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Addressing Key Dichotomy In Africa’s Telecom Market With Virtualized 2G

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By Christoph Fitih

Africa is taking a giant leap of ‘faith’ when it comes to mobile telecom. The region, where over 50% of the population still has no access to mobile phones, has suddenly seen a flurry of activities among telecom players to launch 5G services.

 

The service providers have started to conduct trials for the 5G technology, which enables many futuristic use cases, including remote surgery, autonomous driving, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

 

Recently, Vodacom — the African arm of Vodafone – announced the launch of Africa’s first commercial 5G network in Lesotho, a tiny landlocked country in southern Africa. The 5G rollout, though, is limited with the services being provided initially to only two corporate entities.

 

Vodacom has a temporary license for 5G testing in Africa, while MTN has tied up with Ericsson and ZTE for the launch of services in Africa. Though they have not made much headway beyond public demonstration, 5G seems to be the new area of competition among telecom operators in the continent.

Gaping Digital Divide

One piece of fact, though, should not get lost in the entire buzz around the launch of a commercial 5G services in Africa. And the point is that Africa continues to remain an under-penetrated telecom market, and the majority of its ‘connected’ population still uses the basic services.

 

This is true for Nigeria as well. The Nigerian telecom industry contributed 9.8% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016. At the end of 2017, the country boasted of 136.49 million mobile subscribers. It is also one of the fastest growing telecom markets in Africa. Even so, nearly 30% of the population is still to experience connectivity. The telecom industry has contributed immensely to Nigeria’s economy and has had huge impact on the lives of the country’s citizens. A case in point is the growing usage of mobile banks, which has made it easier for people to access banking services anytime and from anywhere. This is not different from the rest of Africa.

 

Look at the figures for yourself. Africa continues to be the region with the largest number of unconnected in the world. Globally 3.4 billion people are without internet access, and 830 million out of these live in Africa. Similarly, 660 million people in Africa out of 870 million globally, are without a mobile connection. Nearly 70% of the African population does not have access to mobile broadband.

 

Nigeria, like Africa, still remains largely a 2G market with over 50% mobile subscribers using 2G network. At the same time, the gradual shift towards better network technology is happening fast. According to GSMA’s recent report on Mobile Economy 2017: Sub-Saharan Africa, 3G will remain the dominant mobile broadband technology for the foreseeable future, but the 4G adoption is rising rapidly following increasing network rollout.

 

However, 5G making a meaningful contribution still remains a pie in the sky. The latest Ericsson Mobility Report shows that the Middle East and Africa would be one of the regions with the least — less than 5% of the continents entire population — subscriptions for 5G by 2023.

 

It is, therefore, not hard to see that the telecom companies are unsure whether they should invest in connecting the unconnected or start preparing the networks for 5G. This is not an easy decision considering the low ARPU and low adoption of the smartphone in the region. The market is not yet mature for 4G or 5G, but the service providers would want to secure their investments for future technologies as well.

 

The Virtualization Push

Virtualization can help the telecom sector tide over the dilemma – whether to concentrate on strengthening the basic infrastructure to address the digital divide or to focus on the roll-out of 5G.

 

Traditional telecom networks require several high-cost and often bulky equipment to deploy and operate. These types of equipment need large spaces to store, have a short life cycle and consume energy. Besides, hardware-based networks are difficult to upgrade. By shifting networks to virtual systems, telecom operators can overcome all these problems.

 

Telecom companies in Africa can, therefore, achieve multiple goals by shifting their 2G networks to virtualized networks.

 

Unlike the legacy 2G, the virtualized 2G is easy to deploy, maintain and upgrade to newer technologies. This means that the telcos will be able to address the current demands of their subscribers and can easily and quickly move to any new technology, be it 3G, 4G or 5G. Essentially it leads of network simplification by virtualizing different technology network functionalities on one platform. Since the platform is software-based, the upgradation itself is easy and doesn’t even require a visit from site engineer.

The installation and maintenance of Virtualized 2G is automated, which makes it easy to deploy and also brings down the capital and operational expenditure for the service providers. It makes the network agile, flexible and easy to scale. The service providers will be able to expand quickly and also launch newer services faster. Virtualized 2G reduced the expenditure at every stage, from deployment, maintenance, and upgradation. With Virtualized 2G the network is future ready even as you cost effectively meet the current requirements of your subscribers.

