This post is adapted
from a blog post that originally appeared on the
TeleTalk blog on ETTelecom.com.
Even though it is the second largest telecommunications
market in the world with over 800 million mobile subscribers, India’s wireless
technologies are still evolving. India has transitioned from 2G voice-led
services to 3G data-enabled services over the past five to seven years. The
arrival of 3G opened new revenue opportunities for telecom operators that were
faced with falling ARPUs, but also brought on new challenges such as providing
greater quality of service and managing and increasing their infrastructure to
India is now in another transitioning phase where telecom
operators are preparing for the 4G LTE network, the next evolution of data
services. While some telecom operators in India are already in the midst of
deploying the 4G infrastructure, others, with recently acquired spectrum, are
just starting out. At the same time, consumers are also excitedly awaiting the
launch of 4G in anticipation of access to better data services.
Why will 4G LTE grow in India?
Since the introduction of 3G services, Indian consumers have
demanded greater mobile internet speeds and improved connectivity. With 59
percent of Indians already using their mobile phones to surf the internet and
India expecting to have 185 million mobile internet users by June 2014, the
demand for high speed mobile internet will only accelerate.
In tandem with this, India witnessed a166.8% growth in the
last quarter of 2013, making it the fastest growing smartphone market in the
world, according to Gartner. With the proliferation of smartphones, greater accessibility
to 3G and 4G network enabled phones will only propel the demand for data,
driving content providers to put more content on the market and in higher
quality formats that require even more bandwidth to deliver.
As consumers continue to demand better services and network
connections and telecom operators work to improve and expand their network
reach across the country, the demand for 4G networks is only going to increase.
What’s the implication for telecom operators?
One of the most compelling reasons to deploy 4G LTE is new
revenue opportunities for Indian telecom operators. According to reports, on average,
20 percent of telecom operators’ revenue comes from non-voice
services--essentially data and SMS--double of what was reported in 2009. The
potential for revenue generation from data is enormous for Indian operators.
According to analyst estimates, in markets like Europe and the US, data
contributes to as much as 50-60 percent to telecom operators revenues.
Operators will need to position themselves as providers of value added
services. Services such as VoLTE (voice over LTE), and integrating OTT
(over-the-top) messaging/value added services will trigger the quest for new
However, with greater competition and number portability, 4G
will bring relief to only those telecom operators that can provide seamless
network connections to subscribers. As the demand for data grows and consumers
become impatient with network errors, operator networks are under pressure to
deliver the required capacity. The arrival of 4G means that operators need to
pay close attention to their backend infrastructure—from reducing interference
to maximizing data throughput in existing cell sites and backhaul capabilities.
Backhaul is a significant consideration in accomplishing
successful LTE rollouts. Increasing backhaul throughput is essential to prevent
it from becoming the limiting factor for overall network capacity.
Also, as cell site acquisition continues to be a key issue
with operators with stricter government regulations and expensive real estate
prices, there is a growing need for operators to maximize real estate
profitability. Integrating and deploying techniques such as sector sculpting
can help operators experience greater flexibility and scalability.
Another decision operators will need to take while rolling
out 4G is deciding which division duplex to use – Frequency Division Duplex
(FDD) or Time Division Duplex (TDD) and in what frequency band. With multiple
bands (900, 1800, 2100 and 2300 MHz) and multiple technology choices (3G in 900
and 2100 MHz bands; LTE in 1800 and 2300 MHz bands; and 700 MHz possibly coming
soon) it becomes critical for operators to have a clear RAN strategy upfront.
As most radio electronics vendors are claiming to support multiple technologies
on single radio unit, it is all the more important to have a clear RF path architecture
before overall RAN modernization is planned.