South Africa’s LTE network will not experience any issues despite increases in traffic, say officials at Vodacom, in spite of fears of so-called “signalling storms”.
Vodacom CTO Andries Delport also told HumanIPO that 2G and 3G customers will not be affected by loss of spectrum.
There have been widespread concerns – supported by research and prior examples worldwide– that the switch to 4G might result in signals emitted by smartphones overloading the network, causing outages, slow connections and blocking some users, known as “signalling storms”.
While on 2G and 3G networks only a proportion of subscribers use smartphone devices, the 4G network can only be accessed on LTE enabled devices, meaning the number of signals emitted – mostly by self-updating apps – will significantly increase, with huge amounts of bandwidth used.
Delport, however, is confident no problems will occur. “I don’t expect any issue with regard to the increase in traffic,” he said. “There will be an increase in signalling traffic, but an increase also came with the move to 3G. Generally, operators are now more prepared.”
He did admit that 2G and 3G users would lose some spectrum due to the refarming necessitated by the launch of LTE, although Vodacom hopes that users remaining on the 2G and 3G networks will not notice much difference.
“We have been fairly conservative about spectrum allocations to LTE. In Johannesburg, Durban, and Pretoria we have only taken 2.5 megahertz,” he said. “Our intention is not to impact voice quality on these networks.”
He pointed out that that as more people move across to the LTE network, less demand will be placed on the 2G and 3G networks, which will “alleviate pressure” on the weakened older networks. He added that Vodacom will work on introducing alternative solutions for the lessened spectrum available on the 2G and 3G networks, adding that the company will continue to roll out more 3G sites across the country. Only last year, the company expanded its 3G network by 25 per cent.
Given the lack of 4G handsets available on the South African market and the high cost of 4G data bundles, experts expect a large majority of users to remain loyal to the 2G and 3G networks, keeping the pressure on 2G and 3G substantial in the short-term.