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clause in which states that if they don’t cover 50 per cent of the rural population by 2015, their licenses would be withdrawn.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?