2012: Telcos all set for 4G launch

Adith Charlie Mumbai | Updated on November 13, 2017 Published on December 23, 2011

If 2011 made 3G services a household term, 2012 may have something even more exciting: a faster broadband technology that connects people on the go without being wired.

Reliance Industries, Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Tikona and Qualcomm are working aggressively to launch what is being termed as 4G or fourth generation services.

A RIL official confirmed that the company would launch broadband wireless access services sometime during 2012. Tikona too is gearing up to launch 4G services in 2012 with TD LTE (Long term evolution) as its backbone.

Download speeds

According to the International Telecommunication Union, broadband wireless access should be able to deliver download speeds of 100 Mbps to 1 GBPS. Till date, download speed of 70 Mbps have been achieved only in lab conditions. On the other hand, current 3G speeds are topped out at 14Mbps downlink and 5.8Mbps uplink. Yet, in India operators are struggling to offer speeds of even 3Mbps.

“We look forward to the advent of 4G technology which will be launched in India at the same time as the rest of the world. Coexisting with other technologies like Edge, 3G and DSL will further provide an impetus to the adoption of data services,” said Mr Sanjay Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer, Bharti Airtel.

Mr Kunal Bajaj, Director-India of telecom research firm Analysis Mason, said: “With 4G one can expect higher quality video conferencing and speedy video downloads. Watching high definition movies on the move without buffering will also become a reality.”

The wide pipe of wireless data available to the 4G subscriber will also lend itself to downloading large chunks of data, such as large spreadsheets and presentations. However, the success of each operator in this space will heavily depend on the differentiation strategy adopted by them.

“What remains to be seen is whether BWA operators will go after the dongles and home broadband market or whether they will focus more on the mobile broadband side. Each of these segments need to be catered differently,” said Mr Prakash Bajpai, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tikona Digital Networks, a company that paid Rs 1,058 crore for spectrum in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (east and west), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

Operators that focus on the dongles and home broadband market will find huge uptake for their services at the cost of facing a capacity crunch. “Given that the amount of spectrum at our disposal is a constant, the question really is whether operators want to do what wireline broadband is supposed to do or just wait for the mobile handheld ecosystem to develop,” said Mr Bajpai.

Mr Bajaj says that the few 4G-enabled mobile devices that are available in the market have challenges in terms of being bulky, consuming more battery and generating extra heat.

In the test phase

A disadvantage is that the LTE technology is currently in the test phase and has only been implemented in select developed markets by the likes of Vodafone, Verizon and Telenor.

Industry watchers say that that it will take at least 3-4 years for BWA to be fully commercialised. Unlike the 3G players who already had 2.5G networks to fall back on, BWA spectrum winners have to create altogether green-field networks.

“Challenges for BWA players will be of a higher order than 3G. 4G-enabled devices are not available in mass numbers. The ecosystem is not yet ready in terms of distribution and supply chain either,” said Mr Hemant Joshi, Telecom Practice Lead, Deloitte India.

Bundled offering likely

In other words, subscribers should expect 4G services to be patchy and expensive in the first few years, with a predominant bias towards the metro cities.

And hence several BWA players may look at providing a bundled offering, giving subscribers both the 4G service and the device as a package.

In fact, the market is abuzz that the Mukesh Ambani company, which had pan-India BWA spectrum, is in discussions with several device makers to procure tablet computers and launch them at as low a price as Rs 3,500 bundled with a high-speed data offering.

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Published on December 23, 2011
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