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…

 

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.