LTE is a complementary solution

The technological advantages of LTE make it a complementary enabler to ADSL for future broadband access, particularly for developing economies like South Africa.

Wireless broadband, and LTE in particular, could play a crucial role in the rollout of the last mile in rural areas as part of the national broadband lan.

Typical 2G feature phone users with data-enabled devices consume approximately 50MB of data per month.

Similarly the average smartphone user consumes about 500MB, while those using tablets user consume 1.5GB.

However, more and more broadband users are consuming high-speed data of more than 5GB per month.

Telkom's LTE network performs particularly well because it was purpose-built on the 2300 MHz spectrum on an all-IP network.

Unlike some of the country's other mobile operators that have had to "refarm" some of their existing spectrum, Telkom's deployment of LTE is on a dedicated frequency and different to the networks on which existing mobile technologies such as voice are deployed.

Current download speeds of Telkom's LTE typically range from 20Mbps to 50Mbps although top speeds can go as high as 90Mbps.

Upload speeds range from 5Mps to 10Mbps with top speeds of 25Mbps.

This translates to speeds at least double those of typical 3G networks Telkom has over 1 000 LTE sites deployed with a focus on metro areas.

More than 700 of these are active and the rest are in the process of being activated.

Not only is LTE a fixed-line-lookalike for areas without cable, or in some instances where cable theft has interrupted service, it also has the benefit of mobility for those who require fast internet speeds on the go.

The uptake of LTE is also being enabled by the availability of LTE enabled routers, dongles and tablets from a number of leading manufactures and an increasing number of entry level LTE smartphones.

With the unique qualities of fixed and wireless mobile broadband Telkom has taken a holistic approach to providing broadband services, with 2G for basic access via feature phones, 3G for smartphones, LTE for high speed and quality mobile broadband services, and fixed for reliable high-bandwidth services.

LTE spectrum is ideal for fixed-line-lookalike services in urban areas. In rural areas the sub-1GHz spectrum is key to making LTE a viable option to provide broadband.

On sub-1GHz the cost of deployment of LTE versus fibre is more viable for rural areas where the cost of LTE network deployment is similar to that of 3G.

As a result of these cost efficiencies the migration from 3G to LTE is taking place at a fast pace the world over.

Already 213 commercial networks in 81 countries have deployed LTE networks. A further 456 operators in 134 countries are currently investing in LTE networks.

In the future the use of fixed versus mobile technologies will be driven largely by the size of the screen which one is using.

The smaller the screen (tablet and smartphones) the more likely one is to use mobile technologies for internet access, email, application downloads and content sharing.

Laptops and PCs will be used for a combination of mobile access for internet and email, and fixed line for gaming and heavy file downloads and video streaming.

On the other end of the spectrum television screens will use largely fixed technologies for IPTV, video on demand and internet TV.

These differentiated broadband access groups and associated markets dictate that a mix of appropriate technologies be used to address different needs.

Telkom usage statistics show that South African users are already above the projected global average usage per user.

The top end of Telkom DSL customers using one of the Telkom Wholesale ISPs exceeded three terabytes in the last month.

Mobile broadband technologies are unlikely to cope with a large number of users with such high usage demands.

They would likely require more spectrum and infrastructure than there can realistically be made available.

Fixed broadband is also likely to play a more significant role in the provision of cloud services, enterprise and e-government connectivity, as well as supporting the surge in data growth from wireless access.

The cost to service must also be balanced with the economic benefits to deploy technologies in different areas. Where there is high customer concentration, fixed broadband remains the ideal means to provide high speed broadband.

To make LTE a reality and a meaningful contributor to broadband access requires a collaborative vision and leadership from both the private and public sectors.

Decisions should be made on how to license and assign spectrum. And rules around usage, coverage, sharing and transfer must be defined.

These will go a long way to ensure that the country has a strong framework to efficiently utilise and preserve the available spectrum.

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