Emtel & Mauritius Telecom – Redundancy

Mauritius is at present connected directly to two submarine cables, the SAFE cable with landing points at Melkbosstrand,  Mtunzini (South Africa) and LION cable with landing point at Nyali (Kenya). From these cables, data then go through other cables such as WACS, SAT3, ACE for South Africa and DARE, EASSY, Seacom and TEAMS for Kenya.

On the 12th of July, just after Melkbosstrand, an incident occurred on the SAT3 cable which severely disrupted international connectivity while simultaneously a cable break occurred on the EASSY cable near Mogadishu.

However, Mauritius Telecom having invested heavily in most of the submarine cables on both east and west coast of Africa re-routed their impacted links to other cables with a slight increase in latency while bandwidth remained unaffected. On the other hand, Emtel reported a loss of about 50% of their total international capacity. With that said, redundancy is almost non-existent at Emtel. A similar incident occurred last year on the EIG cable near Monaco which severely impacted Emtel with similar outcome, ie, loss of about 50% of total international capacity. One year later, Emtel haven’t learned from their past mistakes.

Emtel, with two upstream providers, Telia and Belgacom, delivered at London and Marseilles respectively should share their routes from these cities to Mauritius on different cables, just like Mauritius Telecom. Nearer upstream providers should be found such as Hurricane Electric in Kenya, Djibouti Telecom at Djibouti, Etisalat at UAE. Relying on single routing is unacceptable, diversify routing for redundancy to retain your customers.

In addition, many have brought forward that deployment of the two recently announced cables, METISS and IOX cable need to be accelerated. We beg to differ. Since these two cables end at South Africa, the impact of these cable breaks would not be minimised. Investments in cable on East and West Africa to Europe is key to redundancy.

Therefore, it is undeniable that such incidents with major impacts on Emtel network are unacceptable in 2017.

While a cable break on SAFE or LION just after Mauritius resulting in loss in 50% international connectivity would be acceptable, but a cable break after SAFE and LION cable resulting in major impact on internet is completely unacceptable. Stop playing “wait for cable repair” game, diversify NOW.

With fierce competition between 3 mobile operators for a population of only 1.3 million people, Emtel has started its diversification with the launch of Airbox in 2015. With ChiLi being super aggressive, new sources of revenues are needed. OTT services are aggressively replacing traditional SMS and calls and revenues from these are falling. It’s high time to learn where to throw money.

With the fixed internet market mostly dominated by Mauritius Telecom, Airbox by Emtel was supposed to stop this reign. However, investment in underdeveloped technology called FTTA by Globtel was a big mistake. Money needs to be invested in mature technology backed by billions of dollar in R&D by Nokia (Alcatel Lucent), Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE such as 4G (LTE and LTE-A).

Competing with FTTH is possible. It is high time for Emtel to acquire LTE licence in the 2600 MHz spectrum and launch Fixed Wireless Broadband on TDD-LTE with Huawei B2338 outdoor modem. The only proven solution which can dominate FTTH as of now. THE ONLY SOLUTION…TO COMPETE WITH FTTH.


LTE-A (4G+) Soon in Mauritius?

LTE-A, short for Long Term Evolution Advanced is the next generation of LTE. It employs the use of carrier aggregation in order to drastically increase LTE speed.

Per Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks#Africa), Mauritius has been among the first to introduce LTE in Africa. All three mobile operators currently operate their LTE network on Band 3 (1800 MHz) and all spectrum available have already been allocated. In order to make use of carrier aggregation, new bands would have to be used.

Recently, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) has decided to allow operators to operate LTE on Band 8 (900 MHz) (https://www.icta.mu/documents/decision_refarming900MHz.pdf). As compared to Band 3, Band 8 has a lower bandwidth capacity, however it has better penetration capability as compared to the higher frequencies of Band 3. This will definitely improve LTE indoors.

The addition of Band 7 (2600 Mhz) would also be appreciated due to its high bandwidth capacity, especially for Fixed Wireless Broadband such as Airbox through the use of an outdoor modem.

The right decision has and will always be to ditch FTTA and Wi-Fi based technology such as Cambium, Ubiquiti, etc and move over to technology designed for high speed fixed wireless broadband (4G, 5G).

Update: 8/7/17

New LTE modems with support for LTE-A/4G+ in Mauritius. The model is Huawei B618s-22 with a theoretical maximum speed of 582Mbps in a 4*4 MIMO configuration.


