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Smartphone Shipments Rebound in Q1

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Phone companies shipped a total of 347.4 million smartphones globally in the first quarter of 2017, with shipments up 4.3%.

This is according to the International Data Corporation’s (IDC’s) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, which notes consumers continue to show demand for smartphones despite a slowing market, and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) flagship hype seems as strong as ever.

“The first quarter smartphone results further prove that the smartphone industry is not dead and that growth still exists,” says Ryan Reith, programme vice-president with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. “There is no question that 2016 was a pivotal year for the industry as growth dipped to low single digits for the first time. However, we believe the industry will show some rebound in 2017, and the strong first quarter results certainly support this argument.”

Big flagship announcements from Huawei with the P10 devices and Samsung with the Galaxy S8 devices show that innovation is still possible, says IDC. Samsung regained control as the leader in the worldwide smartphone market despite a flat first quarter. Huawei once again demonstrated its stable position in the premium market with the P and Mate Series, and a strong presence in the affordable sector with its Y Series and Honor brand.

This week, Apple reported a surprise fall in iPhone sales for its second quarter, indicating customers may have held back purchases in anticipation of the 10th-anniversary edition of the company’s most important product, expected later this year. Apple remained essentially flat, selling 50.76 million iPhones in its fiscal second quarter ended 1 April, down from 51.19 million a year earlier.

“Although we have seen an abundance of premium redesigned flagships that just entered the market, moving forward, we still expect most of the growth to come from more affordable models in a variety of markets,” says Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. “Despite all the popularity and media hype around premium devices, we continue to witness a shift in many companies’ portfolios geared towards affordable devices with premium-type styling compared to flagship models.”

Meanwhile, the latest research from Strategy Analytics found global smartphone shipments grew 6% annually to reach 353 million units in Q1 2017. Samsung recaptured first position with 23% global smartphone market share, while Apple dipped to 14% share. OPPO surged 78% annually and was once again the star performer, adds the report.

Linda Sui, director at Strategy Analytics, says: “Global smartphone shipments grew a steady 6% annually from 333.1 million units in Q1 2016 to 353.3 million in Q1 2017. The global smartphone market reached a bottom in the first quarter of 2016, when it fell 3%, but demand has picked back up and the growth outlook for this year is improving due to economic recovery and stronger consumer sentiment in major regions like China and Brazil.”

According to research firm Gartner, worldwide combined shipments of mobile phones, PCs, tablets and ultra-mobiles are projected to remain flat in 2017, with shipments for these devices projected to total 2.3 billion this year, the same as 2016 estimates.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Telecom

NCC to Make 32 ECCs Operational- Danbatta

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Umar Garuba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that his commission is working to make 32 Emergency Communication Centres (ECC) operational soon.

 

Danbatta, who stated this when a delegation from the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons(NAPTIP) visited the commission headquarters in Abuja, said that only five of the 37 Emergency Communication Centres are functioning across the country.

 

The NCC boss, said the ECC Project was intended to bridge the communication gap between the distressed and emergency response agencies in the country.

 

The NCC has undertaken the task of facilitating the building and equipping ECC in all 36 states of the federation and Abuja, according to the NCC boss.

 

“All telecom operators will be mandated to route emergency calls through the dedicated three-digit toll free number, 112, from each state to the emergency centre within that state. The operators, who are resident in the ECC will then process the distress call and contact the relevant Emergency Response Agency (e.g. Fire Service, Police, FRSC, Ambulance, etc.) whose primary duty is to handle the case”, he said.

 

He said many of such centres were been built and provided with equipment across the nation in all six geopolitical zones.

 

Earlier, Dame Okah-Donli, NAPTIP DG while soliciting for the NCC’s cooperation in stopping human trafficking in Nigeria said the telecom industry regulator should help in monitoring, through technology, those behind trafficking within the country and abroad.

 

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Telecom

NCC, National Assembly Hold Annual Retreat For The Legislature

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Inatimi Spiff, Head Legislative and Government Relations; Hafiz Shehu, Principal Manager Legislative and Government Relations; Kayode Kolawole, Clerk of Senate Committee on Communications; Senators Olujimi, Abaribe, Misau, Dada, Shittu and Adeleke

The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, in partnership with the Senate Committee on Communications recently organised an annual retreat for the legislature, in line with its concrete expression to its most renowned tradition of Stakeholder Collaboration, Consultation and Engagement.

