A roundup of tower news across MENA

Afghanistan: Afghan Telecom to launch 4G

Afghan Telecom has announced plans to launch commercial 4G services by the end of 2019. The activation would turn the operator into the second one to launch an LTE system in the country, following Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC), which switched on the nation’s first 4G network in May 2017.

Bahrain: Batelco phases out 2G and launches National Broadband Network division

Batelco has confirmed it will phase out its 2G network by 31 December 2019, in a move to free up network capacity for 5G mobile technology. The operator has also officially launched its National Broadband Network (BNET), the group’s new independent wholesale unit resulting from the company’s legal separation and restructuring into two separate entities focused on retail and wholesale operations, completed in May 2019. BNET will provide fibre broadband network services to all licensed operators including Batelco, whereas Batelco will focus solely on retail and corporate operations. The MNO has reported a 1% year-on-year decrease in consolidated revenues for the first nine months of 2019 to BHD298.5 million (USD791.8 million), impacted moderately by its divestment of Kuwaiti ISP Qualitynet in May. Group-wide EBITDA for the first three quarters decreased by 3% to BHD105.9 million, affected by a voluntary retirement programme, while EBITDA contribution from international operations jumped from 51% in 9M18 to 58% a year later.

Bahrain: Zain launches fibre-optic broadband

November 1stsaw an announcement from Zain Bahrain who has launched fibre-optic broadband services for homes and businesses. The mobile operator’s new service has been enabled by Batelco’s recently established National Broadband Network (BNET), which provides wholesale fibre broadband network services to all licensed operators. Fibre options include basic ‘Fibre 15’ option, which offers a maximum download speed of 20Mbps to the ‘Fibre 32’ option with a 40Mbps maximum downlink speed of 700GB.

Egypt: Ministry sets out plans for first phase of new capital city

Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) is planning to construct a new telecoms network at an estimated cost of EGP40bn (US$2.44bn) as part of the first phase of development of the country’s proposed new capital city. It is reported by Reuters that the MCIT has signed a cooperation agreement with the Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD), the new capital’s owner and funding developer, who should start working on the infrastructure within the next six months.

Jordan: TRC issues licence to Umniah/JEPCO fibre JV

The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) has granted an operating licence to Jordan Advanced Fibre Optic Company, a 51/49 joint venture of utility firm Jorden Electric Power Company (JEPCO) and Umniah, the Jordanian arm of Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco). It is expected that the company would install a fibre network in areas served by JEPCO with a view to providing wholesale broadband services as well as linking components of the company’s energy network.

Kuwait: Viva Kuwait launches enterprise ‘5G Connectivity’ service

Viva Kuwait has launched 5G solutions for enterprises under the ‘5G Connectivity’ banner, following its commercial launch of 5G smartphone packages in the summer. The MNOs 5G Connectivity solutions include Dedicated Data Access, Dedicated Internet Access, and on-demand services such as CCTV and Cloud PBX.

Lebanon: Touch switches on Lebanon’s first 5G site

Lebanese State-owned mobile operator Touch, which is managed by Zain Group, announced that it has launched the country’s first 5G mobile site, located at its headquarters in the city of Beirut. Data speeds of 1.4Gbps have been tested at the site, with latency of less than 6ms. Touch stated that 5G enabled devices will be available for further testing and demos to offer the most innovative products and services to their customers in consumer, business, IoT, and smart cities sectors.

Morocco: Maroc Telecom agrees US$1bn investment plan with government

Maroc Telecom will be spending MAD10bn (US$1.03bn) from 2019-2021, focusing on developing and strengthening infrastructure, deploying new mobile masts and fixed high-speed broadband services. The spending plans are roughly in line with prior spending rounds.

Oman: Vodafone to enter Oman as third MNO in strategic partnership

Vodafone Group and Oman Future Telecommunications (OFT) have entered into a strategic partnership agreement in Oman as part of operators Partner Markets program. Under the terms of the 15-year agreement, the companies will join forces to roll out a new mobile network and develop several new services using the Vodafone brand in Oman. In doing so, they hope to drive the next stage in development of Oman’s telecoms market. The development of the new Vodafone branded network will commence immediately with a commercial launch planned for the second half of 2020.

Oman: Regulator reveals 5G details as part of its 2040 country vision

As part of the country’s 2040 strategy plan, Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced further details of its 5G roadmap. MNOs Omantel and Ooredoo have been granted rights to use a 100MHz block of 5G spectrum to introduce a range of advanced and innovative services in the coming years. In an effort to encourage investment in the sector 4,400 base stations will be constructed by Omantel and Ooredoo. It is understood that 1,000 new BTS will be deployed in 2019-2020 which illustrates the countries readiness for 5G mobile services.

Pakistan: Zong first with 5G trial

China Mobile owned Zong, Pakistan’s third largest mobile operator, announced it was the “first network to successfully test 5G in Pakistan.” The test took place at its headquarters in Islamabad after temporary 5G licences were issued earlier this year.

Pakistan: Zong partners Enfrashare to support further 4G expansion

Pakistan’s Zong has entered into a strategic partnership with infrastructure connectivity provider Enfrashare to support the continued expansion of the Zong 4G LTE mobile network, reports The Nation. With an existing network of more than 12,000 4G sites across Pakistan and over 13 million LTE users, Zong says it partnered with Enfrashare to further expand its network outreach. Enfrashare’s connectivity solutions incorporate towers, fibre, energy and other components.

Qatar: Vodafone Qatar announces GigaNet fibre rollout

Vodafone Qatar has completed its GigaNet fibre network rollout in Ezdan Oasis, one of the largest residential projects in Al Wukair. The fibre deployment covers 8,500 residential units in more than 300 buildings which can now receive Vodafone’s GigaHome high speed internet, with guaranteed Wi-Fi in every room, plus TV and on-demand entertainment. Vodafone has also commenced its fibre rollout in Ezdan Village in Al Wukair, a deployment which will span over 12,000 residential units.

UAE: Etisalat completes Standalone 5G call

Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has completed what it claims was the first Standalone 5G call in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The test call was conducted using 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. Using a Standalone smartphone, download throughput of over 1.5Gbps was achieved, with an upload speed of 200Mbps. Unlike Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G, Standalone does not use 4G LTE for any control functions.

UAE: Du hits 1.8Gbps in Standalone 5G trial

UAE MNO Du can claimed to have achieved download speeds of 1.8Gbps on its trial Standalone 5G network, with uploads reaching 213Mbps. The test was carried out using a single 100MHz carrier in the 3.5GHz band. In a bid to deploy 5G standalone the operator is committed to the future 5G network in line with the nation’s smart city visions and national agenda.

Saudi Arabia: Zain KSA expands 5G coverage to 27 cities

Zain KSA has expanded the coverage of its 5G network to 27 cities with a gradual expansion of the network planned with a total of 2,600 towers scheduled to be deployed by December 2019. The initial launch of 5G services by the operator was rolled out to 20 cities in October, with the first phase being implemented through a network of 2,000 towers.

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