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Operators, are you ready?

Posted on Apr 17 in News-Publicby Press OfficerPrint

Operators, are you ready?

By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb journalist.
Johannesburg, 14 Apr 2020

MTN call rates that will apply to the tourist SIM card pack.

Telecoms operators seem well prepared for the large influx of network users during the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup, say analysts.

“They [operators] have had enough time to prepare. I think they’ve all done the adequate planning, but of course capacity is still a concern,” says MD of BMI-TechKnowledge Denis Smit.

There are a number of initiatives that are being embarked on by operators. Included in these initiatives are several attempts to maximise capacity.

Boom time

“The increase in capacity is going to be huge. We know that they [operators] can handle big volumes, as we see around Christmas, but now it’s going to be big volumes for six weeks,” says Smit.

Cell C’s network capacity is being upgraded, according to executive head of operations Dennis Abella.

“Vodacom has also invested significant time, resources and funds to increase capacity,” says executive head of corporate communications for business, industry and technology Nicolene Visser.

She adds that Vodacom is implementing a “comprehensive network capacity management strategy” to ensure the network can handle the greatly increased traffic. The company has also deployed distributed antenna systems (DAS) at stadiums, which are more efficient in increasing capacity on demand.

“National transmission capacity is also being increased, with the laying of fibre-optic rings nationally. The construction of 11 fibre-optic rings in major metropolitan areas, to interconnect mobile switching centres and base station controller sites nationally, will increase local bandwidth capacity. Ten of the 11 Vodacom fibre-optic rings (in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town areas) are already live and carrying network traffic.”

Vodacom has also had special equipment rooms built at each stadium for radio equipment, DAS and backup power. The equipment at all stadiums has been upgraded and four stadiums were tested during the Confederations Cup, in June 2009, with all being successful, according to Visser.

“The planning has been done and the capacity has been installed; now we have to see what happens. We have never done this before, so we don’t know,” adds Smith.

Vodacom tried to avoid this problem of first time experience with such a large event by visiting Germany (host for the previous World Cup) and Beijing (host for the Olympics) in 2008, to speak to operators about their experiences, technologies and plans in preparation for the large international sporting events, says Visser.

Tourist packages

MTN SA has distributed 650 000 free international visitor SIM packs globally, says data portfolio manager Surajh Surjoo.

ICT industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan Protea Hirschel adds: “MTN’s association with Fifa has obviously put it in a strong position to push out its SIM packs globally – quite a smart move in terms of how to benefit from the sponsorship.”

Surjoo explains that the pack comes with preloaded BlackBerry Internet service subscriptions for e-mail, and gives customers access to MTN location-based services, namely MTN WhereRU and MTN 2MyAid. It also allows access to MTN Play, which provides exclusive Fifa 2010 content, update services, and subscriptions.

The company has also included a content bundle valued at R100, for sale at R7.50. This includes ringtones, wallpapers, video clips and Fifa 10 mobile game from EA Sports.

On the move

Visser says Vodacom has developed services specifically for tourists as well, and these will be announced in the near future.

“Cell C is prepared for an uptake in local SIM cards by tourists who might want to benefit from the local products and rates,” says Abella.

VOIP also comes into play with telecommunications operator TelFree. It will offer a “TelFree 2010” package, according to TelFree global head of research and development Rapelang Rabana.

She says this package enables callers to use VOIP on their mobile phones, as well as their computers, adding that one has to have an Internet connection so wireless hotspots will be helpful.

“Further benefits of the TelFree system include a unique 087 number that is fully integrated, yet portable, so there is no need to change existing GSM cellphone numbers,” says the operator.

Call rates

Cell C, Vodacom and MTN all mention roaming partnerships that will be beneficial during the World Cup.

“Cell C has 527 roaming partners in 185 countries across the globe… and also has data roaming agreements with 231 roaming partners in 104 countries,” says Abella.

Visser says Vodacom’s partnership with Vodafone will allow visitors to benefit from roaming agreements with most international operators.

MTN will allow foreign customers to make calls at current local rates and benefit from MTN low-zoned international calling rates, for example, flat rate to any country, according to Surjoo.

TelFree claims to help customers avoid the high international roaming fees, since it provides a global flat rate to fixed lines and mobile phones, and free calls from registered TelFree to TelFree accounts.

Rabana says the rate for calling any fixed line in the world is R1.79 and the rate for calling mobiles is 65c.

The TelFree 2010 package, which is available from June to July, costs R350 and includes access to TelFree Mobile and TelFree Web, 180 minutes of talk time – international and national – 500 local SMSes, 60 international SMSes, free IM (ICQ, Yahoo, Google talk, Skype, Facebook, AIM, MSN) and free push e-mail, according to the operator.

VOIP fail

Despite the global flat rate, analysts and industry players aren’t hopeful for the use of VOIP during the World Cup.

“Quality is the concern with data networks. The last mile is the speed to the handset,” says Smit.

This statement is echoed by Mohammad Patel, CEO of O-Tel Africa, a local telecoms operator. He says the 3G network in SA will not cater for mobile VOIP.

“It is well known that the local 3G towers are well over-subscribed, hence it is unreliable to send and receive a voice packet as the speed it provides is not adequate, particularly the upload speed.”

But Smith is not disturbed by this. “I think the packages and capacity upgrades are enough.”


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