Complex Made Simple

Middle East telcos ready ‘triple play’ for voice, data, video services

Telecom operators in the Middle East are busy readying their networks for 'Triple Play' to provide voice, data and video services, without compromising on quality in order to meet new customer demands and competition.

Most mainstream telecommunications firm are succeeding in providing full-fledged networks, while newer licensed operators are doing their best to reach out to customers with bundled packages to compete with existing service providers.

By Manzoor Ali, Managing director KSA at R&M Middle East & Africa

The majority of the fixed telecom operators are talking about Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) or Gigabit Ethernet Passive Optical Network (GEPON) technologies to cater to the increasing demand for broadband. But in the region GPON is the technology widely accepted and followed.

For these systems the network performance not only depends on active equipments, but it is equally important to have quality passive components from central office to the customer end. Here come the challenges, as Passive Optical Network technology is relatively new and doesn’t have the same amount of history as traditional copper network. But now technologies demand for fibre on the access network side also, which could be FTTB (Fibre to the Building) or FTTB (Fibre to the Home). The design may look simple, easy components comparing to ADSL or VDSL network as there is no active element in between the connectivity from central office.

There is no problem providing a power supply or any other active transmission equipment in the street cabinet. The challenge here is to have high quality passive components and precision in the specification in order to have a reliable telecom network. This network is going to handle voice, video and data, through with one can operate IPTV, video on demand etc. Upstream and downstream both are important and hence the physical layer should be of a very good quality.

The driving force behind the adoption of FTTH technologies in the region is the growing demand for high speed connection in both upstream and downstream. Traditional copper cabling systems, such as ADSL or VDSL where the transport layer was copper backbone and access, had its challenges of providing high speed reliable network to a demanding customer. When it comes to a new telecom operator, or an existing telecom operator who would like to invest for the future, it is cost-effective for them to invest in Fibre backbone and access network.

This opens up the way to a number of new applications and new services such as online backup, call centres, e-health etc. With the widespread proliferation of such networks, the number of possibilities is sure to grow. HD and 3D video services, market competition for higher bandwidth offering, lower maintenance and operation costs and new generation mobile network backhaul are among the main enablers in driving this technology forward.

New telco operators drive rapid Middle East growth

A look at the telecom sector in the Middle East region reveals that the main factor for the rapid growth of the industry is the entry of new telecom operators into the market as a result of privatisation policy. The situation of this region is totally different from those in the European markets. Telecom Privatisation policy is shaking up the industry and putting pressure on incumbent telecom operators who were previously enjoying a monopoly. Very few of them were meeting the growing demands of customers.

The existing operators continue to utilise and build upon their existing copper based networks while the new licensed operators are keen on rapid deployment to speed up their time to market. In both scenarios, success depends on the expertise of the vendors who can deliver the systems and solutions that meet each operator’s requirements. So most passive networks need to be tailor-made with the delivery of systems occurring within strictly defined time frames. Traditionally the problem with tailor-made solutions has been the bottle neck in deployment due to the time taken for custom development, fabrication and further deployment and field testing.

The focus therefore of telecom passive network vendors catering to the telecom domain should be on the development of products which can be highly customised while at the same time can be quickly delivered for field deployment. So, flexibility and modularity of the product play a main role for a speedy deployment. Each public network presents its own unique set of challenges, which is why fulfilling individual requirements, quick adaptations and local support are fundamental to such undertakings.

Strategies vary between Middle East networks

Environmental factors, competitive situations and legal regulations too vary from site to site. Network operators follow different strategies when it comes to topology and architecture. Sometimes point-to-point solutions might be the right answer, whereas at other times point-to-multi-point solutions or even a combination of both. This will be driven by the application of the network.

For operators migrating from legacy copper solutions to fibre based cabling, existing infrastructure must be integrated into feeder, drop and access areas, or hybrid cabling must be used in a transitional phase before FTTx has finally become firmly established. This requires the flexibility of combining copper and fibre optic cable on existing platforms.

Finally, building entry point and residential connections often require customer-specific modifications and aesthetic solutions. Meeting such demands increases customer acceptance and translates to greater connection volumes. Customers could be home, businesses, enterprises, IT developers, corporate or government organisations and the behaviour and demand for each one of them varies depending on their priorities. But one common factor for all of them is that they will always look for a reliable network with good quality of service.

As a result, it is important that when telecom operators invest for the long term, they need to make sure that the network is capable of handling customer’s requirements for more than 15 years. As customer demands drive operators to upgrade their networks, those who deliver the best quality of service even during upgrades and enhancements are the ones who will see long term success.