CEO, Sazz Internet, Azerbaijan: “TD-LTE seems to be gaining worldwide acceptance “

Jayhun Mollazade, CEO of Sazz Internet, Azerbaijan will be speaking on Day One of the inaugural TD-LTE Summit, taking place on the 23 April 2013 at the Fairmont Singapore Hotel, Singapore. We speak to him about how as a WiMAX operator he thinks TD-LTE is of crucial importance, and how operators should go about migrating to the technology.

What have been the latest developments in terms of TD-LTE in your region?

AzQtel was founded in 2005 in Azerbaijan and since 2010 has conducted business under the brand name Sazz. Sazz has built a wireless broadband network in five cities in Azerbaijan using WiMAX technology. Several mobile operators in the region have been conducting trials of LTE technology, for example, Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Most local operators, including Sazz, have been careful in analyzing TD-LTE technology and how best to migrate to it. For Sazz, the main issue is to develop the correct strategy. As such, there are no commercial TD-LTE deployments announced yet, but in 2013 and 2014 we expect some operators to build out their networks based on TD-LTE technology.

Why do you believe that TD-LTE is a better choice for delivering mobile data than FDD LTE?

In general, I believe that TD-LTE provides better utilisation of valuable frequency resources in line with actual customer usage. However, at this point, I am not convinced that either FD-LTE or TD-LTE will be a superior choice for delivering mobile data. FDD-LTE is widely used for delivering mobile data in the United States, while others, such as China Mobile, have announced that they are going to deploy TD-LTE.

At the same time we hear that some operators are leaning toward deploying hybrid networks utilising both FD-LTE and TD-LTE technologies. In the end, such a hybrid platform can create better conditions to facilitate global roaming between different operators in different countries. At this point it is difficult for me to tell which choice is better. I think time will tell which technology will be more effective from network capacity perspective and customer experience.

The inaugural TD-LTE Summit is taking place on the 23rd-24th April 2013 at the Fairmont Singapore Hotel, Singapore. Click here to download a flyer.

To what extent do you believe that the release of a TD-LTE iPhone is critical for uptake of the technology?

I certainly believe that not only modems are important but also handsets devices that support voice and data. If Apple releases a TD-LTE iPhone, it will definitely bring greater acceptance for the technology. In general, what is important is to ensure the technology is deployed globally at an affordable cost for operators (through lower handset pricing) and facilitating global roaming.  And if Apple, Samsung or any other manufacturers release such consumer devices with TD-LTE chips, this will help with the rapid deployment of the technology. I think it’s only a matter of time before Apple, Samsung and other handset manufacturers will add TD-LTE support into their devices.

Some reports suggest that TD-LTE will account for 23% of all LTE usage by 2016. What has been the difference this time between TD-LTE and previous time-division telecom technology flavors? (WiMAX and TD-SCDMA)?

TD-LTE seems to be gaining worldwide acceptance as “the technology” of choice for mobile data operators whereas WiMAX and TD-SCDMA never achieved this critical mass acceptance. WiMAX for example, was successfully deployed by a number of operators in a number of markets such as Clearwire in the US, Yota in Russia, P1 in Malaysia, and Sazz in Azerbaijan. WiMAX proved to be a very good technology in its early entry to the wireless broadband market and some of the above mentioned operators were able to get large customer uptake. I think the biggest advantage of TD-LTE technology over WiMAX technology is the ability to deliver greater capacity, and greater speeds to the handset. The TD-LTE base station can also provide more capacity and speed. It enables operators to put more customers on the network and provide better quality of service and more interactive services such as video, games and other value added services. It is clear that the global trend is towards the successful deployments of LTE technology in a number of markets. I am sure that many WiMAX and TD-SCDMA operators will be migrating to FD-LTE or TD-LTE.

Are you concerned about any issues regarding FD-LTE and TD-LTE interoperability?

Yes, I am concerned about FD-LTE and TD-LTE interoperability. Each technology can take a different evolutionary path but it is very important that these technologies work together. Manufacturers, together with operators who are deploying these technologies, must ensure that there is interoperability and I hope that this is going to be deeply thought out by vendors and operators.

Will wifi offload reduce the need for TD-LTE?

I don’t think wifi offload will reduce the need for TD-LTE. Wifi in general has its own place in the wireless broadband communication technology space and will continue to be used for some time to come for offloading traffic and for other last mile solutions. I believe the two technologies will co-exist together because each technology serves a different purpose.

Does TD-LTE offer any specific challenges around backhaul?

It does for macro and small cells. In the case of macro cells, larger and larger capacity fibre and microwave backhaul systems must be installed to meet the capacity demands at the base stations. In the case of small cells, though they can be placed on lamp posts and the side of buildings it is difficult to secure line-of-sight for microwave deployments. A number of vendors are actively developing solutions for this problem.

What plans do you have for implementing carrier aggregation, in terms of spectrum usage and a roadmap?

Sazz has been assigned over 120MHz of frequency bandwidth in the 3.5Ghz–3.6Ghz frequency range.  We plan to utilize six channels of 20MHz each to support our operations. We will utilise carrier aggregation technology to gain the necessary network capacity to support our customer base.

What would you say to any operators considering the move to TD-LTE?

My recommendation would be to go ahead if you have the dollars to invest, especially for WiMAX operators. But how you execute this has to be very carefully planned. Normally it will take a couple of years for an operator to complete the migration. It is important for operators to start building TD-LTE as an overlay network (over WiMAX or any other technology) in the big cities as in general, data consumption is greater in the big cities and most operator networks are overloaded. Later the operator can expand to other parts of the country where more capacity is required based on market demand.

In conclusion, I would say that TD-LTE is a more robust technology – it gives operators the ability to increase network capacity (and subscriber base) and to offer interactive and other value added services to their customers. So, my recommendation is yes, go for it.

Jayhun Mollazade, founder & CEO of Sazz İnternet has extensive experience in academia, diplomacy and International Business. He was formerly the Chief of Azerbaijan’s Diplomatic Mission to the United States and after leaving his diplomatic post joined the private sector in the US. In 2009 he was appointed CEO of “AzQtel”, which since 2010 has conducted business under the brand name Sazz  and operates a wireless broadband network in five cities using WiMAX technology.

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