ChiLi By MTML 4G/LTE Tested!

The 4G/LTE network of ChiLi by MTML is pretty much live in most regions of Mauritius where we tested.

A speedtest performed at https://orange.speedtestcustom.com on Mauritius Telecom Port Louis server yielded the following result which is quite good but lacking compared to Orange by Mauritius Telecom and Emtel. Since the 4G network of ChiLi is very new and therefore should have a very low number of users connected via 4G, we expected that a much higher speed could be attained on a local speedtest.

ChiLi 4G Speedtest

ChiLi by MTML 4G network is using the same band as its competitors, that is, Band 3 (1800) and most probably has the same amount of spectrum at 20Mhz.

Considering that the following speeds were obtained on Orange and Emtel respectively, then, nothing impressive to discuss about ChiLi, but still, ChiLi provides the cheapest data package at an adequate speed, enough for most internet users. ūüėä

Orange 4G Speedtest
Emtel Platinum 4G Speedtest
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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.

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.

 

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, Orange requires that at least a weekly mobile data package be activated in order to connect to their 4G network. This is to ensure that you do not mistakenly waste all your money when browsing without a data pack.

To wrap this, Mauritius was the first, but now Mauritius is becoming the last…

Update: ChiLi 4G is now live! https://internetinmauritius.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/chili-by-mtml-4glte-tested/

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’oc√©an 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¬†(http://www.capacitymedia.com/Article/3754034/News/IOX-Cable-signs-up-Mauritius-Telecom-as-subsea-anchor-tenant)¬†and has a design capacity of ¬†13.5Tbps per FP…

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

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

Unlimited internet by Emtel, Airbox

Airbox is an unlimited wireless internet introduced by Emtel in June 2015. It is available in three different speed tiers 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 is 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 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 viewed 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 have been 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 B310 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 Telia.

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.