Bamboo Tower 1

COVID-19’s impact upon data consumption

According to Edotco Bangladesh’s Country Managing Director, Ricky Steyn, the coronavirus pandemic has brought about job loss and a mass population migration from urban cities towards rural areas. As a result, mobile operators have had to pivot their business model and create a business case to provide urgent connectivity to address this massive shift.

He shared this observation during a press briefing about edotco Group’s (edotco) Centre of Excellence for Design or CoDE and the future of connectivity.

When edotco first announced CoDE last July, Acting Chief CEO of the Group, Dato’ Izzadin Idris said, “The CoDE is focused on developing sustainable design solutions, advancing cost optimisation as well as research and development aimed at crafting solutions that are optimised for each market’s unique needs.”

This initiative displays recognition that cross-country collaboration is important to progress connectivity across all of the group’s footprint countries. CoDE is located in Bangladesh, which also hosts the the company’s engineering talent and serves as a prime location to develop key engineering talent across the region.

Massive traffic change

Circling back to the impact the coronavirus had upon Bangladesh.

Sure enough, the phenomenon of populations leaving dense urban centres to live on the outskirts, actually highlights the shortage of tower structures for network equipment vendors to fix their base stations upon.

Ricky pointed out 4G penetration in the country is very low – below 20-percent – and mobile operators instantly recognised the importance of ramping up 4G network rollout when COVID-19 hit.

He admitted that 5G deployment in the country is about a year or so away, and that discussions are still at policy-level. But of immediate concern now is densification of the 4G network, and especially at areas which were un expected or not planned for, before the pandemic.

Above all, this new rural population is bringing their urban living ways with them, for example working from home, online banking, or even online learning. All these are now happening in rural areas, according to Ricky.

It is also worth noting that data consumption increased 20-percent since the pandemic, in Dhaka and other main city centres. “This places a massive strain on networks,” he pointed out.

More sites, means more innovative adaption

He said, “A lot more (tower) sites are required, especially with 5G.”

Taking on a driver’s role along with the rest of the industry, edotco’s objective is to ensure fast and reliable rollout in rural areas. 4G network densification in areas where connectivity can provide benefit, still continues.

This is where CoDE comes in because it designs efficient solutions and develop standard operating procedures (SOP) on how to quickly bolt sites and roll out network at a speed that is safe and sustainable for everybody.

Director of Engineering and Technology, Ir Kumari Nalini explained, “The edotco Group puts out requirements for all different countries they operate in, and creates SOPs. But in doing so, they miss out details.

“What we needed is an entity that can pull in all the requirements (from different markets) in and create SOP that ensures standardisation and ensures capex is kept at level we designed for.”

For example, a whole new special infrastructure is required because of space constraints in Bangladesh’s main population centres. Ricky described that all industry players have to come together to design optimally and effectively, with players meaning not just network equipment vendors, but also fibre providers, city councils, and so on.

Shareable infrastructure

Case in point is the country’s first ever street furniture in collaboration with the Dhaka North City Corporation. This deployment includes a multipurpose smart lamp pole that provides connectivity to citizens, optional security surveillance, waste management through sensors and an alert system, real-time air quality monitoring, as well as digital signage for community messages.

There is potential for street furniture like this being replicated in another 250 locations, if this initial proof-of-concept is successful.

Edotco’s in-house designs at CoDE are able to ensure optimisation of tower sites that standardises quality, improves budgetary adherence and reduces external costs. CoDE allows edotco to identify opportunities and address challenges through innovative development, which then can be applied across its