By Zia Askari
This story is first published at Tehelka.com and can be accessed here
While India’s much hyped 4G connectivity can be termed as only a rich man’s proposition today, when rolled out nationally, it holds great potential to deliver the power of fast paced information access in the hands of a large set of population of the country
At a time when consumers are looking forward to getting converged voice, video and data on to their next generation device ecosystem of smartphones and tablets, operators are finding it hard to manage better monetization of data while embracing the next generation networks.
As a result, even though as a country 4G entered India in the year 2010, telecom operators are still not fully ready to offer 4G to their customers in India and we have partial deployments only from Airtel and Aircel while on the other hand, many operators including Vodafone, Idea, Uninor and Reliance Jio waiting to offer 4G to their customers in the near future.
4G in India – where are the services available?
Ironically, the year 2015 is the last year for all telecom operators which have won Broadband Wireless Access spectrum to roll out services in at least 90 percent of the service areas.
The Government of India auctioned 4G spectrum airwaves in the year 2010 and it was Bharti Airtel which took the lead in rolling out 4G services in Kolkata first in the year 2012, it was followed by the 4G launch in Bengaluru, Pune and Chandigarh. Today, it is the biggest 4G services provider in India.
What 4G LTE can do for Customers?
4G, is the fourth generation of mobile telecommunications technology standard, succeeding 3G and preceding 5G. A 4G system, in addition to the usual voice and other services of 3G, provides mobile broadband Internet access.
Potential and current applications of 4G include mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming applications and services, powering high-definition mobile TV content, delivering video conferencing, enabling 3D television, and on the business side it could be multiple sets of applications running on cloud computing infrastructure.
It is important to note that as part of its initial development, two 4G technology candidate systems were commercially deployed: the Mobile WiMAX standard, and the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard. Out of these two, LTE has surely won hearts and conviction of a number of global operators as well as in India and hence it is now regarded as almost a ‘de facto’ standard to embrace 4G technology.
LTE delivers a peak speed of 100 Mbps for download. This provides a big boost to the overall upload and download speeds for users and give a fillip to the telecom ecosystem as with this kind of speed, application developers can have more options for creating better user experiences on smartphones for gaming, banking, socializing, shopping, watching videos and more via the Web or mobile Apps.
Even though it is still early days for India as far as 4G LTE is concerned – the possibilities are immense and 4G can catapult communications led progress and productivity for consumers to multiple levels.
Simply put, 4G LTE mobile networks can bring faster speeds of Internet surfing on your smartphones, tablets. Powered by 4G services such as streaming of music, video, video conferencing, faster downloads and faster sharing of high resolution pictures can give a whole new meaning to connectivity.
If we take an example of just video streaming, this application itself holds great potential to provide complete ease of use and a peace of mind for the user so that he or she can watch their favorite programs with the help of applications such as ‘HotStar’ by streaming on their smartphones (or connecting their smartphones to their TVs).
Also when 4G networks are rolled out in all the circles of India, all the voice and data traffic will be on IP which will mean that more and richer information can be shared with respect to users so for instance with the help of right applications or popularly known as ‘Apps’ users will be able to find the location of their favorite restaurants, or nearest hospitals, relevant clinics in a matter of milliseconds.
What’s more is that this level of high speed internet access can herald a whole new dimension to information exchange on the business side as well. Driven by 4G connectivity, banks for instance can enable what is known as ‘beacon banking’. As part of this, banks can automatically know which customer can just entered their branch office and hence provide basic information to the customer almost instantly.
On a similar note, 4G LTE can have positive implications in segments such as healthcare in the form of enabling tele-medicine, education in the form of driving ahead e-education, revolutionizing banking in the form of enabling m-banking and of course it can also power up the e-governance segment for better governance and most importantly driving transparency in processes.
What Operators are Offering on 4G today?
Airtel is one of the few operators that are delivering 4G services for their customers in India, Aircel is second operator which has its 4G offering for customers in select circles.
According to Airtel spokesperson, today Airtel 4G plans are a replica of the 3G plans enabling customers to easily start enjoying 4G at affordable tariffs.
An indicative 4G plan (Exact price points may vary from city to city):
|Plans (Rs.)||Benefit (GBs)|
Airtel was the first to launch 4G in the country in Kolkata in April 2012 making India one of the first countries in the world to commercially deploy the cutting-edge 4G technology parallel to its global launch. “Airtel was also the first to launch 4G for mobile in the country in Bangalore February 2014. Airtel offers a host of affordable value for money packs and plans for 4G on all – WiFi CPEs, dongles and mobile phones. We also offer Dongles and CPEs (Routers) at lower costs of ownership by bundling them with some exciting offers for our discerning customers. Airtel 4G services are currently available in 17 major cities including Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Mohali, Panchkula, Patiala, Phagwara, Pune, Aurangabad, Nasik, Nagpur and Vasai-Virar-Nalasopara,” the spokesperson adds on.
