Almost all the Internet Services Providers (ISP) and Telcos now offer 4G LTE services. But what does it mean and how does it affect subscribers and the domestic economy?
In the past weeks Nigeria has witnessed a rush by Internet Services Providers (ISP) and telco operators to roll-out 4G LTE Internet Wireless Broadband Network in a bid to boost internet services on the various platforms and drive market share. These efforts followed the mandate from the newly released broadband policy by the Federal Government that service providers operating in the country should migrate to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, Internet Services Provider (ISP).
The Long Term Evolution (LTE) also known as the 4G LTE is a standard set for high-speed wireless communication for smartphones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks and wireless hotspots terminals. 4G LTE is more than 10 times faster than 3G; 4G LTE averages up to 1,000Megabits per second (Mbps) while actual use may be in the region of 100 Mbps.
Spectranet was actually the first off the bloc when it rolled out in August 2016. Announcing the launch of its 4G LTE in Lagos, its Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Atul Ojha, said: “Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) technology will provide higher bandwidth delivery and allows customers to stream the movies, music, pictures, and much more, at faster speed than the WIMAX technology, which it hitherto operates.”
He said the company has commenced the migration of its customers from WIMAX technology platform to 4G LTE platform, to enable its customers enjoy the huge benefits of the new technology, which he said, was being widely adopted globally. Migration from WIMAX technology to LTE, he said, would be done on cluster bases.
Other internet service providers in Nigeria like Smile, iPNX have since joined the 4G LTE train to give their subscribers an improved internet experience.
On the telco side, the race for 4G LTE was clearly a continuation of the sustained data war between the GSM outfits which has seen data price tumbled in a most remarkable fashion. MTN started the race last year with the acquisition of Visafone but it commenced commercial testing in the last three months.
Soon after Glo unraveled a spectacular 4G LTE launch in early October. Though the self-styled grandmaster of data actually announced a nationwide wide launch, its 4G LTE service only covers a few towns in Lagos.
But a few days after Glo’s launch, Etisalat unveiled its own package and offered an easier migration for consumers. Announcing the launch, the Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, said that the new service demonstrates the company’s commitment in delivering superior customer experience to its subscribers.
He said: “The 4G LTE technology offers our customers increased access to high speed data and quality voice services real time. With the new technology, our customers will enjoy efficient broadband internet and uninterrupted connectivity to clearer voice calls, increased access to online streaming and ultra-high definition videos.”
Willsher noted that unlike other GSM networks, Etisalat customers do not need to go through the rigorous process of executing a SIM swap before the 4G LTE since all Etisalat SIMs are already LTE enabled.
He further explained that Etisalat’s 4G LTE network supports the widest range of Long Term Evolution devices, thus subscribers can enjoy the benefits of LTE instantly.
Airtel Nigeria seems to be the only one left out of the scramble for half slices of 4G LTE cakes by Nigerian telcos. Yet there are indication that it could launch soon, according to sources close to the company, Airtel was said to have tested the 4G LTE services in April this year.
Most Asked Questions about 4G LTE
Do I need a new SIM card to access 4G LTE in Nigeria?
This has been the most recurrent question since the trend started for telcos. Ordinarily, a SIM card that supported 3G will effectively support 4G LTE in Nigeria. But sometimes, the telecommunication providers feel a need to refresh; therefore, new SIM cards are re-issued to customers for 4G LTE. Some operators like Glo has even asked subscribers to get a new modem if they must join the 4G LTE network. Etisalat is rolling out on existing SIM cards and MTN Nigeria will issue new SIM cards to their subscribers.
Most newer smartphones in the market are LTE compliant. Though they are usually not on the cheap price spectrum but the Tecno Boom J8, Tecno Camon C8, Tecno Camon C7, Lenovo Vibe P1, Infinix Note 2 are some of the smartphones below ₦50,000 that are 4G LTE compliant.
LTE generally translates to faster internet speed. This implies that the usual data consumption rate is nearly doubled.
LTE ready devices have multiple parallel transmissions to receive signals unlike the older generations and as LTE services is not common, the device reaches further in the search for a signal. All these take a direct toll on the battery causing 20 percent – 35 percent more power consumption than 3G.
Global perspective of the technology
According to the GSM Association, the body, which represents the interest of over 800 mobile operators across the globe, the 4GLTE combination provides high levels of spectral efficiency and network performance, coupled with high network capacity and low latency. LTE will support spectrum channel bandwidths from 1.4MHz to 20MHz and can operate in both paired spectrum (in Feature Driven Development (FDD) mode) and unpaired spectrum (in Test Driven Development (TDD) mode).”
A study by GSMA Intelligence projected the number of 4G-LTE connections worldwide would increase by one billion by next year. The body said LTE users consume 1.5GB of data monthly on average – almost twice the average amount consumed by non-LTE users.
By 1017, 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 2016.
Nearly 500 LTE networks are forecast to be in service across 128 countries, which 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 UK, South Korea and Japan combined account for 80 per cent.
Asia, however, is expected to account for almost half (47 per cent) of all LTE connections by next year, as LTE networks are rolled out in major markets, such as China and India.
According to the GSMA, in most cases, the migration to 4G-LTE is happening considerably faster than the earlier migration from 2G to 3G.
How efficient is 4G LTE?
The best way to continue to increase network capacity especially in city areas is not by continuing to try and build more towers closer and closer together but by having additional spectrum. There is no additional 3G spectrum available in Nigeria to be licenced by the NCC. For the city areas, the only solution is to make available spectrum in a different band.
4G LTE has some inherent advantages over 3G mobile communications, which makes it suitable for connectivity for enterprises. 4G LTE has higher bandwidth (data speeds), it provides true broadband speeds in comparison to 3G. It also provides low latency, lower idle-to-active times (improved network responsiveness).
Impact on services
While LTE offers theoretical maximum speeds of up to 150 Mbps, the global average that users experience is less than 10 Mbps. The 10 largest US cities all get less than 10Mbps in average download speeds. One report puts the average download speeds of the following US LTE networks as follows: T-Mobile: 11.2 Mbps, AT&T: 8.9 Mbps and Verizon: 7.6 Mbps. With those speeds, streaming media and downloading all but the heaviest files is a breeze.
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 time savings 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.