Preparing Nigeria for 4G/ LTE revolution
ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, in this report, examines efforts in the Nigerian telecommunications industry targeted at pushing the 4G/LTE
The Nigerian story of significant advancement in innovation and technology is one of steady progress that is beyond imagination even in the good old days. Not many would have predicted that we would someday watch HD movies, live matches, initiate transactions and even play high graphic video games on our mobile phones.
Yet, these features and many more are now readily available in convenience, supported by the Internet, it is therefore no surprise that the Nigerian Smartphone market is currently the largest and the most sophisticated in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
The progressive development of the smart phone Internet is impressive. When the 3G networks started rolling out, they quickly replaced the 2G system, a network protocol that allows you make phone calls, basic text messaging, and use small amounts of data over a protocol called MMS. With the introduction of 3G connectivity, a number of larger data formats became much more accessible, including standard HTML pages, videos, and music. However, because the speeds still needed improvement in terms of speed and mostly required pages and data specially formatted for these slower wireless connections, a craving developed for a more advanced system the 4G.
Creating 4G connectivity requires two components: a network that can support the necessary speeds, and a device that is able to connect to that network and download information at high and enough speed. It has been established that LTE is the fastest connection available for wireless networks. However, what’s more interesting, though, is what this means for the future Nigerian Lifestyle.
4G/LTE from GSMA perspective
According to a study by global telecoms body, the Global System for Mobile communications Association (GSMA) Intelligence, the number of 4G-LTE connections worldwide will pass one billion by next year.
GSMA said LTE users consume 1.5GB of data monthly on average – almost twice the average amount consumed by non-LTE users.
By next year, it is expected that LTE will account for about one in eight of the more than eight billion total mobile connections forecast by that point, up from 176 million LTE connections at the end of 2013.
Nearly 500 LTE networks are forecast to be in service across 128 countries, roughly double the number of live LTE networks.
GSMA’s Chief Strategy Officer, Dr. Hyunmi Yang, said the acceleration of 4G LTE continues to increase across the world. “Since the launch of the first commercial 4G-LTE networks in late 2009, we are seeing deployments accelerate across the globe,” Yang said.
GSMA calculated that about 20 per cent of the global population is within LTE network coverage range. As operators continue to expand LTE coverage over the next few years, it is forecast that LTE networks will be available to half of the world’s population by next year.
The United States (US.) accounts for almost half (46 per cent) of global LTE connections, while the U.S., South Korea and Japan combined account for 80 per cent.
Industry watchers have come to the realisation that the robust Internet that comes on the heels of 4G LTE will foster productivity across all sectors of the economy. Accordingly, they opined that the test run of 4G LTE from MTN would complement government’s national objective of achieving 30 per cent National Broadband penetration target by 2018.
They posited that efforts by MTN and other operators including Intercellular; Spectranet; nTel, that are have also launched 4G/LTE services will redefining telecommunications services in Nigeria.
Indeed, worthy of note are these company’s objective to ensure that Nigerians experience a boost in the quality of broadband Internet services translating to the much needed enhanced data speed and value to enhance personal and business productivity.
Chief Executive Officer, ntel, Kamar Abass, in an interaction with journalists recently, said that the successful test call by the firm, was a confirmation that the key network elements are now in place to support the full commercial launch of premium integrated voice, video, and data services over the 4G/LTE.
“The ntel network is built on the 900/1800 MHz which are the most efficient propagation frequencies for the deployment of 4G/LTE technology.”
Abass also said that creating 4G connectivity required two components: a network that can support the necessary speeds, and a device that is able to connect to that network and download information at high and enough speed.
He added, “It has been established that LTE is the fastest connection available for wireless networks. However, what is more interesting, though, is what this means for the future Nigerian lifestyle.”
From NCC’s perspective
To optimise the benefits of spectrum in the country, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the commission has encouraged the re-farming of various frequencies to improve their efficiency.
Danbatta explained that through this process, some service providers, which are hitherto providing services on the 1800 MHz spectrum band have been allowed to re-farm and deploy services on the 4G/LTE band.
