The commencement of the test-run of its 4G LTE internet services by MTN Nigeria, using its Visafone network, underscores the firm’s commitment to providing customers with a new experience of high speed broadband connectivity, writes Emma Okonji
It is a fact that technology drives speed of connectivity for telecoms operators and other service providers. This is why operators had, over the years, evolved from the use of second generation (2G) technology to 3G, 3.5G, the latest fourth generation long term evolution (4G LTE) and the Advanced LTE, in providing services for customers.
Aside technology evolution, consumers’ demand for high speed voice and data connectivity has also compelled service providers to explore latest technology that will provide better customer experience, especially in the area of speed of connectivity. The passion to continually satisfying customers’ demand must have prompted MTN into buying of the 800MHz spectrum from the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The company later bid for the 2.6GHz spectrum licence in February this year and emerged the only winner of 6 slots of the 2.6GHz spectrum, all in preparation for its 4G LTE rollout, after acquiring Visafone in January.
Last week, the telecoms company commenced the test-run of its 4G LTE internet technology service for smartphone users, a move that is designed to roll out superior high-speed internet services in major cities, empowering Nigerians with the latest mobile broadband technology, which is expected to drive broadband penetration in the country from the current 10 per cent penetration to the targeted 30 per cent by 2018, in line with the federal government’s broadband plan and target. The test-run of MTN’s 4G LTE services has continued to attract commendations for the telecoms company, especially now that cost of data is crashing, giving opportunity for subscribers to experience heavy online downloads and long browsing period at a much reduced data cost.
About 4G LTE
Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals. It is based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies, increasing the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.
LTE is the upgrade path for carriers with both GSM/UMTS networks and CDMA2000 networks. The different LTE frequencies and bands used in different countries will mean that only multi-band phones will be able to use LTE in all countries where it is supported.
LTE is commonly marketed as 4G LTE, but it does not satisfy the technical criteria of a 4G wireless service, as specified for LTE Advanced.
The LTE specification provides downlink peak rates of 300 Mbit/s, uplink peak rates of 75 Mbit/s and permitting a transfer latency of less than five ms in the radio access network. LTE has the ability to manage fast-moving mobiles and supports multi-cast and broadcast streams.
It supports seamless handovers for both voice and data to cell towers with older network technology such as GSM, UMTS and CDMA2000.
Test-running MTN’s 4G LTE
With the commencement of the test-run and launch of its 4G LTE internet technology service for smartphone users on its Visafone network last week, MTN has begun upgrades of networks in designated locations in Lagos.
The launch of 4G LTE services by the merged entity of MTN and Visafone will roll out superior high-speed internet services in major cities, empowering Nigerians with the latest mobile broadband technology, which is expected to drive broadband penetration in the country.
According to MTN Executive, Amina Oyagbola, “the company is determined to deepen broadband penetration in the country. Our recent license acquisition further demonstrates our faith in the future of Nigeria. We believe in supporting the positive transformation of Nigeria and we have demonstrated this belief through the
“MTN currently has the best spectrums and has the coverage and adequate infrastructure to support it,” the stakeholders said.
The 2.6MHz spectrum will be accessed by MTN subscribers, while 800MHz spectrum will be rolled out for Visafone subscribers including MTN subscribers with Visafone numbering system, while other subscribers will have access to the 800MHz spectrum through Visafone/MTN MIFI devices.
The MTN 4G LTE, which is the next generation network, comes with super high speed connectivity that is 10 times higher than 3G. It offers a wider coverage across the country and its bundles will run at current rate with no extra premiums. Bundles will be expanded at same or lesser rate upon deployment.
Subscribers are therefore advised to swap existing MTN SIMS to ‘U Sims’, which are already LTE ready at MTN experience centres.
Retooling Visafone’s network
The recent move by MTN to provide customers with 4G LTE service on its acquired Visafone network, has again demonstrated the passion of the company to revive the once ailing Visafone network and to provide its subscribers and would-be subscribers, with quality service and high speed voice and data connectivity, using the fast speed 4G LTE technology.
Before the final acquisition of Visafone in January this year, the company, which was the last standing operator in the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operations, also known as the fixed wireless operations, was already losing operational steam and was on the verge of collapse, before MTN bought it over and resuscitated it.
Today its subscribers now enjoy high speed data and voice connectivity, a service that they least expected, if they had remained with the old Visafone.
Aside reviving the once ailing operator, stakeholders see the MTN’s move as a welcome idea that will further contribute to telecoms growth in the county and also boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Two months after the acquisition of Visafone, there were indications that MTN would integrate the operations of Visafone into its GSM operations, and run it as voice over its 4G LTE technology network.
The NCC, it was gathered, gave approval to MTN to acquire Visafone, on the ground that it would resuscitate the dying operator and provide quality service to its existing customers that were already depreciating before the acquisition.
Oyagbola, who had earlier given insight about the acquisition, said it would leverage resources for service enhancement, and that it was also a reflection of MTN’s concerted efforts to deepen the growth and rollout of broadband services across the country in support of the National Broadband Plan for the benefit of Nigerians.
Visafone, according to her, “is one of the leading CDMA/ICT companies in Nigeria offering a number of services including voice, high speed data (3G), internet and other Value Added Services (VAS). Visafone also provides business solutions to small and medium sized companies and corporate organisations in Nigeria.”
“We are committed to exploring avenues for meeting our customers’ increasing data needs in line with our vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our customers,” Oyagbola added.
With the acquisition of Visafone, the winning of the 2.6GHz spectrum, and the purchase of the 800MHz frequency spectrum, MTN, no doubt, is ready and committed to provide high speed 4G LTE broadband services, and Nigerian subscribers are hopeful that the aspiration and commitment of MTN in building a world-class telecoms industry in the country, will turn out to be a dream come true.