100% increase in international bandwidth capacity from 2015 to 2016

The international bandwidth in Mauritius has increased by almost 100% during 2016 to reach 42.5 Gbps by December 2016 according to the statistics released by ICTA.

This large increase is mostly associated to the deployment of fibre by Mauritius Telecom with speeds increasing by 10 folds upon conversion from ADSL to FTTH.

2017 will be another interesting year since Mauritius Telecom has been aggressively adding additional capacity through Etisalat and peering with FranceIX and LINX.

Another large influential factor is OTT services which are replacing traditional calls and SMS in the daily life of Mauritians.

From the chart above, the volume of calls in Mauritius has been steadily decreasing where it peaked at its maximum in 2013. Similarly the number of calls and SMS sent have decreased since 2013 with a very slight increase in 2015 and 2016.

The Mystery about ChiLi (MTML) 4G/LTE Network

4G/LTE network is not new to the Mauritian mobile users. The technology has been part of everyone’s daily life since 2012 when 4G was launched by Orange (Mauritius Telecom) and Emtel weeks apart. The initial launch with much fanfare had very very limited coverage. But rapidly, week by week, works were being performed on telecommunications towers to upgrade existing equipment to 4G capable ones and now in 2017, 4G network by both Orange and Emtel are readily available in most regions in Mauritius.

However same cannot be said for Mauritius’s third mobile network operator, ChiLi by MTML. The latter had announced the launch of 4G in May 2015 and since then, absolute silence. Last month, it has been 2 years since the announcement and yet no progress in the deployment of 4G has been made.

During the last quarter of 2017, several tender and RFPs have been issued by the company for the deployment of 4G and acquisition of 4G modems and 4G capable USIMs and as per an article published by defimedia (http://defimedia.info/chili-investit-rs-100-m-pour-etendre-son-reseau-4g), deployment of 4G by ChiLi was supposed to be completed by February 2017. SO, the big question, how is the deployment progressing? In fact, has the deployment even started?

It should be known that deployment of 4G by both Orange and Emtel were performed on a region per region basis and were/are activated upon successful installation and testing. So, why is ChiLi trying to launch full 4G coverage of Mauritius in one go? Is it due to an imminent threat against Emtel’s Airbox and Mauritius Telecom’s my.t with their launch of a competing product since they had an RFP for 4G modems with RJ45 (ethernet) output?

Anyway, we are several months past the expected completion date and no news or announcement has been made regarding the matter…

Now, Mauritius was among the early adopters of 4G in Africa. But now, we are severely lagging behind. So far, no mobile operators have launched 4G+ (LTE Advanced) in Mauritius while across the pond, in Reunion Island, they were very late to the 4G party but they now have 4G+ network. ChiLi is also considered as a very late adopter of 4G, but why did they not deploy 4G+ directly and save equipment cost in the very near future?

Likewise, Emtel could make great use of 4G+ since their Airbox on LTE service is hogging 4G bandwidth from mobile users. The deployment of 4G+ would have helped alleviate the burden of poor speed during peak hours due to its higher capacity. The additional capacity could also be used to launch 20 Mbps and 30 Mbps Airbox on 4G.

The saga does not stop here. No mobile operators in Mauritius currently support VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and it should be noted that the customer supports of both Orange and Emtel do not even know what is VoLTE. At least, Emtel has put a mention on their website that their 4G network does not support VoLTE.

Emtel VoLTE

Without VoLTE, the connection has to fall back to 3G each time a call is made or received and that is not a desired behaviour.

Additionally, why does Orange require that at least a weekly mobile data package be activated in order to connect to their 4G network? Ridiculous.

To wrap this, we were the first, but now were are becoming the last…


Comparison of Mobile Data Packages between Orange, Emtel and ChiLi

Mobile Data Packages in Mauritius

# Orange Emtel ChiLi
 Daily 30 MB – Rs 10 40 MB – Rs 10
UL 1 GB – Rs 51
30 MB – Rs 6
50 MB – Rs 20
 Weekly 200 MB – Rs 49
400 MB – Rs 99
250 MB – Rs 49 300 MB – Rs 45
UL 5 GB – Rs 517.5
 Monthly 1 GB – Rs 299
3 GB – Rs 699
5 GB – Rs 999
10 GB – Rs 1,499
20 GB – Rs 1,999
50 GB – Rs 2,999
1 GB – Rs 249
UL 1.25 GB – Rs 299
UL 2 GB – Rs 499
UL 3 GB – Rs 649
UL 25 GB – Rs 949
UL 75 GB – Rs 999
UL 100 GB – Rs 1,099
750 MB – Rs 86.25
1 GB – Rs 225
2 GB – Rs 425
5 GB – Rs 900
10 GB – Rs 1,400

UL = Unlimited
Emtel Packages – Beyond usage of specified limit, speed will be reduced to 1 Mbps download and 512 Kbps upload till expiration of package.
ChiLi Packages – Beyond usage of specified limit, speed will be reduced to 512 Kbps download till expiration of package.

