The public’s hunger for high-speed broadband will not slow down anytime soon, nor should it. As businesses and consumers begin to experience improved speeds, their usage demands surge with bandwidth-intensive applications and media-rich messaging.
Mobile connectivity offers tremendous advantages to agile businesses, but wireless networks need to be supported by a fixed-line network capable of delivering on this rapidly growing demand. Network convergence between wireless and fibre is the answer, effectively allowing for “fibre to the everything” connectivity.
Wireless technological advancements
Mobile technologies have improved dramatically in recent years and that evolution is ongoing, but they cannot function at their full potential in isolation. The improved capability of a 4G network over a 3G network is wasted without a robust fixed-line network to support it as there are limitations on the transmission of data over the electromagnetic spectrum.
The rollout of 4G LTE networks has been a priority for operators over the past few years, and LTE has proven itself to be superior to the alternative, WiMax technology. Although line rates are higher, a user can still enjoy a good connection, even in a fast-moving vehicle, with LTE.
Increasing capacity with fibre
However, an inherent problem with 4G technology is that the coverage area of a single cell is reduced as bandwidth increases. This means that more masts need to be installed for coverage to remain optimal as usage increases. Relaying this traffic over wireless technology is highly inefficient, which is where fibre comes in, at the core of a mobile network.
This is referred to as fibre backhauling and the demand for it continues to grow rapidly. There is a risk of a deteriorating quality of service for mobile consumers if operators cannot access sufficient fibre links to carry mobile traffic from base stations back to the core network.
Accelerating data demands
The introduction of 4G LTE traffic greatly increased the demands on the network, and this has been steadily increasing as adoption rates rise with the increase of smartphone penetration. Like other developing nations, South Africa has experienced a leap-frog phenomenon with mobile connectivity allowing users to become mobile-first consumers.
Statistics from We Are Social illustrate this growth locally, not only in terms of subscriber numbers but also with regard to how they are using their connectivity. Figures for January 2017 show 27.5 million active mobile Internet users in South Africa, which increased to 30.8 million by January 2018. However, the Digital report in 2018 also shows that the number of social media users in South Africa is growing by 20% yearly, one of the fastest growth rates in the world and well above the global average of 13%.
Catering for next-generation connectivity
Users worldwide are more mobile than ever and increasingly expect the same level of performance whether they are at home or on the city streets. Now a new generation of mobile connectivity is on the horizon – 5G technology is approaching and operators will need to have plenty of fibre links in place to meet the upsurge in data volumes that it promises.
To avert bottlenecks, operators should be making substantial investments in fibre for wireless applications. Network convergence between fibre and wireless is the only solution that makes business sense and achieving that with adequate capacity for future demands requires foresight and collaboration. Read more about the important role that wholesale connectivity solutions have to play across the continent and the necessity of first mapping the telecommunications landscape in Africa.
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