1 Jun 2012

Will IPX and LTE change the game for mobile operators in Africa?




Christian Laruelle is our Guest Blogger for the week, he is the Sales Director Southern EMEA at Sybase 365. Today he shares his views on “the impact of IPX and LTE on mobile operators in Africa”.

One of the key points on the 2012 global mobile agenda is LTE. Only a handful of African Mobile operators have started to lay the foundations for the deployment of the Long Term Evolution technology.

What does the future hold for LTE on the African continent?
Contrary to 2G and 3G mobile networks which are built around a mix of technologies, LTE assumes a full IP network architecture both in the core network and on the radio network. An independent IPX market survey sponsored by Sybase 365 and published last year August, demonstrated that Mobile Operators see IPX as being essential for the deployment of LTE Services.

Over 85 Mobile Operators around the world are using Sybase’s IPX platform for interconnection of IP-native services like mobile data roaming over GRX, international MMS, and BlackBerry® Connectivity.
But making the strategic change from the established circuit-switched technology to IP-based technology for
traditional mobile services isn’t all that obvious. After all, these services are usually running quite well on the legacy platforms so despite the promise of increased efficiencies and more transparency, the attitude seems to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

Should the African market start to embrace the advantages offered by this new interconnect strategy for mobile operators? If so, what are the dependencies?

MPLS reach: Despite the many investments so far, the major MPLS providers are rolling out more and more
coverage across Africa, but it still not exhaustive. This situation prevents many mobile operators to even consider the possibility of managing different services on single IP-based network connectivity like IPX. One of the main benefits of IPX, cost efficiency, is therefore available only to a limited number of countries in Africa. With the delivery of 5 main undersea cables rolled out in the last four years and two more planned, Africa will have increased coverage of MPLS across the continent, reduced latency and cost effective connectivity for all IP based services.

IPX connectivity to Africa is increasing as sea cable connectivity is completed to a greater number of countries each year. This means that more and more countries are able to benefit from IPX connectivity over a diversely connected MPLS network each year.

Market priorities: Across Europe, North America and Asia, mobile operators are looking at ways to enhance
performance and security of the essential mobile operator services. At the same time while achieving cost savings on the connectivity part they are aiming at improving and rationalizing the management of said services. In Africa the focus is still on those single mobile services which are essential to the continent’s economic growth (i.e. Blackberry services, roaming services, messaging, mobile payments, etc.). IPX connectivity will allow African mobile operators to optimize the management of different interconnection services in the same fashion as it is now happening in Asia and Europe

With the enormous growth of smartphone adoption (especially since the introduction of the inexpensive Huawei IDEOS phones by several operators), the data traffic generated by those mobile devices will grow substantially as users increasingly turn to smartphones for internet connectivity. Predicting this mobile data usage and capacity planning remains a challenge in the predominantly pre-paid African subscriber base. The demands on the capacity are largely dependent on variable top-up times and disposable income available to the users.

LTE: Unlike the western world, only very few African operators have 4G networks today; yet LTE could represent the solution to the problem of household broadband penetration which still sits at about 3-4% and contributes to the economic development by creating new jobs and interconnection with the rest of the world. The African governments through the African Union have announced their broadband initiative is to reach 50% penetration by 2018.

With more people buying devices requiring mobile Internet, Africa cannot deny a degree of dependency on mobile
broadband. As LTE needs excellent IPX connectivity to run optimally, Sybase 365 will play an important role for African mobile operators.

In Africa, Sybase 365 has been serving more than 90 operators in 43 countries for over 8 years
In the past 18 months, several African operators (small and large) have turned to Sybase 365 for secure, efficient and cost effective connectivity solutions on GRX, MMX and Blackberry services and many others are showing excitement and interest about the possibility of addressing different service needs such as IPX Voice and Roaming signaling. Sybase 365 is helping them to solve the connectivity problem and therefore to access new revenue streams from their end users.

With the Smartphone as a catalyst to increased data traffic, African mobile operators will need to organize themselves to deal with this. If too much capacity is planned for, this could be a serious issue on the bottom line of the operators’ P&L and on the other hand, the quality of service could be impacted in case of not enough capacity.

Sybase’s IPX services enables African operators to both increase the quality and resilience of their connectivity today, while also making them ready for future LTE services tomorrow. IPX provides one connection that is able to deliver the various service levels required for roaming data and blackberry connectivity through signaling and voice today. IPX also enables operators to cope with peaks in data traffic and plan upgrades in connectivity more efficiently.

Sybase 365 IPX will make you ready for the LTE future today while delivering real benefits and cost savings to 2G and 3G services.

Sybase 365 will also be attending West and Central Africa Com taking place 13-14th June at the King Fahd Palace - Soleil De Dakar in Senegal. For more information, please visit our website: www.comworldseries.com/wcafrica