Indian Telecos To Roll Out 4G In 2012, Should We Let Go Of The Faulty 3G & Embrace 4G ?

Even as the 3G debacle continues to plague the country, we have fresh news that we might be privy to the roll-out of the fourth generation (4G) mobile telephony as early as 2012. At WATBlog, we have extensively covered the 3G and the BWA auctions and also followed it up with the introduction of 3G services by various telecom companies. In addition, we had mentioned last month that there was a possibility of 4G being introduced in India.

Telcos are currently testing the 4G gear and support technology that would be a prerequisite before the rollout of the 4G services all over the country. These service providers hold the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses, a unique clause in which states that if they don’t cover 50 per cent of the rural population by 2015, their licenses would be withdrawn. This clause understandably, has been enforced so that these services are available all over the country, not just in the urban areas. The primary difference between 3G and 4G is the data transfer speed. While users enjoy surfing speeds of up to 2 Mbps, 4G raises the bar much higher and promises speeds of 100 Mbps for high mobility communications like trains and cars and a mind boggling speed of 1 Gbps for low mobility communications like pedestrians and stationary users. These speeds are quite unheard of, even for wired broadband in India.

 It is a well-known fact that while mobile operators in India were welcoming 3G in India, many developed economies were focusing on deploying even advanced technology for faster data and content delivery at never before achieved speeds. Due to this, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had released a consultation paper to try to bring the next generation mobile network to India. The major issues and concerns in the paper are revealed to be allocation of suitable spectrum band, block size of spectrum to be auctioned, eligibility criteria for bidder and the maximum spectrum allocated to him, rollout obligations, usage charges, quality of service and security issues.

 This brings to question whether the entire telecom sector would shift entirely to wireless communication. At present, the access networks that connect mobile subscribers are already wireless while the core transmission media and content remains wired running on optical fibre cables. The government plans to 500,000 km of optical fibre cables to connect 250,000 panchayats across the nation.

 One interesting fact about 4G services is that they are readily available and can be auctioned off. Telecom operators can then start these services without delay, unlike the case with 3G which saw tremendous amount of delay after the auctions. While all this seems hunky dory and promises to bring India on par with the other developed economies, there are quite a few issues which have to be addressed.

 Not many people are shifting to 3G in India due to the cost and poor service. In addition, 3G enabled mobile phones are costly. Talking about 4G, there are hardly any phones in India which can make use of it and the service itself would be much more costly than the current 3G. Another important question is whether we actually need such super high speed internet on our mobile phones. With 4G speeds crossing wired broadband, it seems like an unnecessary waste. Telecom operators have already spent a fortune auctioning for the 3G spectrum and they would be further strained when 4G arrives.

Due to these major issues, it doesn’t seem very likely that everyone will welcome 4G with open arms. Improving 3G services itself would be considered a better option.

Do you think we should let go of the faulty 3G and embrace 4G? Or do you think we should keep 4G on hold and improve 3G services itself?

3 Responses to “Indian Telecos To Roll Out 4G In 2012, Should We Let Go Of The Faulty 3G & Embrace 4G ?”

  1. Athul Iddya
    September 27, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    TRAI had been saying that 3G would be rolled out the next year since around 2005. It finally happened in 2010. So I guess, if their plan is to roll out “4G” (by which they most probably mean LTE) in 2012, then maybe it’ll happen by 2015. The main reason why there are not many 3G phones is that 4G specification has not been finalized. In every country where there are “4G” networks, they are actually 3GPP LTE networks which has been rejected as a candidate for 4G. A lot of people are betting on LTE’s next version LTE Advanced which can use the 3GPP LTE infrastructure. But I don’t think Indian telecos will be interested in buying spectrum and equipment for an unfinished technology, especially after the high prices they paid for 3G spectrum. You are right about the cost part, but I guess that is due to the fact that spectrum costs a bomb and the India is not exactly the one of the top countries in average bandwidth per subscriber.

    • September 27, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      Even for arguments sake, if they do roll out 4G in 2012, there won’t be any takers, primarily due to the cost. In addition, no one in India would actually have use for such super fast connectivity, when broadband itself hasn’t reached many. The Indian telecos have taken a severe beating in their balance sheets due to the 3G auctions and are not in a condition to compete for 4G spectrum anyway.

  2. Rohit
    September 27, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    4G doesn’t supports Voice yet. I really dont think that it can replace 3G so early.

    4G will mostly be used initially to provide broadband connections through data cards at your home, office etc. While the technology matures and is able to support voice it may see a greater adoption.

    As far as the need for 4G on mobile is concerned, services always follow the speed. Its a matter of time when some entrepreneur comes out with an application that will make use of 4G essential (like facebook).

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