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.

 

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.

How to increase Emtel Airbox LTE & WiFi-Plus Speed?

Airbox by Emtel is currently being offered using two completely different technologies, the first being FTTA (Air by Globtel) and the second (LTE/4G). The 20Mbps and 30Mbps speed plans are only available on FTTA while the 10Mbps package is available on both FTTA and 4G LTE.


Whenever you order the 10Mbps package, request to be put on the LTE/4G network instead of FTTA even if you’re within FTTA coverage. LTE/4G is and will always be a better technology.

LTE/4G is backed by billions of dollars in Research & Development. LTE/4G will always triumph over any other wireless technologies. After all, we are a small island, LTE-A in 900Mhz, 1800Mhz and 2600Mhz band can definitely compete with fibre. TRI-BAND LTE-A/4G+ is the future.,

OPT FOR LTE/4G Airbox.


Back on topic, you will require an Android phone with 4G, the LTE Discovery app, a paper and a pen.

From your Android phone, download LTE Discovery app from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.simplyadvanced.ltediscovery&hl=en

After the app has been installed, follow the steps below.

  1. Launch LTE Discovery app on your smartphone.
  2. Navigate to each window of your house
  3. At each window, note down on the piece of paper the LTE network strength together with the location of the window.
  4. After you have been through all windows, look at the table below.
  5. Place your Huawei modem near the window with Good or Excellent LTE Quality.

The table referred in Step 4.

LTE/4G Quality Net Strength
Excellent -51 to -70 dBm
Good -71 to -90 dBm
Shit -91 to -120 dBm

Always aim for “Good” or even “Excellent”. If your LTE Quality is shit, cancel your service and move to another service provider.

Below are two speed tests performed at -89 dBm on both Orange and Emtel LTE/4G network.

Orange LTE/4G Speedtest on Band 3 (1800MHz)
Emtel LTE/4G Speedtest on Band 3 (1800MHz)

Tips:-

  • If you’re not receiving 4G, only 3G, cancel your service.
  • Signal strength is always better the higher you place your phone/modem, so start from the highest floor in your house. (Indoor not outdoor)

Unlimited internet by Emtel, Airbox

Airbox is an unlimited wireless internet introduced by Emtel in June 2015. It is available in three different speed packages of 10Mbps, 20Mbps and 30Mbps and its coverage was quite limited at launch and restricted due to the requirement of LOS (Line Of Sight) from the BTS (Base Station) to the customer’s premises. This was due to the use of very high frequencies which have low penetration capability but high bandwidth capacity. The so called technology is Air by Globtel (http://www.globtel.si) which is a modified version of DOCSIS 3.0, but instead of using coaxial cable for transmission, data is transmitted over the air.

How good is Air by Globtel (FTTA)?

Days after the launch of Airbox, people all around Mauritius were praising Emtel for the introduction of an unlimited high speed internet. The only other high speed internet is FTTH by Mauritius Telecom which is unfortunately capped at 75GB for 10Mbps, 300GB for 20Mbps and 500GB for 30Mbps. The data cap for 20Mbps and 30Mbps are not mentioned on company’s website but the data caps can been seen at (https://internetaccount.orange.mu) for those subscribed to 20Mbps and 30Mbps packages.

After the Airbox craze, it all started to tumble down, basically free falling. People were complaining all over Facebook of awful speed and intermittent high latency to gaming servers. However the speed issue does not seem to affect every subscribers as seen at (http://testmy.net/host-history/emtel_limited) while the high latency issue can be mostly attributed to the use of DOCSIS which was never meant to be used for transmission over the air.

But why Air by Globtel? During the recent years, there has been a major leaps in Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISP) due to the availability of reliable and cheap technology to distribute internet to customers wirelessly without compromising on speed or latency. Some of the technologies are Cambium PMP450m, Ubiquiti AirMax, BaiCells LTE and custom solution by Ericsson as used by Australia NBN Fixed Wireless. Among all these proven network solutions used by many WISPs around the world, WHY AIR by GLOBTEL? WHY and WHY??? Through a quick look at their website, the technology is not actively being developed and has been deployed to very few countries with low speed internet packages.

Now , one and a half year later after the launch of Airbox, Air by Globtel technology has not been deployed all around the island of Mauritius, there are still five base stations with the one at Pointe Aux Canonniers relocated to the east region. So what can we learn from this? The technology was most likely not up to their expectations.

Enter Airbox LTE.

On the 30 January 2017 during a press meet, Emtel announced the expansion of Airbox using the 4G LTE technology rather than using Air by Globtel (FTTA). The service is available in all region of Mauritius. However only the 10Mbps package can be had using 4G LTE for now and the modem supplied is the Huawei B315 with a single external antenna. It should be noted that deployment of LTE is very expensive as compared to the other technologies mentioned above, but for Emtel, the use of LTE technology actually saves cost as it makes use of existing infrastructure currently being used for mobile data.

Latency over LTE has also been known to be quite constant with little fluctuations, this would be ideal for gamers although latency to south east asia is very high since Emtel does not peer or buy transit from asia. (http://bgp.he.net/AS30999#_peers), but big praise to Emtel for replacing Cogent with TeliaSonera.

However with the launch of LTE-A in many developing and developed countries, why didn’t Emtel take this opportunity to do same? This would have been the ideal replacement for the whole Air by Globtel network, with the ability to offer both 20Mbps and 30Mbps packages over LTE-A.

Now a question which many may have asked themselves, will the speed suffer over time? Only time will tell. Not overselling and keeping track of the number of users connected to each LTE eNB is critical for the future success of Airbox LTE.

On another note, ditching FTTA for 4G LTE was the best decision ever made, there are still major improvements such as replacing the indoor modem with an outdoor roof mounted one for better stability and better signal reception and also improving international connectivity is key. Keeping up to date with the latest tech innovations is also a major factor for Emtel, keeping in mind that their direct competitor can double their speed plans with a flip of a switch.

On a final note, will MTML chime in? MTML has deployed very few LTE base stations in 2015 with coverage in Port Louis and Plaine Wilhems, but since the end of 2016 (http://defimedia.info/chili-investit-rs-100-m-pour-etendre-son-reseau-4g), the real deployment of LTE in order to cover the whole island has started and it was estimated to be completed by the end of February 2017. (Deployment still ongoing as of April 2017) MTML provides mobile services under the  ChiLi branding and the latter has been very aggressive in terms of pricing and marketing in 2016. The year of 2017 looks very promising for them, only time will tell who will lead the follower.