So to sum this up, ChiLi by MTML has the cheapest daily package and cheapest weekly package on a cost per MB basis while Emtel has the cheapest monthly package on a cost per MB basis.

Considering cost only, ChiLi by MTML has the cheapest packages for daily, weekly and monthly and Orange by Mauritius Telecom has the most expensive packages.

Note: Only data allocated in each plans were considered, some plans offer free calls and SMS including free Facebook and/or Whatsapp.

The Unlimited Mobile Data, Call & SMS plans in Mauritius

Unlimited packs have been very rare in Mauritius. Out of the three mobile operators in Mauritius, ChiLi by MTML has kickstarted the unlimited trend with a launch-spree of several unlimited packs during the last semester of 2016.

With the recent launch of Emtel’s unlimited packs, let’s look at an overview of all the different packages proposed by our local operators, namely Mauritius Telecom (Orange), Emtel, and MTML (ChiLi).

Unlimited Data Packages

Orange Emtel ChiLi
 None  Daily 1GB Unlimited – Rs 51  Night Unlimited – Rs 56.4
 Monthly 1.25GB Unlimited – Rs 299  Weekly 5GB Unlimited – Rs 517.5
 Monthly 2GB Unlimited – Rs 499
 Monthly 3GB Unlimited – Rs 649
 Monthly 25GB Unlimited – Rs 949

Unlimited Call Packages

Orange Emtel ChiLi
 Daily – Rs 44.85 (Love Pack)  Daily – Rs 39  Daily – Rs 40.25
 Monthly – Rs 479  2 Days – Rs 57.5
 Weekly – Rs 138

Unlimited SMS Packages

Orange Emtel ChiLi
 None  Daily – Rs 5  Daily – Rs 46
 Monthly – Rs 149

Unlimited COMBO packages (Includes Data, Call & SMS)

Orange Emtel ChiLi
 None  Daily – Rs 74  None
 Monthly – Rs 995

Note: All prices are VAT inclusive.

METISS and IOX Submarine Cable

Internet speed in Mauritius has been sub-par compared to other countries in the region and one of the main reasons brought forward is the lack to international bandwidth capacity. As of today, Mauritius is connected to only two submarine cables in the name of SAFE (South Africa Far East) and LION (Lower Indian Ocean Network).

The first submarine cable connected to Mauritius, SAFE was put in service in 2002 and in its many years of operation, several upgrades have been performed to increase its capacity. The current capacity is 800 Gigabit per second which is shared by multiple operators in multiple countries. The cable has been experiencing several issues in the recent years requiring lengthy maintenance and a replacement for it will be needed in the very near future.

The second submarine cable, LION/LION2 was put in operation in 2009 and has a designed capacity of 1.28 terabits per second. The cable is shared by Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar and Kenya with Orange being the major owner.

Enter METISS and IOX…

METISS, which is an acronym for MElting poT Indianoceanic Submarine System, is the first new cable announced. It was announced by a consortium of operators from multiple countries. They are Blueline, Canal+ Telecom, Emtel, SRR, Telco OI, Telma and Zeop. The cable is expected to be put into service in 2019. It was later announced that CEB FibreNet Ltd would be joining the consortium.

Initially, due to reluctance from local operators in Mauritius, the largest internet service provider in Mauritius, Mauritius Telecom was not invited to form part of the consortium. Later on, they were invited but then showed no interest since the latter decided to go ahead with IOX Cable. (Source: http://defimedia.info/mauritius-telecom-chiffre-daffaires-record-de-rs-1008-milliards)

Additionally, at CEB FibreNet Ltd, there might be a wind of change. Lately, it is rumoured that the company will invest in IOX Cable instead of METISS. (Source: http://defimedia.info/internet-haut-debit-le-ceb-prevoit-des-investissements-de-rs-200-m-rs-1-md)

Even though METISS Cable is backed by the Commission de l’océan Indien, news about METISS has been scarce…Is the project going forward? Or has it been cancelled. The islands of Indian Ocean have announced multiple projects in the recent years to introduced new submarine cable such as BRICS and others which have all been cancelled later on.