 

The Retreat themed “Improving The Socio-Economic Development of The Nation Through Qualitative Telecommunication Services”, recorded a good participation by members of the upper house of Nigeria’s bicameral legislature.

 

Senator Ademola Adeleke, deputy chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications who represented the Committee’s chairman, Gilbert Nnaji, commended NCC for collaborating to host the event and for the culture of consultation, information-sharing and education for which NCC is renowned.

 

He stated that the practices have afforded him and his colleagues, as well as many telecom stakeholders to stay abreast of developments in the telecom sector.

 

He added that the event’s proceedings and presentations really spoke to the necessity of stakeholder collaboration in order to advance Nigeria’s social and economic prosperity.

 

Professor Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission who was represented by Inatimi Spiff, NCC’s Head of Legislative and Government Relations thanked the legislature for its sequence of collaborations and requested deeper and more concrete collaboration that will enable telecommunication to play its central role in the nation’s development processes.

 

The keynote paper was presented by Prof. Cleopas Angaye, a leading light of the Nigerian diasporic academic community and former Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA.

 

Angaye’s lucid narrative of the correlation of telecom and ICT with economic development was quite amplified by Dr. M.B. Lawal of the Centre for Communications Research, Bayero University Kano, who made a presentation on ‘Accelerating The Nigerian Economic Development Through Broadband Penetration’.

 

Yetunde Akinloye, NCC’s Head of Legal and Regulatory Services also presented a paper on ‘The Need For Data Protection Law In Nigeria’.

 

Her presentation was so greatly received by the participants in view of the rise in tempo and sophistication of electronic transaction fraud.

 

The beauty of Akinloye’s propositions was brought to the fore by Tola Bucknor Taiwo in her paper titled, Updating the Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003, made on behalf of her principal, Paul Usoro SAN.

 

The most striking value of Akinloye and Usoro’s papers was the latent agenda for legislative intervention to deal with attendant challenges of the ICT revolution.

 

Senator Abaribe equally made a very instructive intervention in a short presentation on the relationship between the federal legislature and the executive arms of government in which he demonstrated with notable examples the drawing of fault lines between the two branches of government.

 

Abaribe concluded his intervention with a call for greater understanding of the role of the legislature in a democracy, particularly the oversight functions of the National Assembly.

 

Accordingly, he emphasized the imperative of collaboration between the two arms of government to deepen democratic practices, so democracy can work for the advancement of Nigeria’s political, social and economic development.

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Poor Engineering Contributory To Poor QoS- Adeyeye

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Aderemi Adeyeye is the president/chairman, Enext Wireless, Inc. Aderemi worked for Alcatel-Lucent for 20 years in various areas, starting with training service provider engineers in wireless network deployment. He has been engaged in LTE work since 2008. He participated in the first LTE trial by Alcatel-Lucent in North America.(2008 – 2010) and was the Lead RF Alcatel-Lucent RF engineer in support of the first LTE deployment by Verizon Wireless in the Washington-Baltimore market in the United States (2010) and Alcatel-Lucent Subject Matter Expert in support of  AT&T LTE deployment in the New York City / New Jersey market, which is one of the most challenging markets for RF deployment.

He has over 40 years  experience in telecommunications, including a design of  financial data transmission network using the vertical blanking interval of the North American Television standard (NTSC)  for which he shares a patent with two others. He also performed link layer telecommunication work in support of NASA contract at its Goddard Space Flight Center facilities in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. Aderemi Adeyeye is presently the Chairman of Enextgen Wireless Ltd.

Mr Adeyeye has Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Bsc Math, from the College Park Campus of the University of Maryland. He spoke to peter oluka on ways to address telecoms quality of service (QoS) related issues in Nigeria and other sundry issues.

 

What is Enextgen Wireless’ Focus?

