Mass Adoption of Data Services Can Safeguard 4G Investments: LTE India 2016

With 5G looming over the horizon, the government is of the view that data services like 3G and 4G should be given out to the rural customers for a nominal charge.

While speaking at LTE India 2016 N.K. Yadav, Member Services, Department of Telecommunications, Government of India said, “Although the rural 2G services have crossed the mark of 50 percent, the real tele-density is still around 25 percent, but the data services were just about ten percent. To increase the data usage, there is a need to make the services more affordable.” Shri Yadav is also Chief Managing Director of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).

While one of the leading telecom service provider said that due to high spectrum costs and right of way charges and other levies was making investments in the service expensive and returns inadequate. “Over and above high spectrum charges, Government is also imposing a service tax even as local charges for right of way are almost doubling every now and then”, said Rajan Mathews, Director-General of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

Characterizing the urban telecom user as ‘really data hungry’, Yadav assured that Government of India is providing as much spectrum as possible to the industry. “Spectrum shortage, that operators consider as a limiting factor in spreading high quality service should go. Spectrum provision is opening up and through sharing, trading and harmonizing spectrum more intensive usage will happen in a big way,” he added.

The Digital India programme of the Government aimed at providing on- line service to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats by 2018. It would be “faster and cheaper’ service.

Focusing the problems faced by operators in pushing forward data services, the panelists revealed that though the data services were spreading and there was huge supply of 4G services, the pull from the customers was not strong enough. High spectrum price at the auctions that operators had to pay have made data service more expensive. With programs like Digital India, Smart City and e-services, the much needed consumer pull is expected to improve.

Dr. Rishi Bhatnagar, President, Aeris India said, “IoT is about monitoring, collecting, analyzing and providing insights into information from things and 4G/LTE plays a promising role in long term & high volume data enabled connectivity and application services. Today, large data centers are being run by Telcos and with wider adoption of IoT, telcos will soon become the data storage providers in IoT, enabling a new stream of revenue and revenue enabled services. Telco’s are already turning into IoT solution providers for their enterprise customers. There is huge market opportunity for Telcos in multiple verticals and it would be interesting to see how soon they are able to tap it.”

The panelists also expressed concern at the huge costs of investments the industry is making. Industry experts like Mr. Adrian Scrase, Head of Mobile Competence Centre, 3GPP said that worldwide 494 LTE networks existed in 162 countries. These are expected to rise to 550 networks soon. Non-traditional users would constitute increasing portion of the customer base, which will push the networks usage.

According to John Reister, VP Marketing & Product Management, Vasona Networks, said, “Indian consumers have a high interest in video services and exponential demand growth places strains on scarce mobile 3G and LTE network resources. This brings an unprecedented urgency for the Indian mobile network operators to overcome congestion and preserve the mobile performance that consumers expect. Better quality experiences lead to longer watch time, more loyalty and ultimately, market growth and profitability.”

Giving details of the emerging LTE networks and their capability, Sanjay Sharma, Regional Vice-President and Head Redknee South West Asia, foresaw a ten-fold increase in subscriber number and SIM numbers by 2019.

Redknee executive explained how traditional data could be combined with real-time, contextual information to detect and capture more opportunities for monetization. Personalized, valuable offerings at the right time and context would all make LTE services widely popular. Redknee is one of the largest independent providers of real-time monetization software with 2.8 billion subscribers.

The panelists at the discussion included Shri DP De, Sr. DDG, Telecommunication Engineering Centre, Rajan S. Mathews DG, Cellular Operators Association of India, Rajat K. Mukarji, CCO, Idea Cellular, Arvind Bali, Director and CEO, Videocon Telecom, Avinash Mittal, Sr. VP and CIO, Telenor India. The Panel discussion left no doubt that India like much of the world is waiting for 5G and LTE plus networks due to pressures for greater efficiency in business and personal preferences.