PARTNER CONTENT: The launch of 5G has transformed the enterprise landscape and domestic connectivity in many markets across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in countries where Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) is being used as an alternative to the patchy or sparse availability of quality fibre.

In an interview at Huawei’s Win Win Live extended reality studio, Unitel Executive Board Member and CTO Dr. Amílcar Safeca told Mobile World Live about the great impact of its 5G deployment in Angola on society and enterprises in the country, and its aims moving forward.

“Unitel has always been a leader in the ICT market in Angola,” he said, highlighting its deployment of 5G FWA, which debuted late last year and saw the company join an exclusive club of operators in Africa to have made the leap to 5G.

“Our aim is to provide fibre-like experiences to families and small businesses in Angola with lower cost and faster deployment, especially to those areas where there´s a lack of fibre connection, like in the suburbs of the cities,” the executive added.

GSMA Intelligence figures for Q1 2023 place the operator as the largest operator in the Angolan market with more than 10 million more connections than its nearest competitor. This places it in an excellent position to push forward innovation and new technologies driven by the latest network infrastructure.

As part of its drive to develop 5G, and the digital ecosystem around it, Unitel and Huawei have embarked on a 5G Joint Innovation Programme.

Safeca said the strategy illustrated its determination to lead in 5G technology, alongside helping it deepen “technical cooperation and service innovation with a global top ICT supplier”.

“Soon Unitel will join industrial partners including Huawei to incubate more 5G business applications by leveraging the digital value of 5G,” he highlighted, citing the potential to unlock vertical industries including within smart mining, ports, agriculture and airports, all areas deemed of high potential in Angola.

Among the 5G application trials being performed by the partners are those falling within the augmented and virtual reality realms. The rationale here was to demonstrate the high qualities of 5G in terms of speed and low latency.

This, Safeca added, offered its customers a demonstration of the “diversified and broad service scenarios” brought by the latest generation of mobile network technology.

As well as developments designed for industrial and enterprise applications, the partnership with Huawei delivered successful upgrades of network sites to 5G: a move which brought great improvements in peak data throughput and speeds, clocking in at around 50 per cent boosts for each.

“In addition, we modernised more 4G layers and innovative products including new features like Carrier Aggregation. 4G also got significantly improved by more than 30 per cent in terms of data usage as well as throughput,” he added.

For its 5G rollout, Unitel initially chose to adopt Non-StandAlone (NSA) architecture to “ensure smooth investment in the initial stage”. However, as part of the joint innovation project, it plans to “take the lead in pre-commercial use of StandAlone [5G] architecture and introduce the slicing capability to Unitel’s 5G networks in the near future.”

As part of its strategy to achieve this the operator has held detailed discussions with partner Huawei on the relative capabilities of StandAlone 5G compared to NSA architecture including within projects in its experimental bureau.

In terms of hardware, Unitel has deployed Huawei’s Blade AAU and broadband RRU in its deployment. This, the expert stated, lowers the total cost of ownership alongside providing improved coverage compared to alternatives.

“We expect META-AAU to achieve the ultimate balance of power consumption and performance to help Unitel maximise the value, save investment, improve coverage and experience for our customers in all the locations we provide services.”

“Additionally, fully converged 5G and ultra-broadband antennas are deployed to build a green 5G target network featuring simplified sites, ultimate performance, and ultra-low power consumption,”  Safeca added, pointing to the ability to maximise 5G investment and spectral efficiency.

Forward thinking
High performance products – which see power consumption per bit decreasing, while delivering strong, low latency 5G to end users – have made a real impact in the country.

Safeca noted it had “seen real user experience improvements and traffic growth in high-value areas of the capital with minimalist, high-performance products.”

Moving forward, he added: “Unitel will continue to select leading products that support full-band, full radio access technology, predestined and passive integration during 5G network deployment, and continue to cooperate with suppliers that help with the fastest network speed and best experience.”

5G innovation in Angola goes beyond creating commercial success for Unitel. As part of its Joint Innovation Project with Huawei, the operator is also targeting applications which aid society and the economy as a whole.

“As a large enterprise, Unitel hopes to accelerate the digitalisation process of society and industry by building high-quality 5G networks and convey our 5G innovation and achievements to Africa and the world,” Safeca added.

Later in the year the operator aims to “actively promote the application for 100 MHz spectrum expansion to improve the overall 5G network capacity, maximise investment value of 5G networks, and provide experiential coverage for the growth of 5G enhanced mobile broadband users.”

In the business sector, the executive noted the opportunity to “strengthen cooperation with ports, airports, and mining enterprises to provide network capabilities, operation capabilities, and differentiated service capabilities.”

As one of the pioneering operators in the region to have launched the latest generation of mobile network technology, industries in Angola now have an exciting opportunity to really embrace digital technologies.

This enticing future is partly driven by use of innovative technologies, which has partnership at its core as shown by the exciting developments being made by Unitel’s joint innovation project with Huawei. This scheme and Angola’s 5G journey as a whole is certain to deliver even more benefits as time goes on for both Unitel and the country’s population.