Need for speed: 4G mobile network technology offers competitive advantages

As Turkey’s young, technologically engaged population increases its internet usage on a variety of platforms, the mobile internet market is set for substantial growth in 2013. Having traditionally lagged behind other nations in 3G development, Turkey is now in an advantageous position to roll out 4G and 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks, offering customers the fastest mobile internet speeds in the world, and supporting continued growth in the mobile market.

Although 3G development first kicked off in the US in 2003, it wasn’t until 2008 that Turkey began its own development. In July 2009 3G services were rolled out commercially when Turkcell and Vodafone launched services across all provinces, with Avea launching in 16 provincial centres. Since then, the three companies have invested some TL19.4bn (€8.38bn) in Turkey, mainly on 3G development.

The services have proved wildly popular – in 2012, mobile broadband usage jumped a staggering 108.9%, with 12.2m people now subscribed to mobile broadband services in the country, according to data from the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA.) The number of 3G subscribers in Turkey reached 41.8m in 2012, according to the ICTA, compared to just 28.6m in 2011.

The success of 3G development has naturally led to questions of when 4G services will be available. Both 4G and 4G LTE networking standards are starting to replace the older 3G data networks used by wireless carriers in most countries. The most advanced network in terms of speed, ease of access, and sound quality is 4G LTE (4G network download speeds are slightly lower). A 4G LTE network in Turkey could be a boon to mobile operators, which have expressed a strong desire to expand into the next generation of mobile internet services. This move would help these companies increase their offerings and thus their revenues in an intensely competitive mobile market.

Testing, Testing

In 2012 Turkcell confirmed it had tested LTE “on the go” services in Istanbul, with speeds reaching 100 Mbps. Turkcell partnered with equipment vendor Ericsson to test 4G LTE on a 3.3-km line running between operation centres in Kartal and Maltepe, easily downloading and uploading high-definition video content simultaneously.

The country’s mobile sector took even bolder steps forward in February 2013, when a $46.8m deal was announced between Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi & Ticaret, an Ankara-based electronic systems firm; Istanbul-based Netaş Telekomunikasyon, Argela, a software company owned by Türk Telekom; and the Turkish government. The deal is set to roll out an expansive 4G network across the country by 2016.

Designed for both civilian and military use, the 4G network will offer mobile services at 100 Mbps and fixed-line broadband at 1000 Mbps, compared to the current 10-40 Mbps offered by the country’s 3G networks. Though 4G networks currently operate at speeds between 150 and 300 Mbps, LTE technology is expected to reach speeds between 600 and 1000 Mbps after 2015, according to lter Terzioğlu, the deputy director general of network operations at Turkcell.

Hidden Benefits

While Turkey’s 3G networks took some time to roll out, underdevelopment in 3G expansion could actually prove advantageous to the sector. In an interview with OBG, ICTA’s president Tayfun Acarer said the delay in creating a large 3G network has prompted Turkey to use more advanced technologies, meaning the move to 4G should be easier. Market players agree: “Instead of having three different networks for LTE, there may be only one network,” Turkcell’s CEO Sureyya Ciliv told Bloomberg in April 2013.

As Turkey’s mobile penetration continues to increase, 4G services represent the next step in its rapid modernisation. The country currently boasts some of the fastest internet speeds in the world, and 3G services have seen triple-digit growth; the development of an expansive 4G network will offer increased opportunities for operators looking to offer added value in what is a competitive and demanding young marketplace.

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The Report: Turkey 2013

Telecoms & IT chapter from The Report: Turkey 2013

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