Ooredoo Tunisia is ‘technically ready’ to provide LTE services to 20% of the Tunisian population, with coverage in all 24 governorates by the end of the year, Chief Technology Officer Hatem Mestiri said in an interview with Tunisie Haut Debit. 4G licences are due to be allocated by mid-March and a commercial launch should take place in April, or June at the latest, the official added. Putting additional pressure on these deadlines, however, is a requirement for the licensees to offer national roaming on their 4G networks, enabling customers throughout the country to access 4G from their provider. To date, the pricing for this facility has yet to be determined, and each roaming offer must be studied and approved by sector watchdog the National Telecommunications Authority (Instance Nationale des Telecommunications, INT).
Responding to criticism that the 3G networks had ‘already failed,’ Mr Mestiri explained that the 4G networks would solve many of the issues affecting the country’s 3G platforms, noting that problems users were experiencing in connecting to 3G networks in the evening was due to a phenomenon known as ‘cell breathing,’ whereby the coverage area of an antenna is reduced during times of high usage. Due to the greater capacity of LTE technology, and the propagation characteristics of the 800MHz band, customers should no longer lose coverage during peak hours.
In terms of other developments, the official noted that the first test calls using voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology were expected to take place in H2 2016. Mr Mestiri added that the cellco is also planning to continue developing its 3G network, and has scheduled work to boost coverage from 94% to around 99.6% by end-June 2016.