“Through this, the commission has been able to revive some of the companies whose services have been hampered by the characteristics of the frequencies.
A robust value chain for SMEs
Studies such as the 2014 Value of Connectivity study done by Deloitte posture that access to Internet access could lift 130 million people out of extreme poverty.
Directly, access to the Internet means people have access to empowering information. And indirectly, benefits stem from the enhanced speed and timesavings for SMEs. Because of reduced transaction costs and productivity gains, SMEs are able to deliver more value. All these drive growth, which SMEs would need more human-resource to maintain. The top-level increase in Internet access delivers value that culminates in job creation.
SMEs are responsible for 40 per cent of industrial employment in Nigeria. With improved access, that number can begin to edge closer to the 70 per cent that is obtainable in advanced markets.
Value creation and robust access to the internet sets off a vicious circle of sorts: the more problem SMEs solve quickly, the more creative they get at solving the problems, the more market they are able to access, and the more talent they need to maintain their processes.
As e-commerce becomes faster
For instance, with the advent of MTN Y’ello Mobile banking platform with Diamond bank, MTN has shown the endless possibilities in creating products that help achieve a smarter lifestyle.
MTN claimed that its 4G LTE service will enable higher productivity in mobile banking experience on the network across all connected parties, stressing that transactions will not only be faster but more reliable.
Much like EE did in the UK back in 2010; the telecommunications firm said is pushing the envelope farthest in Nigeria. Keeping with the Rugby analogy, the firm will push the ball over the line with their impending 4G LTE launch.
The test run- launch begins in another week or so and when it does, MTN would be the first major operator to offer the service in Nigeria. MTN’s 4G LTE roll-out has been in the works for at least three years and as well been the topic of tech bar talks for just as long.
MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, said with the 2.6 GHz band, the company will roll out immediately to provide the full range of LTE services to Nigerians, empowering Nigeria with the latest mobile broadband technology.
The 4G LTE Component
The term 4G LTE is really two terms. 4G means the fourth generation of data technology for cellular networks ̶ following 3G. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is short for a technical process for high-speed data for phones and other mobile devices. Together, they make 4G LTE.
One of the reasons the MTN 4G LTE offering is exciting is how flexible it is said to be. From the much that the telecoms operators has said, there will be little to no extra barrier of entry to its 4G LTE services. MTN data bundles will run at the existing rates. Normally, service operators in developed markets ask 4G LTE subscribers to pay a premium. MTN has kept its old rates.
Speaking after winning the 2.6GHZ broadband licence, Moolman said, “We are very pleased with this development at this time, which is a further step in the right direction for Nigeria.
“Indeed, MTN is fully aligned and supports the NCC’s objective to deliver broadband services to present and future generations of subscribers, in line with the National Broadband Plan of 2013,” Moolman said.
He added that the license acquisition further demonstrates MTN’s abiding faith in the future of Nigeria and the resilience of the Nigerian economy. MTN continues to believe in Nigeria and we have expressed this belief in the level of our investment, which currently stands at approximately $15 billion and counting.
“Our subscribers, especially those in clustered areas such as the major cities, can expect distinct improvements in browsing speed, quality and experience, including fast access to high definition video streaming, as well as conferencing and calling, lag-free music streaming, and improved data uploads and downloads,” he said.
Experts agreed that the only possible sticking point is the need for subscribers to swap their existing SIM-cards for LTE-ready ones that MTN calls “U SIMS.” The telecoms operator said the first experience of its 4G LTE would be in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt cities. Interestingly, the company has invested N18 billion to acquire the 2.6GHz spectrum and has started the process of listing MTN Nigeria on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
Nigeria is advancing rapidly, with the rest of the world, into the IoT era where virtually everything will be connected to the Internet. It is only expected that robust data connection will power that shift. With intentional advancements like the MTN 4GLTE, it means Nigeria is deliberating creating and adapting to a smarter lifestyle.
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