We have two primary focal points. First, to provide quality LTE network deployment to the public in Nigeria; to help the public receive value for their money, in terms of quality of (network) service. The second objective is to work with the service providers, on where we find issues on their networks; we collect data from their networks to form a report which we publish for public awareness on the quality of service provided to them. On the same data, we assist service providers identify issues on their RF (radio frequency) and provide technical assistance in resolving those issues.

The intention is actually for Nigerians to get value for what they are subscribing to, in terms of broadband connection, especially in the LTE which is the new deployment standard.

Why Poor Quality of Service Persists

There could be many reasons for drop calls or poor quality of service generally. But, the most important requirement to have consistent service is to make sure the radio frequency part is properly deployed; that is, ensuring the signals go in the direction they are designed for, smooth sign off from one cell to the other. FromEnextgen Wireless’ experience there are some levels of deficiency in the deployment of networks by some operators. It appears, deployment in Nigeria is made in such manner that as soon as the service providers finishes building the cell site, they turn it on- making network available to the public.

That is not normally done in other jurisdictions; before you deploy you are supposed to have cluster of sites, collect data using a third party or your network optimization devices, just to be sure that the radio frequency is performing as expected. But that isn’t the experience in Nigeria. Some service providers are better than others. However, it seems a routine for the site to get turned commercial almost as soon as the equipment is installed.

How Long Has Enextgen Wireless Been In The Market And Achievements So Far?

For almost two years, we have operated in this market. Our purpose has always been to help with the LTE deployment, which is the new broadband/communications standard. When we started, it was only Smile Communications that had LTE deployment and it operated with a small spectrum. Though, with a nationwide licence, they covered only a handful of key cities. Then, NTel acquired the resources of formal NITEL. While others typicallyhad the underlining networks- 2G and 3G on top of which they deployed LTE, NTel started out without an underlying network, even though they purchased the assets of the defunct NITEL. They couldn’t capitalise on Nitelassets which were left unattended for years. So, we have been there to assist these companies to avoid some of the pitfalls others have encountered.

How Can Issues Around Poor Quality of (Network) Service Be Addressed?

Basically, both the regulator and the operators need to pay attention to the level of engineering in the deployment of the services. It is like in haulage, you need a good road network before you can start troubling yourself about optimizing the quantity of  goodstaken from one area to others.

Jammers and the poor quality of devices should not be that much a concern in LTE networks. The NCC can continue to use sanctions and insistence on using UEs that are certified as meeting 3GPP specifications. Any unauthorized booster issues can be addressed through network monitoring and sanctions.

If cells are built and turned on for commercial subscription without proper optimization, the network will have poor QoS. As such, regulations mandating a minimum level of performance optimization before commercial deployment might help.

Importance of R&D

Yes, research and development (R&D) is somewhat a complex situation because to have a reliable R&D the government has to pay attention to education. That will also spur individual enterprises to do much in that regard. There is also need to pay attention to the engineering studies in our academic institutions; giving the students access to measurement equipment, various network infrastructures and so on. For us as a Company engage in analyses on (network) performance quality. We can analyse as the low in level as the resource grade which is the output element that carries the data for each resource LTE.

We can analyse the spectrum miles: how they deviate from the standard of deployment or otherwise. So, we can do very deep analyses on over-the-air (OTA) signals that providers broadcast. But we are not service providers; all we have access is the over-the-air. We have the resources to work with service providers, especially the core networks, where they are interested in working with us to improve end-to-end performance of their network.

In addition to the OTA RF, we have the resources to help them look at the performance from the User Equipment (UE), all the way from calling to the terminating point. As far as the product is concerned, we use the standard UEs for mobile or smartphone; ones which have been utilised in network deployment in the developed markets. Most times we focus on Samsung products, because the chips allow you to deeper investigation. The advantage in our case is that we produce unquestionable reference to determine the quality of deployment.

Enextgen Wireless’ Observations With regards to QoS in Nigeria

Our observation is that the quality of deployment in Nigeria is very poor. How bad? It varies from a provider to the other. Nevertheless, there is a specific service provider that seems very aggressive in providing quality LTE deployment and akin to deploy services nationwide. Meanwhile, this service provider, in some areas, has some major issues such as connection failure and drops. Overall, their network is very good. If you move from there you quickly find some other smaller service provider whose deployment is so bad; no where in the world, except in this clime would a service provider be allowed to deploy that kind of network to the public. The quality is so bad.

