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 % 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 % 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.

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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 the 15th 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

The State of Fixed Broadband in Mauritius

Mauritius currently has two major internet service providers. Both are awful.

Mauritius Telecom (my.t, FTTH)

In order for Mauritius Telecom to be able to sell you, residential customers, internet, they need to buy IP Transit from other companies such as Telia, GTT Commnuications, Level 3, etc. Next, transport is required to bring the internet to our little island lost in the Indian Ocean. But above and beyond, capacity is bought as a function of bandwidth not quota.

So why the hell do we have Fair Usage Policies? Internet is being delivered using Fibre-To-The-Home, and since the company can sustain the load during the start of each month, they should be able to handle load for the whole month…FUPs are bullshits on fibre network….

Emtel (Airbox, FTTA|LTE)

Airbox is another story. Network speed is just non-consistent using some weird technology called FTTA, and while the launch of the same product on LTE was much appreciated, this was unfortunately followed by the launch of free 4G SIM swap. This caused an increase in number of devices connected to each base station in an already limited environment. Fixed broadband on LTE should be deployed on another frequency instead of throwing both mobile data and fixed broadband on 1800Mhz spectrum.

While a FUP similar to that implemented by Mauritius Telecom would be accepted for Emtel due to the use of wireless technology, it is still undesirable…but WHY THE HELL DOES MT HAS FUPs?

And seriously, either separate your fixed broadband and mobile data network or just move on to better technology. Google has discontinued the Google Fiber project due to its long ROI and high cost of deployment and are eyeing wireless as the future of delivering internet.

Wireless is the future, just look at some companies in Australia. The Signal Co (https://thesignalco.com.au/) is a great example of a startup which became very successful. Their success has been achieved through the use of high quality hardware coupled with mature technology. Their speed tests stats are great (http://testmy.net/hoststats/the_signal_co) and not like Emtel’s (http://testmy.net/host-history/emtel_limited) which is all over the place. Their reviews are excellent and are even praised for their transparency on network issues (http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=2508522).

And this is only one example, just take a look at NuSkope (https://www.nuskope.com.au/) and others.

Technology used includes Cambium PMP450m and Ubiquiti AirMax… but hint: the former is better!

And lastly, has Emtel ever looked at smokeping graphs of their customers? Many look like the graph below.

Smokeping of a random Emtel Airbox IP

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.