So Reunion, and mostly Zeop, get your shit together…

In Mauritius, we have another cable planned. IOX Cable, which stands for Indian Ocean eXchange, is expected to be put into service at the end of 2018 or start of 2019. The cable is backed by Mauritius Telecom and has a design capacity of  81 Tbps…

The cable will be built in two phase. The first phase consists of connecting Rodrigues to Mauritius and then directly to the existing Seacom submarine cable in east Africa and thereafter to South Africa. The second phase will consist of extending the cable from Rodrigues to India.

IOX Cable Route

The IOX Cable might land in other countries such as Reunion or Madagascar but so far there has been no expression of interest from these countries. (Source: https://www.africametro.com/business/mauritius-iox-wants-build-international-cable-link-india-africa-not-operators-facilitators-operators)

For the funding of IOX Cable, it should be noted that most of the private equity investment is expected from Anchor Tenant operators from all connected islands, Private Equity Investors, Vendor Finance, Debt Finance & Pre-Sales

IOX Cable Update: Build agreement has been signed with Alcatel Submarine Networks – https://networks.nokia.com/news/2017/iox-cable-ltd-alcatel-submarine-networks-to-build-first-open-cable

Emtel increases Airbox 10Mbps quota from 75GB to 100GB

2 months after Emtel has introduced a fixed quota for their Airbox 10Mbps package, the quota has been increased from 75 GB to 100 GB.

New FUP – 100GB

Additionally, a new plan called Silver + has been launched. It costs Rs 1,034 and comes with 240 minutes of air time.

New Silver + Airbox Plan

BUT needless to say, my previous post, https://internetinmauritius.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/the-only-advantage-of-emtel-airbox-is-gone/ still stands.

The new 100 GB quota for Emtel Airbox is excellent, but Mauritius Telecom is allocating 150 GB for their 10 Mbps since April 2017, 75 GB on the first of each month and another 75 GB around on the 15 of each month.

The only advantage of Emtel Airbox is gone!

Emtel Airbox was a much welcomed addition to the already existing offers from Mauritius Telecom. Its main selling point has been its much relaxed fair usage policy which only throttles internet speed if other parties are affected by one’s high internet usage.

Everything changes today, 25 March 2017.

Today, Emtel confirms that a fair usage policy of 75GB is being applied to customers on the 10Mbps plan. Over 75GB, the speed is throttled to 1Mbps download and 512Kbps upload.

Emtel Airbox New FUP

Emtel has lost its main selling point. You have no reasons to opt for Airbox nor to change from my.t to Airbox if you’re already an internet consumer.

Mauritius Telecom my.t have multiple advantages over Emtel Airbox as listed below.

  1. Consistent internet speed throughout the day.
  2. No speed throttling during peak hours
  3. Lower international and local latency
  4. Better international routing with direct routing to Asia, Europe and Africa
  5. Future proof technology, Mauritius Telecom can launch a 1Gbps package any day
  6. Not affected by electromagnetic interference or weather condition

MBC Play and Amazon AWS

MBC, the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation has recently launched their smartphone app on Google Play and Apple Appstore. The application allows streaming of 5 MBC channels namely MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC4 and Cine12.

As streaming platform, they are currently using Amazon AWS for content delivery. In fact data is going out from Mauritius to Amazon AWS servers and back to Mauritius on smartphones. This is wastage of precious bandwidth capacity which could have been used to rid of fair usage policies. On that matter, how the hell are we going to watch MBC channels which consumes ginormous amount of data.

The Solution

Why doesn’t MBC acquire its own Autonomous System Number (ASN) and peer at the Mauritius Internet Exchange Point (MIXP). We should make use of the Internet Exchange Point. From the stats of the IXP, there is a mere traffic going through it since our two major ISPs, Mauritius Telecom and Emtel have private peering agreement, their traffic do not go through the IXP.

MIXP Traffic Stats

With the rising price of Amazon AWS, which is billed per GB, the cost the MBC would have to pay with the increasing number of smartphone consumers will be huge.

As an example, let’s look at the BBC, which allows their users to watch their TV channels not only on smartphone, but also on a computer, and in HD. They have their own ASN, AS2818 and is peering at multiple facilities. This reduces the cost of bandwidth while having to maintain content distribution servers. But above and overall, this is a long term cheaper solution.