Mitigating Rural-Urban Migration Through Quality 4G LTE Deployment

You are on point. However, the service providers should first show interest. Their permanent interest should go beyond economic. That is where the government comes in, probably, through the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF). It is very important to provide additional help to the service providers to cover areas where the profitability might be marginal to non-existent.

On the other hand, the service providers need to partner with smaller companies with special talents to distribute networks beyond the big towers. Such sites are coming up in Kenya where smaller companies are deploying solar-powered solutions to provide coverage in rural areas.

No small company can provide network in huge human density areas without the big network operator providing the backbone. Government needs to encourage such partnerships and innovative service deployment through USPF subsidies.

InfraCo Model

Actually, it is going to help the system a lot. Those are the kinds of solution-provisioning that government should be paying close attention to. It is not just setting up the structure or management; you need to have people with the required skills, dedicated to this work. And you can’t really blame the NCC, but the situation where operators are ‘dumping’ bad networks here does not show the market in good light. NCC has received a lot of accolades for its regulatory exploits in the market, but service providers getting away with the deployment of poor LTE services should not be condoned in anyway; the operators should engage people with the required skills to deploy the right solutions.

How Quality Are The Equipment (Hardware) Used In Deploying The Networks?

I think in Nigeria, the service providers tend to use the same vendors. So, the quality can’t be the issue as such. Even in the United States, no service provider will depend on a vendor to provide the level of quality they need. They have sophisticated engineers and people who have vested interests in making sure they are getting from the vendors the quality they require. We should encourage such here (in Nigeria).

You can’t say because you have given the contract to Vendor X and because it develops good quality equipment in the United State, therefore, you will get such quality here. It doesn’t follow. Somebody has to monitor the activities of these people. Like any engineering, you do the design yourself, identity the equipment you want to use for deployment, then implement. You cannot just leave every part of the process to a vendor just because they flashed certain certifications before you.

Remember, the vendor is here to make money. Even though they parade high quality products, when they realise that the local people are not interested in challenging them to implement the right solutions, they are likely to pull wool over your eyes. So, as we assess the equipment, we have to make sure the resources (human) are handy to ensure the right processes are followed.

What Has Enextgen Wireless Been Doing Lately and Your Future Plans

Since we started, we have been working on a service we called National Independent Wireless Broadband Quality Reporting (NIWBQR). Based on the data we collated, we prepared the report and share, freely, to the service providers. The report gives them a sense of how their network is performing.

Also, we have a very detailed engineering log we can use to help them resolve the issues, if they are interested. Most of the time, they are not interested. But, we now have an exception and that is the same company I said is visibly trying to expand their network in a quality manner. Others would give excuses like ‘NCC monitors us’ ‘this is not from NCC’. In other words, they are saying there is no incentive on their part to serve the public other than meeting the requirement of somebody supervising them.

To me, any company that serves the public, typically, their interest lies on making sure the consumer is happy. In Nigeria, it is the contrary. So, even with the availability of the report they would find one excuse or the other. Honestly, most of the networks being deployed wouldnot be acceptable in many places; (I will say of an environment I am familiar with) in the United States.

A service provider would build the network and test same for months- collecting data to conduct performance analyses, before they ever launch for public consumption. In Nigeria, when you confront these operators they usually take it as ‘Nigerian thing’.

We have other plans of using small cells to provide broadband services to enterprises. We discovered, most time, you may have good coverage outside of your enterprise building, but indoors it’s a different case. So, using facilities of the service providers we can boost the in-house coverage.

On the other hand, most small companies can’t afford the cost of fibre optic connections, while others don’t really need such high speed that fibre provides which shows they will require to embrace the LTE if somebody will give them the services.

Key Observations of Enextgen’s NIWBQR

There are basic things the operators should do which, in my view, do not require so much innovations rather basic engineering. If you deploy a network, the cell sites have to talk each other. When someone wants to move or transfer data from one network to the other, your network has to be aware of such movement by allowing connection to the nearest cell site.

