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 (1800MHz) 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 (900MHz) (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 (2600Mhz) 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 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.
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.
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…
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.
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).
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.
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 build 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.
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
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 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.
Consistent internet speed throughout the day.
No peak hours
Lower international and local latency
Better international routing with direct routing to Asia, Europe and Africa
Future proof technology, Mauritius Telecom can launch a 1Gbps package anyday
Not affected by electromagnetic interference or weather condition
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.
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.
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.