According to Ericssonís forecast for Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE subscriptions are expected to reach 20% of the total user base Ė which is itself growing rapidly, driven by new subscriptions, as well as uptake of other technologies, including WCDMA .
This is great news for the continent Ė and the situation is likely to evolve considerably, as operators extend their investments through the additional deployment of VoLTE services. Already, as Ericsson reports, more than 30 operators have launched LTE in the region, with many more expected to come. As a result, we can expect that VoLTE will swiftly follow.
"Higher speed access will unlock a range of new services that differ from the core template"
This creates an interesting situation. On the one hand, the classical mix of voice, data and messaging services can be expected to thrive, with more users, more subscriptions and more devices. On the other, new, higher speed access will unlock a range of new services that differ from the core template. Such services will include a growing range of IoT and M2M applications, enabled by high speed mobile connectivity and better overall coverage. Operators need to be able to ensure that existing services perform as the user expects, while also preparing to support a host of unknown new services.
As a result, operators need to consider two key points. First, how will they obtain the service visibility they need to deliver the right level of customer experience, across a diverse network base (combining legacy and LTE technologies) that will evolve further as VoLTE is added to the mix? Second, how will they simultaneously obtain the same level of visibility for new services which may have very different performance benchmarks and requirements from those to which they are accustomed?
"IoT applications offer the promise of new revenue streams and an expanded addressable market"
IoT applications offer the promise of new revenue streams and an expanded addressable market but present new challenges. While KPIs and benchmarks for classical services, such as voice are well understood, those for new IoT services and applications may, as yet, be unknown. Some services will have minimal network demands Ė for example, the transfer of simple sensor measurements or location positioning from remote devices Ė while others, for which LTE provides the requisite infrastructure, will be more complex.
These will include new applications to address key verticals, such as remote healthcare monitoring, or will enable the delivery of extended educational programmes, for example. At the moment, we donít know what all of these services will be, but we can safely say that there will be many of them and that there will be a burst of innovation, as people both bring existing services to the region from elsewhere and also as people within the region find local solutions for their unique needs and challenges.
"How do you deliver and maintain the network uptime and service quality that a wide - and growing - range of IoT applications will require?"
All of which takes us back to the second point we noted. How do you deliver and maintain the network uptime and service quality that a wide - and growing - range of IoT applications will require? Can mobile networks handle the volume of devices that may be deployed by each customer? Can operators ensure that their networks meet highly variable or even volatile quality of service demands?
So, LTE both adds to the existing network complexity while, at the same time, providing a platform for future innovation, particularly for IoT applications. In this context, itís essential that operators take the necessary steps to prepare for a flood of new traffic, from a wide range of different sources. They need to adapt, so that they can obtain the visibility of service performance necessary to ensure that they deliver the right customer experiences, whether to a person or whether for a device servicing an application. In short, they need a continuous, real-time stream of insights derived from all network data in order to assure both overall and application-level performance.
"As Africa moves to embrace LTE and to embark on the IoT revolution, operators need to be sure that they have the appropriate tools in place"
This means that there will be a wide range of internal users of such information. Itís no longer sufficient to provide rich data only to network operations teams. Other departments and groups must be able to view and act on insights gathered from the network. This means that operators need systems and solution in place to both collect and then filter data in a way that is appropriate to the needs of each relevant user.
Thatís quite a challenge, but there are already solutions available that can meet this goal, serving both classical services, irrespective of the network on which they are delivered, as well as new and emerging IoT services. As Africa moves to embrace LTE and to embark on the IoT revolution, operators need to be sure that they have the appropriate tools in place to support both this transition as well as the next phase of network evolution. Are you ready?
By Inna Ott - Director of Marketing, Polystar
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About the writer:
Inna Ott has more than 15 year's experience in the communications industry. Prior to joining Polystar, she held a number of sales and marketing positions in leading organisations. Since 2013 Inna has been leading Polystarís marketing department, with responsibility for Global Marketing and Corporate Communications. Innaís primary focus is to drive increased global demand for Polystarís solutions, by growing the visibility, recognition and awareness of Polystarís brand.
If you are interested in how LTE technology is evolving telecommunications on the African continent, why not attend AfricaCom 2016?