Telkom foresight delivers future-proof LTE

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Telkom's early calculated risk in backing TD LTE infrastructure is set to pay off, as burgeoning bandwidth demand and a changing technology environment prove TD-LTE is best placed to meet many of SA's mobile data needs in the next few years.

Telkom is currently going live with LTE services at points across the country, and is also trialling LTE advanced - technology which is set to reshape the mobile broadband arena. LTE advanced was demonstrated to an appreciative audience at the recent MyBroadband Conference, where 11 people ftping - or downloading the same data simultaneously - experienced download speeds varying between 35Mbps and 80Mbps.

Amith Maharaj, Senior Managing Executive of Operations at Telkom Mobile, explains that currently, the capacity for LTE advanced is mainly theoretical, since most major media download sites do not make pipes of more than 20Mbps available for downloads. But delegates were impressed, he notes: "Twitter went crazy - it was the fastest speed yet seen in Africa on mobile devices."

Maharaj explains that when Telkom began rolling out its LTE infrastructure, its choice of TD LTE based on the 2300MHz spectrum flew in the face of what was popular in many European nations at the time. However, it was favoured by many Eastern nations, and lent itself to compatibility with lower cost devices, as well as more efficient use of spectrum, he says, because of its asymmetrical splitting properties. Telkom LTE is implemented in a 75% download, 25% upload split, unlike FD LTE, which must be split equally. Telkom LTE can support three x 20MHz carriers for a total of 60MHz capacity.

With the iPhone S5 having just come to market supporting TD LTE, Maharaj expects other major manufacturers to follow suit rapidly, making the TD LTE 'a smart bet', he says.

Telkom LTE is just part of the bigger picture Telkom is developing - the company aims to ensure that whatever users' data needs and connectivity preferences, Telkom will be able to deliver a seamless, customised broadband experience, with the best possible access quality.

"Some users may want fibre to the home, supplemented by LTE when they are mobile. Others may be purely mobile and require large LTE bundles, while yet others might be satisfied with a 3G connection," says Maharaj. By supporting all forms of connectivity, Telkom has positioned itself to offer packages and solutions that grow and change as the customer's needs do.

In addition, Telkom envisages growing numbers of users and communities seeking the benefits of WiFi connectivity. To meet this growing demand, Telkom is building out its nationwide WiFi network, which currently has over 1 500 hotspots live of the 4 000 it has acquired nationally.

With data consumption on an upward spike and expected to grow 12-fold in the next five years, networks are under pressure to deliver, Maharaj says. "Even the expected digital dividend from digital migration will likely not meet this demand." Through measures like building out WiFi networks and increasing access speeds to reduce the time users need to remain online, downloading, Telkom aims to optimise the use of its networks and so meet the projected data needs.

"Telkom is lowering the barriers to entry - like coverage and data prices - and growing product consumption incrementally," says Maharaj. "We have long been gearing our networks for the future, and are now positioned to offer solutions across the board."

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