4G and its Pertinence in the Indian Telecom Sector

By Arvind Bali   |   Friday, 13 Dec 2013, 13:19 IST

The Fourth Generation or 4G mobile network is a term used to describe the next evolutionary generation in the wireless communications space. It is capable of providing comprehensive IP based telecom solutions where voice, data and streamed multimedia can be provided to the users in a seamless manner and at much higher speeds than previous generation networks.

In technological parlance, presently there are two technologies which are capable of supporting the requirement of 4G deployment: WiMAX from the IEEE Forum and Long Term Evolution (LTE) from 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Forum. Many comparisons have been made between these technologies, but with no clear winner. Therefore, the deciding factor for commercial deployment of any of these technologies may be based on the business model.
In today’s ‘always connected’ environment, the new mobile broadband customer services like wireless broadband access, multimedia messaging services (MMS), video chat, mobile TV, HDTV content and digital video broadcasting; in addition to legacy vanilla services like voice and data need very high data rates and quality of service.

International 4G working groups have defined the following objectives for 4G wireless communications:-

- 4G is a spectrally efficient system/technology i.e., No of bits/sec/Hz High network capacity accommodating more users per cell and providing higher speeds to existing subscribers

- Normal data rates of 100 Mbps while in mobility and up to 1 Gbps while the user is stationary

- Smooth hand offs across all networks

- High quality of service for next generation services like MMS, HDTV, Mobile TV, and Digital Video Broadcast, interoperability with existing wireless networks

- An all IP packet switched network
India with a total telephony subscriber base of over 926 million is a veritable goldmine wherein with over 890 million wireless subscriber base and the advent of 4G services will bring a monumental transformation in the way the country communicates with the introduction of very high speed data services and low cost Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Although less number of devices presently supporting LTE Networks are leading to slower growth of LTE networks worldwide, yet high demand is expected to boost the production and introduction of more devices at an affordable cost.

Features like wireless data transfer through Internet Protocols (IP), maximization of packet data switching, upto four times data delivery speeds than 3G networking & upto sixteen times data delivery speeds than 2G networking establishes the 4G network as the future of data networking in India. Ensuring faster speeds, better coverage and speedy data deliverance, 4G is the answer to all impatient surfers waiting for faster data delivery.
4G will bring engaged mobility to smartphones and smart configuration enabled devices which will drive the telecommunication processes of the future. With data streaming becoming faster and communication becoming seamless, 4G enabled India will move onto the path of engaged interdependence and will bring about a latent communication revolution in the sector. With the launch of 4G services by several service providers, prices of the devices are expected to come down.

While on one hand 2G and 3G networks were more voice oriented, 4G will set free the cloud of data interdependency and will bring about an engaged data transfer solution which will be the vehicle of engaged mobility in times to come. Being about four times faster than 3G networks, 4G in Indian data conditions will offer faster file sharing, easier data download and lightening fast communication modules which shall help satiate the ‘always-on’ needs of the emergent India. With the emergence of cloud services, users in India are getting more demanding for speed and for always connected mode which can be achieved by using LTE enabled network. In addition to this, more high speed centric applications e.g. online gaming, HD video playback can also be supported by 4G networks. With the support of IPv6, LTE will be able to accommodate more simultaneous users on the network, thus leading to its sustenance.
Worldwide, mobile broadband services are expected to grow significantly i.e., from existing nearly 50 million subscriber to more than 200 million subscribers by the year 2015. Mobile internet needs very high bandwidths and hence mobile data network traffic is expected to grow worldwide to nearly two million terabytes per month from existing traffic of nearly 50K terabytes per month.

However the increase in network traffic must also result in increased revenue generations for the telecom companies maintaining the affordability of the services. Trends indicate that 4G/LTE is going to result in an increase of revenues for service providers. Technology reveals that 4G/LTE reduces cost per bit exponentially as compared to GPRS in 2G and HSPA in 3G. Cost per bit in 4G is approximately 10 percent as compared to the cost per bit in GPRS in 2G and 40-50 per cent as compared to high speed packet access in 3G.

With the industry going forward, the need of the hour is to pertinently engage 4G services and steps should be taken to not let it go the 3G way. One needs to remember that while 3G services were introduced in the country a year back, the penetration of 3G services have been minimalistic to say the least. Over the year, the penetration has just about reached approximately 12-15 million subscribers which dogged by plethora of issues has taken the sheen out of 3G network’s pertinence. Other factors like lacklustre operator interest, unreliable networks to play upon, low availability of 3G enabled devices and low-scale content deliverance are some of the impediments that 4G has to secure itself against. In addition to this, low availability of TDD-LTE enabled devices against more popular but less efficient FDD-LTE will remain a challenge during the starting phase of the services.

There are certain challenges in deploying 4G/LTE Networks with the telecom providers. Some of these challenges are:

- End-to-end equipment availability and maturity of network performance and ensuring quality of service

- Interworking with legacy network i.e., core, transmission, access, terminals so that existing deployments are not wasted in any way

- Large bandwidth requirements on transmission media both towards backbone and metro level backhaul

- Converting time-division multiplexing backbone

- Network to multiprotocol label switching based IP backbone

- Network for supporting all IP network requirements

- End terminal availability and cost/affordability

The industry while treading cautiously to the emergence of 4G networks waits with bated breath for the emergence of the network. With stellar feature set like providence of cellular device facilities for wider access of data, greater application outreach, multiple access protocols, and much more waiting to be explored; the interdependence that 4G network generates will steer the future of Indian communication portals. And with 3G emergently creating an enhanced portal of greater communication, 4G can easily ride onto the 3G platform to reach out to the emergent consumers of the 21st century India. As is said, “An emboldened India is what the need of the hour is; and it is its pertinence that charts the course of its future action."


About Author

Arvind Bali

Director & CEO-Videocon Mobile Services

Videocon Telecommunications Limited, is a Videocon Group (BSE: 511389, NSE: VIDEOIND) company that offers GSM mobile services under the brand name Videocon, in India. Headquartered at Gurgaon, the conglomerate has a market cap of Rs.6658 Crore.