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How End-to-End Networks Can Deliver Digital Connectivity in Africa

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The OECD defines "rural market" as areas with less than 150 inhabitants per square kilometre. Despite continuous urbanisation, close to 46% of the global population still lives in rural geographies. The current rural population is 60% in Africa, 52% in Asia, 30% in Oceania, 24% in Europe, and 20% in the Americas.

Today, 22% of households in developed countries and 54% of households in emerging countries lack internet access, resulting in an untapped market of 4 billion potential subscribers. What’s more, of the remaining 3 billion population, only 20% of people enjoy true broadband internet access using the next generation of IP and wireless technologies. For reference, the EU Digital Agenda defines three levels of broadband speeds: broadband of 2Mbit/s, fast broadband of 30 Mbit/s, and ultrafast broadband of 100 Mbit/s. In contrast, the US FCC defines 25 Mbit/s download/3 Mbit/s upload speed as broadband for fixed service.

Countries and governments around the globe are realising that delivering broadband to all users is both urgent and critical. For every one percentage point increase in broadband penetration in a country, employment increases up to 0.3 percent during each consecutive year. Furthermore, an increase in the broadband penetration rate by 10 percentage points raises annual growth in per capita GDP by up to 1.5 percentage points.

We are at the dawn of an era in networking that has the potential to define a new phase of human existence. This era will be shaped by the digitization and connection of everything and everyone with the goal of automating much of life, effectively creating time by maximizing the efficiency of everything we do and augmenting our intelligence with knowledge that expedites and optimises decision-making and everyday routines and processes.

Key in this new networking architecture, is to provide seamless end-to-end broadband connectivity in all market segments (from rural to dense urban). The multifaceted technology landscape allows all market segments to be addressed in an efficient way to address the multitude of services that will be on offer in the new network architecture, from traditional voice services, high speed access, critical communication, Private Access, IoT (Internet of Things) and various other digitized services.

As many providers are starting the process of transforming their networks to take advantage of the many benefits moving to the Cloud offers, this transformation involves a lot more than merely moving operations to the Cloud – it involves business cases and business transformation.

The complexities of the transformation are numerous. Many providers may not have the necessary telco and IT cloud expertise in-house. Existing personnel may face lengthy learning curves. But the risk is that the market will not wait.

High-performance networks are needed to connect servers within the data centre and to the rest of the world. All types of customers, from individuals to enterprises, want to rely on network performance guarantees, and many cloud service providers would like to offer these guarantees. Many of these service providers cannot offer this guarantee and risk application performance problems.

Cloud transformation must be managed from many angles – most cloud solutions are multivendor and hybrid, risking an unclear infrastructure with overlapping vendor responsibilities, while complex orchestration and maintenance can lead to a disjointed approach by telco and IT teams.

Services and consultancy expertise also play a critical role, be it in transforming network operations to the Cloud, moving to all-IP infrastructure, evaluating rural connectivity options or helping enterprises and institutional customers like governments move to the new digital environment.

The services business is now more of a change management business. ‘Traditional’ customers like network operators are dealing with the demands of ubiquitous connectivity, with millions of devices, and eventually a multitude of ‘things’ in a fully connected society, all pulling on network resources. This will require greater optimiSation, orchestration and, indeed, competencies to ensure that ubiquitous connectivity is really “flawless” connectivity.

Nokia offer a truly end to end future network architecture with ample technology choices to address and serve the needs of today and the future, for Mature and Emerging markets, from rural to dense urban market segments.

One such example is Nokia FastMile – launched at Mobile World Congress 2016 – is designed to overcome the connectivity gap and bring the much-needed high-speed broadband to residential customers in both rural and suburban areas. The end-to-end approach ensures high data rates and a guaranteed minimum throughput, while also extending coverage by utilizing advanced antenna topology and interference mitigation technologies. For mobile operators, this is an opportunity to address a new customer base with the help of their existing LTE network and spectrum assets, while wireline operators can further expand the reach of their services. This is just one of several solutions for connecting the unconnected.

Within the theme of Connecting the Unconnected, Nokia is also providing cost effective and lean radio site solutions built on GSM for basic coverage with a smooth SW only upgrade path to include 3G and LTE. This solution support IoT connectivity using NB-IoT or EC-GSM that can be utilized when this need arises.

Future 5G technology promises to deliver extreme mobile broadband and large-scale critical communication between machines to serve diverse industries, enterprises and vertical applications, especially in large urban environments with huge concentrations of people and businesses. To help operators get there, Nokia has defined 4.5G Pro as the next step in a technology path that will optimize the journey to 5G. 4.5G Pro is a new LTE network enhancement built on Nokia’s existing 4.5G technology (already being used by more than 90 network operators around the world). The 4.5G Pro standard will permit speeds of up to ten times faster than 4G, which will work out to a peak rate of 1 Gbps for users. Further along the path to 5G’s 2020 rollout, 4.9G will offer near–5G performance whilst still utilizing existing LTE network technology. 4.9G will further increase network speeds to several gigabits per second. Current 5G speed projections lie somewhere around the 10Gbps mark and latency reduced to 1msec (4G offers around 50msec, while 4.9G will cut response times right down to 10msec).

The new 4.9G standard will achieve this boost in performance by enabling multiple carriers to aggregate, thus freeing up more of the network spectrum, as well as by incorporating highly directional antennas and smart cloud-based networks.

At our stand, we will also explore how we see this future unfolding and the key technological breakthroughs needed at both the architectural, service and systems levels to realize the technological revolution that will be the essential product of this new digital future.

About Nokia:
Meet Nokia at AfricaCom, Stand E26, to discuss our distinctive Nokia approach to designing technology for people and how that guides us as we prepare the way for the Internet of Things, and ready our networks for 5G. We create intuitive, dependable technology, to help people thrive.

Book your meeting with the Nokia team, by contacting us at [email protected]

About the writer:

Jan Liebenberg has worked in the telecommunications industry for the past 20 years. He started his career in access system (CDMA) development at the CSIR before joining Siemens Telecommunications as a Development Engineer. Since the merger of Nokia Networks and Siemens Communications in 2007, Jan was involved in various solution design activities and network architecture definitions. Jan’s current portfolio encompasses the role of End-to-End Solutions Head for South Africa. In his capacity as a "CTO", he engages with potential and existing customers to discuss operator and vender strategies to build or evolve the operators’ networks, technology and service aspects.

Nokia will be exhibiting at Africa's largest tech and telco event, AfricaCom, between the 15 – 17 November at the Cape Town ICC - You can visit them at stand E26.

If you're interested in how technological innovation can spur social empowerment and economic development on the African continent, why not attend AfricaCom 2016? You can find out about this festival of tech and telco here.

You can sign up for a free visitor pass to the event here or can book your silver, gold and platinum AfricaCom tickets to all sessions here.

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