 

Lower cost, easy deployment, and easy upgradation allow operators to keep building 2G low-cost capacities in areas untouched by telecom network, while at the same time continuing to allocate resources and time in expanding their 4G LTE and 5G networks.

 

Reliable and affordable broadband is crucial for the growth of the region’s economy. It leads to a more inclusive society, enhanced collaboration and opens up a plethora of global opportunities for the local businesses. Besides it encourages entrepreneurship and leads to generation of more and newer jobs. Nigerian economy stands to gain enormously if the service providers leverage virtualized 2G to push for expansion of connectivity in all regions and segment of the country.

 

Christoph Fitih is Director Sales – Africa, Parallel Wireless

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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Omobola Seeks for Digital Revolution and End to Arbitrary Charges

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Dr. Omobola Johnson, Former, Minister of Communications Technology has urged the Federal Government to put in place robust digital revolution framework to sustain the gains of the telecom revolution for Nigeria to remain relevant in the now emerging digital world.

 

The Former Minister believes that failure to curb lingering cases of multiple-taxation, vandalism of telecom infrastructure by agencies of (mostly States) Government, may lead the country becoming digitally irrelevant.

 

Dr. Johnson who delivered the keynote address and participated in a panel at the maiden edition of Nigerian Telecom Leadership Summit #NTLS, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, decried the draconian and extant laws being used by state governors and other agencies of government to spin revenue from telecom operators.

 

 

She aligned with the industry operators that full implementation of Executive Order in this regard will reverse the trend.

 

According to her, an Executive Order will compel the Nigerian Communications Commission to be more forceful in terms of regulation, adding that any negative impact on the telecom infrastructure will, ultimately impact on the economy.

 

“The Federal Government should give Executive Order to tackle out multiple-taxation in the country’s telecom industry. It is a matter of talking to the Governors,” she noted.

 

Omobola, who spoke on the summit theme: ‘Repositioning the Nigerian Telecom Industry for the Future; Prospects and Challenges’, argued that the idea of engaging the State Governors Forum to step down on multiple-taxation has not worked in the past and may not likely work anytime soon.

 

“For me, the NCC must not be afraid to innovate or experiment. The regulator must take some risks to innovate. They are in a unique position to give action to state Governors not to temper with telecom infrastructure, as it enables other sectors of the Nigerian economy,” she added.

 

Nodding in agreement, the Chairman of the Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, said engagement with the Governors has been ongoing for years and it has not worked, emphasizing that the regulator needs to be more strategic to do something different.

 

He said the multiple taxation and arbitrary closure of telecom sites has always affected the quality of service, which will turn impact on other sector.

 

“ATM will not work if you close telecom sites. Security agencies will not be able to track criminals if the sites are closed. The telecom​​ sector service other sector of the Nigerian economy, so any negative impact on telecom infrastructure is a negative impact on the entire nation,” he argued.

 

 

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Nigeria’s mobile phone penetration hits 87 percent

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L-R: Stanislaus Martins, Head, Growth and Partnerships, Jumia Nigeria, Omolola Onasanya, Head, Vendor Operations and Experience, Jumia Nigeria and Olukayode Kolawole, Head, PR and Communications, Jumia Nigeria, at the launch of the 2019 Nigeria mobile report held on Friday in Lagos.
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Statistics released on Friday by Jumia shows that mobile phone penetration in Nigeria grew from 162 million subscribers in 2017 to over 172 million mobile subscribers in 2018, accounting to a penetration rate of 87 percent of the population, representing a 6.4 percent growth increase

 

The report also shows that over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56% of the population, resulting to an increase of 14.32 percent year-on-year from 2017.

 

The growth according to the report is being fuelled by the availability of lower points phones, which paved way for more Nigerians to own a device.

 

Omolola Onasanya, Head, Vendor Operations and Experience, Jumia Nigeria, speaking at the launch of the 2019 Nigeria Mobile Report, in Lagos, stated that over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56 percent of the population, which she attributed to the availability of lower price point phones.

