LTE to drive future of 4G telecom tech, say experts

LTE to drive future of 4G telecom tech, say experts

LTE to drive future of 4G telecom tech, say experts

Reflecting the revolution in telecommunications, India’s total mobile subscribers’ base has reached 812 million at the end of March 2011. Growing at a healthy rate of around 3 per cent per month or around 30 per cent a year, India is the world’s fastest growing mobile market where the mobile penetration in the urban areas has already reached an unprecedented 150 per cent.   

But one segment that has largely remained untouched by the telecom wave is the broadband penetration. At the end of March 2011 there were only 11.87 million broadband subscribers or just 1.5 per cent of the mobile population. Even the beginning of 3G (third generation) services has not made much of a difference as the cost of data packages (used for surfing the net, downloading music and videos, making video calls, etc) has remained high and the speed generally is much lower than what was promised.

Primary reason for this being, India’s leading mobile service operators are generally choked with cheap ‘voice’ calls, and since voice gets 95 per cent of the revenue, ‘data’ gets low priority.

All these are likely to change as the 4G technology riding on LTE platform can offer much-needed and cost-effective solutions feel experts. According to them, leading players will slowly adopt 4G and a new player may start off with it. Mukesh
Ambani-owned Reliance Infotel, a company that has bagged the BWA (broadband wireless access) license for all the 23 circles in the country, is likely to start its service in 2012 on LTE platform.

There are several reasons why LTE appears to be a suitable option for India. According to Tata Elxsi Sales Head (Communication Business) Mrinmay Purkayastha, LTE has a much higher spectrum efficiency and can push much more data in every megahertz of spectrum. “Since spectrum is expensive and a scarce resource, higher utilization will be beneficial to operators,” said Purkayastha. Just how efficient is LTE? Here is an example: using LTE technology, TeliaSonera, a telecom operator that launched 4G service in Oslo in December 2009, has achieved a download speed of 100 mbps (megabits per second) which is ten times the average download speed in 3G network. Since LTE technology is globally backed by all major telecom players in the world, it is creating an ecosystem through enormous amount of R&D spending in network, mobile devices, laptops, netbooks and tablets, etc.

China’s Huawei  Technologies, one of the leading telecom network companies in the world and one of the proponents of LTE technology is extremely gung-ho about it. “As of February 2011 Huawei has 30 commercial LTE contracts and more than 100 trials globally,” said Huawei Technologies (India) Pvt Ltd Director Marketing Sethumadhavan Srinivasan.

Looking at the past 12 months, it is evident that 31 mobile operators have committed to deploy LTE advanced mobile broadband systems, he said. According to Srinivasan to curtail cost, operators have no choice but to boost spectrum efficiency, simplify network architecture and optimize base station and O&M (operation & maintenance) efficiency.

As the Indian operators are faced with steadily declining profits and  revenue per user-- now at Rs 105 per month, the only way they can revive the fortune of the industry is by increasing the usage of mobile internet (or data) by the subscribers. For this, Srinivasan feels, LTE is the best option.

Agreed Purkayastha of Tata Elxsi, “Right now the deployment cost of LTE is high as the challenge is the backhaul or the core network. But as the technology is rapidly becoming popular, standards are getting matured and gaining more acceptance, the cost is bound to fall.” He thinks LTE will enter India some time next year.

According to Wireless Intelligence, a telecom research firm, LTE currently has 350,000 connections globally but expected to touch 300 million by 2015.