Beyond that, you start talking of innovations. If you have wireless (engineering) labs in our schools the academics can stimulate a lot of these changes required in the sector. It will enable the development of intuitive solutions and save the operators from paying in foreign currencies to obtain the solutions abroad.

We have some of the brightest people in the country, but they need to have access to the equipment- the means of measuring performance, doing designs, etc. That will be the biggest innovations, because nothing is so unique with places like the United State, except their approach to engineering is more practical. Even as a small company we have the tools such as spectrum analyser, vector network analyser; we have means or characterising the performance of the networks in terms of the RF signal quality.

We are working on the means of creating some sensors that could be used in the farm; simply call it Internet of Things (IoT). We are experimenting on that now.  For the future, that is the area we would want to focus on.

Likewise, the buzz is on 5G, though it will not become commercial till 2020, but most service providers in the US are on 5G trial mood. The technology will enable a lot of things like Internet of Things (IoT)- communicating through packets of data. We are leveraging our small lab to investigate things along IoT. Our aim is to build solutions to assist the agricultural sector. That is our long term goal. Presently, our resources are geared toward helping the service providers ensure quality delivery.

NIWBQR Report

The latest version of the report covers some areas where LTE has been deployed like Victoria Island and the mainland covering Ikeja and parts of Yaba, all in Lagos State. Then, BeninCity- though Benin doesn’t have LTE coverage across the city, however, as we carry out the test, areas where LTE isn’t available, we try to collect data on the UMTS or 2G or whatever they have. While we have capacity to analyse 2G and 3G, our primary focus is usually 4G LTE. Next week we will be going to Abuja.

Getting Across To NCC

Actually, for almost two years, we have been sending copies of our reports to the NCC. Lately, they have started responding to our correspondences. We really look forward to working with them to achieve this singular objective- contributing something meaningful to the society based on our technical knowledge.

As the public gets value for their money, the service providers get even ahead of challenges of poor QoS. NCC has done well as a Commission, however, there is need to step up monitoring and evaluation of the networks, especially during deployments to ensure not only are standards followed, but the public are not short-changed. Enextgen Wireless will be very happy to work with them in this area.

I think it is cultural: Nigerians like to have organisations that function like the counterparts in the United State or any developed country, but we do shy away from key implementation strategies. It is not about the nomenclature, rather the strategy adopted and followed judiciously. It is disheartening to see that basic rules are not being adhered to by operators while deploying networks.

Spectrum, Broadband and Rural Connectivity, e.g. Smile Communications

In my view, a company like Smile Communications, by the nature of its structure, shouldn’t be expected to have a national focus at the present. Yes, they want to deploy services and make money in the process; I mean there is a very little money for them in the rural areas, so they focus on the cosmopolitan areas where they could make money. We started our work when only Smile had LTE for deployment in Nigeria.

You can see the quality of their network going down because the customer base has increased, but they are not investing in improving the quality. At the early stage Smile stood out in terms of Quality of Service (QoS). In Victoria Island, for instance, it stood out. Now, Glo, MTN and other service providers are now focused on LTE in VI, you can see the Smile’s quality nose-diving.

When you have limited spectrum and want to attract a lot of customers, you either have to improve on the engineering so that the spectrum could accommodate more customers or you have additional spectrum you could use to service a segment of the customer base. Smile only has 10 MHz bandwidth; even though it is a nationwide licence, the rural area will not provide them the kind of revenue they need to boost the network.

I think currently, they are focused on satisfying the current customers, because they seem not to be improving on the engineering of the 10MHz, because we could see it from our data. The way Smile could go to the rural areas is if government mandates them, which government probably wouldn’t dare it. Also, they could be given subsidy to achieve that purpose.

We also have Bitflux which has a bigger spectrum with 30 MHz bandwidth and its license is also nationwide, even though the frequency is high at 2.3 GHz. It is better Bitflux has not gone ahead to deploy in some key cities, because where they are presently they have done terribly with the network deployment. As a country, we wouldn’t want such things happening.

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