Offering speeds up to 5 times faster than 3G, 4G provides a superior internet browsing experience offering never before capabilities high definition video streaming with zero buffering, download 10 movies in less than 30 minutes, upload full holiday albums in less than 5 minutes by uploading 2 high quality photos per second and also connect multiple devices without any experience constraint.
Aircel 4G Services
Aircel, one of India’s mobile services providers has launched its 4Gservices across four circles in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Odisha.
Aircel holds 20MHz of spectrum in the 4G LTE 2300 MHz band across eight circles – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and North East and Jammu and Kashmir.
Vodafone on 4G
On the other hand, official spokesperson from Vodafone India which is yet to launch its 4G services in India, says that 4G is the technology of the future, but it’s too early to commit to a timeframe to launch 4G in India.
“The 4G ecosystem is maturing at a fast pace globally but it is still in its early days. Though there are few 4G handsets available in the market, the really affordable ones are still limited (example: Lenovo’s A6000, at INR 6,999 while others ranging from INR 18K (Lumia) to INR 50K+ (i-phone 6 plus), which are less affordable,” the spokesperson from Vodafone India adds on.
In today’s scenario, customers are looking at a seamless mobile internet experience, especially for videos and they are not bothered about the technology (2G, 3G or 4G). “We are prepared for 4G and intend to do our first trials next year. We will start finding niche 4G demands from some customer segments in India,” Vodafone India spokesperson adds on.
Reliance Jio, India’s Greenfield 4G Operator
Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (“RJIL”) has just announced that it has successfully acquired the right to use 4G spectrum in 13 key circles across India in the recently concluded spectrum auctions conducted by DoT, Government of India.
As part of its grand plan, RJIL plans to provide seamless 4G services using LTE in 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2300MHz bands through an integrated ecosystem. Even though, it has a pan India BWA license, it has not yet launched its much awaited 4G services in India.
Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited says: “Jio’s seamless 4G services using proven multi-band LTE technology and supported by our large spectrum footprint will provide superior user experience for voice, video and data services in line with the best service providers in the world.”
As of today only Airtel offers 4G services in India in a comprehensive manner. But this space is set to get hot as Reliance Jio is likely to launch its services in a few months time frame. And taking a cue from this scenario, a lot of global (names such as Nokia Lumia, Lenovo, Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, Gionee), as well as home grown Indian smartphone makers (Micromax, Karbonn etc) are now busy devising strategies for introducing their 4G LTE smartphones in the market.
According to market estimates, there are about 20 companies offering close to 50 handsets which can support 4G standards today and what’s more is the fact that smartphone device price points are also coming down and hence, it is far easier to own a 4G smartphone today than ever before. A number of 4G smartphones are now available below INR 10,000, including the Nokia Lumia 638 (Rs 6,799), LG F70 (Rs 8,900), YU Yureka (Rs 8,999), Xiaomi Redmi Note (Rs 9,999) and Huawei Honor 4X (Rs10,499).
4G Devices in India
Over 1 million shipments in 4Q CY 2014 marks the ‘coming of age’ of LTE devices in the India market
- Apple leads shipments of 4G Smartphones and 4G Tablets.
- Alcatel rules 4G Datacard shipments
According to CMR’s India Quarterly LTE (4G) Devices Market Review, CY 2014, total LTE device shipments in the country touched 1.06 million units during 4Q CY 2014. This includes Smartphones, Tablets and Datacards with shares of 96%, 3% and 1%, respectively in terms of shipments.
Commenting on the findings, Faisal Kawoosa, Lead Analyst, CMR Telecoms Practice said, “Till a few months ago we had Apple iPhone and a couple of other global brands offering 4G phones in the India market, but sales started to pick up with competitively priced devices coming into the market as a result of brands like Xiaomi, Oneplus and Lenovo starting to ship LTE phones towards the end of CY 2014. Though LTE services are currently restricted to a handful of cities in India, the reason for sales of 4G devices picking up can be attributed to the fact that consumers who were looking to replace their Smartphones were ‘investing’ in future-proof, LTE network-compliant phones.”
Picture Courtesy: www.freedigitalphotos.net