 

According to her, “In Nigeria, there were over 172 million mobile subscribers, accounting to a penetration rate of 87 percent of the population.

 

“This figure represented a 6.4 percent growth increase, compared to 162 million subscribers in 2017.

 

“Over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56 percent of the population.

 

“This accounted for an increase of 14.32 percent year-on-year from 2017. The availability of lower price point phones still remains the major driver of smartphone penetration.

 

At the end of 2018, there were over 36 million smartphone users, representing a penetration of 18.37 percent.”

 

Onasanya noted that the number of active social media users rose from 17 million in 2017 to 24 million at the end of 2018, which represents a 12 percent penetration of the country’s population.

 

Stanislaus Martins, Head, Growth and Partnerships, Jumia Nigeria, giving an overview of the Country’s Economy Growth stated that the mobile telecommunications sub-sector contributed 7.4 percent to the country’s total GDP in 2018, compared to 5.5 percent in 2017, while Services sub-sector of the ICT sector contributed 77 percent out of the 7.4 percent contribution to the country’s GDP in 2018.

 

He noted that Nigeria’s GDP growth witnessed an upward swingfrom 0.8 percent in 2017 to 1.9 percent at the end of 2018, which fell below the projected 2.3 percent, majorly due to variations in prices of crude oil and its output.

 

He attributed the economic growth witnessed in 2018 to non-oil sectors such as Agriculture, Information and Communications Technology, Manufacturing, and Transport Storage.

 

“Nigeria’s GDP growth leapfrogged from 0.8 percent in 2017 to 1.9 percent at the end of 2018.

 

“However, the growth, although significant, was below the projected 2.3 percent, majorly due to variations in prices of crude oil and its output.

 

The economic growth, for the first time, was hinged on non-oil sectors such as Agriculture, Information and Communications Technology, Manufacturing, and Transport Storage.

 

“It is worth mentioning that the non-oil sector grew by 2 percent, the highest growth rate recorded since the economic recession in 2016.

 

“The Information and Communications Technology sector, which subsumed the digital economy, grew from its negative growth of 1 percent in 2017 to become the second fastest growing sector with a growth rate of 9.7 percent in 2018”, he added.

 

Earlier, Olukayode Kolawole, Head, PR and Communications, Jumia Nigeria, said that  about 44 percent of mobile subscribers in Nigeria are using 3G technology and 4 percent are using 4G technology as against over 18 percent 4G penetration in South Africa and 16 percent in Angola.

 

Kolawole revealed that projections have shown that Nigeria’s mobile broadband penetration will rise to 55 percent of the population by 2025, with 70 percent having 3G connectivity and 17 percent having access to 4G networks.

 

He said, “It is predicted that Nigeria will contribute 4% of the estimated 700 million new global mobile subscribers, making it the only country in Africa marked with a significant contribution to increasing mobile penetration in the world.

 

“By this quota, it is expected that 28 million new mobile subscribers will emerge from Nigeria between 2019 and 2025, that is, an average of 7 million new mobile subscribers annually, if the country is to meet its quota.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glo Gains 78% of New Data Subscription in GSM Sector in March – NCC Report

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Nigeria’s second largest telecommunications operator, Globacom, garnered 78 percent of new data subscriptions in the month of March, 2019. The operator gained nearly one million new subscribers in the month.

This was disclosed in the latest statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the month of March 2019. According to the statistics, Globacom gained 950,115 new internet users, taking its total internet subscriptions to 28,436,386 from 27,486,271 recorded in February, 2019.

Two other operators, MTN and Airtel, also featured marginally on the gainers’ list in March. Airtel added 351,657 new internet users, while MTN added 13,552 subscribers. 9mobile, on its part, lost 166,542 users in the month under review.

Overall internet users in Nigeria increased to 115,938,225 in March from 114,725,357 recorded in February, according to the NCC statistics. This indicates an increase of 1,212,868 new subscribers in one month.

Globacom has been on ascendancy in terms of acquisition of new internet subscribers in the last one year ostensibly due to the consistent improvement in the operator’s data services.

The company has the widest 4G LTE coverage in the country, and the technology ensures more reliable and faster internet usage experience. Globacom also has the most attractive data plans in the market, with packages that appeal to both high and low data users.

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