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Telecom operators may skip 3G, dial 4G directly

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Thomas K Thomas

New Delhi, Dec. 22

With the Government deciding to allocate spectrum for third generation (3G) mobile only by August next year, some Indian operators are reviewing their strategy and looking at the possibility of leapfrogging straight to the fourth generation (4G) technology.

“Even if the Government allocates 3G spectrum by August 2010, operators will not be in a position to launch the services before early 2011. By that time 4G technologies such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) will be commercially available for operators to deploy. Since even 3G players will ultimately move to LTE, we are looking at moving straight to 4G technology in a year's time,” said a Delhi-based operator that recently launched its GSM services in the country.

LTE allows more data to be transferred over the same bandwidth used by 3G technology and at higher speeds. Compared with the 3 Mbps speed offered by third generation services, LTE can offer speeds of up to 10 Mbps. As a result, service providers should be able to get more data transfer out of their network and possibly lower the cost to run their networks

“LTE will not only make existing applications faster but will also enable a wealth of new applications previously available only on a wired Internet connection. It also allows operators to introduce new exciting services such as HD (high definition) video blogging, HD video on demand, media mobility, online gaming, and brings a significantly improved business proposition with 2.5 times higher capacity, lower cost per bit and media mobility. LTE will become the mass wireless broadband technology,” said Mr Sudhakar Ramakrishna, Corporate Vice-President, Wireless Broadband Access Solutions and Software Operations for Motorola's Home & Networks Mobility Business.

Vendors, including Motorola and Alcatel Lucent, are betting heavily on 4G technologies as they see a huge potential in India.

Globally, LTE is under development with a number of international players, including KDDI in Japan and Verizon in the US announcing trials on their network. “LTE will be commercially available for deployment by 2011 so it will make sense for some of the Indian players, especially the new GSM operators, to skip 3G altogether.

There are 12 mobile operators in the country and only four slots for 3G spectrum. So those who don't win the auction could look at deploying LTE instead,” said a market analyst.

But there could be stumbling blocks in deploying 4G. For one, availability of spectrum and the allocation policy for allowing this technology will have to be put in place before any operator can start deploying it.

“It has taken three years for the Government to come to some finality on the 3G spectrum allocation policy. Fourth generation technologies could face the same fate unless India wants to catch up with the rest of the world,” said an industry representative.

Related Stories:
3G spectrum for 4 slots but allocation only in Aug
3G auction as scheduled: Raja
Ratan Tata demands level field in 3G spectrum allocation

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 23, 2009)
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