Qualcomm strategies for mobile broadband growth in India

Telecom Lead Asia: Qualcomm India is betting on the deployment of UMTS 900 and 2100 MHz bands in India for further accelerating 3G growth in the country.

Lakshminath Dondeti, director of Engineering – Technical Standards, Qualcomm India, told TelecomLead.com: “UMTS900 improves both coverage and data capacity, and it does so in both urban and rural deployments.”
India’s 3G subscriber growth is not line with the industry expectations as several telecom operators are not yet to cough up huge funds for Capex.

According to a new research report  – Indian 3G Mobile Forecast to 2012 — number of 3G mobile subscribers is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 80 percent between 2011 and 2013 to around 55 million by the end of the period. India has around 900 million 2G subscribers and 20,000 TD-LTE users.

Lakshminath, who is responsible for Qualcomm’s LTE efforts in-country, and driving India’s engagement in international standards forums such as the 3GPP and 3GPP2, says UMTS 900 is suitable for countries with diverse geographies, such as India.

There are no UMTS 900 deployments in India yet. However, network on UMTS 900 band is commercially deployed in 57 networks across 39 countries with around 1,000 devices, according to GSA, November 2012.

Data capacity and better indoor coverage is important for urban areas, whereas better coverage benefits users in rural areas.

According to Nokia Siemens Networks, data traffic generated by 3G services has increased by 78 percent while that of 2G services has increased by 47 percent in India between December 2011 and June 2012.

900 MHz band has the best economies of scale for 3G HSPA after the 2.1 GHz band, and is best-suited for HSPA as it has better coverage and in-building penetration.

Data collected in Nokia Siemens’ MBit Index finds 54 percent increase in mobile data traffic in India during the same period.

3G data use is rising in metro telecom circles while 2G use is stabilizing. Category A and B telecom circles together contribute 72 percent of mobile data traffic, thanks to improved internet speed on 2G networks, and the availability of 2G and 3G dongles at affordable prices. Category B circles have witnessed the strongest demand for 3G services with a growth rate of more than 87 percent between December 2011 and June 2012.

According to Lakshminath, carrier aggregation between 900 MHz and 2100 MHz offers a best-of-both-worlds HSPA network that addresses the capacity and coverage needs of the growing mobile broadband market. Global synergies for the 900 and 2100 MHz bands will help drive economies of scale for DC-HSPA+.

UMTS900, a network migration technology, is good for providing high-speed data in urban areas. It also offers good voice coverage in rural areas, making it a compelling technology option for India.

Currently 900 MHz band is being used for GSM deployment by most operators in India and the government is planning to liberalise it. Currently there are 57 countries that have deployed UMTS900 including: Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, France, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, etc.

As part of enhancing its presence in mobile broadband, Qualcomm is working on 900 + 2100 dual band/ dual carrier (DBDC) deployment as a technology advancement that will benefit India in the coming years.

900+2100 is relevant because no operator can get two slots of 3G HSPA+ spectrum in the same band – whether it is 900MHZ or 2100 MHz, to deploy DC-HSPA+.  New liberalized spectrum assignment for 900 MHz would enable 900+2100 MHz dual band (DB) DC-HSPA+.

Several countries in Europe are expected to deploy this in the near future. 2100 MHZ (or 2.1 GHz) band is the most widely used band for 3G HSPA, and has the potential for enabling mass market broadband access with affordable devices.

Qualcomm says India needs more 3G slots in the 2.1 GHz band for more capacity, and to allow the operators to create a pan-India 3G footprint.

According to Lakshminath, small cells are key to addressing the anticipated 1000x growth in mobile data traffic.

Qualcomm is enabling the rapid densification of small cells to provide greater network capacity. Our highly integrated solutions enable cost-effective residential, enterprise and metro cells that bring the network closer to users, where it’s needed most.

Small cells would extend 3G (and LTE) network coverage and would be a great capacity solution.

The future of mobile broadband will depend on the availability of smartphones and operators’ readiness to invest in wireless infrastructure.

Recently, Qualcomm Technologies, Airtel and Huawei launched India’s first multi-mode LTE TDD smartphone. But Bharti Airtel has 20,000 4G / LTE users with an ARPU of $20 at present.

The good news is that the take off of 3G in India will not be affected by lack of availability 3G-enabled smartphones. Telecom operators such as Idea Cellular has tied up with ZTE to bring co-branded 3G phones. However, the recent increase in duty on phones priced above Rs 2,000 may affect the mood of the buyers.

However, 3G ecosystem needs more active support from mobile VAS companies though Qualcomm is playing a major role in India.

According to IHS, the landscape of the cellphone core integrated circuit (IC) business has transformed over the past five years, with Qualcomm and Samsung capitalizing on the rise of smartphones and 4G.

In the market for application-specific mobile handset core ICs like baseband and radio-frequency semiconductors, Qualcomm in 2012 reigned supreme with 31 percent market revenue share. The chip maker has held the top position since 2007 and even enlarged its lead by 8 percent during the period.

Baburajan K
editor@telecomlead.com

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