significantly improve the user experience for bandwidth-hungry content and applications. LTE’s all-IP architecture, spectral efficiency, and bandwidth flexibility promise to improve overall network economics. Carriers looking to get into LTE must anticipate the types of services, applications, and content that will be demanded by end users in a 4G environment, and incorporate the required functionality into their equipment for service enablement.

LTE is not just any other technology. It will ensure service providers rethink and re-strategize their current deployment strategies in order to provide the highest data speed throughout their networks. One way to accomplish this is to move to a nodal infrastructure throughout the network. This will drive and increases the number of sites and introduces higher-density electronics, which helps decrease the power requirements at each site. Such changes will increase network reliability while drastically reducing amount of DC power required per site as well as overall cooling requirements, site footprint most notably stress on the infrastructure. Since nodal architectures do reduce the power requirements at each site, alternative and hybrid energy sources not only become realistic, they can provide significant cost savings. In Africa and Middle East, very few operators have 4G networks unlike in the western world. As of 2012, the household broadband penetration in Africa was only 5.3% although African governments have announced that their broadband initiative is to reach 50% penetration by 2018 which is commendable in a continent which lag behind in uptake of technologies despite being the next frontier of wealth seekers. Research has shown that hybrid site architectures can reduce grid energy use by about 25%-30% per site.

LTE also brings with it dramatic increases in network data-carrying capability, meaning more data is processed back to the wired network and a more robust network backhaul is needed. In the past, wireless networks relied heavily on T1 backhaul at each wireless site, but these copper-based systems are limited and at times unreliable. An ethernet-based fibre or high-speed microwave backhaul system allows the wireless provider to maintain the link back to the wired network, increasing reliability and reducing infrastructure costs. In the ultra-competitive wireless marketplace, the days of high prices for high technology are fading in the face of insatiable consumer demand. Investing in LTE and WiMAX is going to push African countries into the spotlight and in turn create millions of jobs. The 4G is built for broadband and has a very wide pipeline to transmit data and that has led most African governments planning to
allocate about 20MHz of the 2.6GHz spectrum at their disposal which are currently being used by military in many African countries across to different telecom service providers who operate both 3G and 4G operators. Spectrum allocation is expected to lubricate LTE deployment in African continent.

There is no doubt operators like Vodacom in Tanzania and South Africa, Safaricom in Kenya, MTN in Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa to mention but a few are going to use the spectrum to operate a dual 4G WiMAX and LTE networks and users in the continent will have the best of both 4G spectrums. The results are enormous because data and voice services will be delivered to our subscribers at incredibly fast speeds.

In simple terms, African Internet consumers will be able to download a 1GB file in just under ten seconds and that is the reason why LTE plans by network operators has got everyone excited. There is no doubt Africa need LTE badly because it’s dependency on mobile broadband is increasing every day with more and more people buying smart phones and Tablet that require Internet connection and data downloads. Also the proliferation of rich media applications like video streaming, online gaming and online social networking is driving the consumers’ desire for greater bandwidth and faster speed. High definition, larger displays and WiFi TV are also driving consumer demand. Consumers want high-speed data both at home and when they are mobile. According to recent statistics, come 2014 3G subscribers worldwide will grow to more than 2.8 billion and Africa will account to 35% of that growth. Current networks in the continent cannot cope with this perpetual data tide. Users will need more speed and need it now. Me think that with LTE everyone will enjoy high-speed broadband in Africa just like other places in the world.

Contador Harrison