Telecom Lead India: Nokia Siemens is betting big on 3G networks as India’s 3G data traffic increased around 90 percent in 2012.
Amit Marwah, head of Technology & Strategy, India Region, Nokia Siemens Networks, said: “We noticed significant increase in data traffic on 3G networks last year. Nokia Siemens Networks MBiT Index for 2012 will be out in the next couple of days and we will share more details.”
In the first half of 2012, according to Nokia Siemens Networks MBiT Index published in August 2012, data traffic generated by 3G services increased 78 percent.
Metros and Cat A circles have strongest demand for 3G in India. Metros and Cat A are saturated with just capacity (Metro) and minor expansions in coverage is expected. The 3G adoption is higher in circles where there was no fixed broadband penetration specifically in Cat B and Cat C circles.
Total 3G data payload/day in some key circles has surpassed the 2G data payload/day data consumption. This gives clear indication that users are more hooked to 3G and current 2G subscribers are also migrating to 3G.
Telecom operator’s initial Capex investments were in Metros and Category A Circles for Tier 1 mobile operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. However, increased demand and growth in Category B&C circles have spurred new rollout plans for some operators, shifting Capex from Cat A/Metros to these areas.
“We estimate the 3G subscriber base to be around roughly 40 million (active) with an estimated 60-70 million total registered subscribers based on trending and operator’s published data,” Marwah added.
In August 2012, Nokia Siemens Networks said it expects India’s mobile data consumption to double by June 2013.
3G network quality for operators
Nokia Siemens’ strategy in India is to support operators and mange the exponential data usage growth through new technology push towards smart networks with dynamic capacity based on NSN’s Liquid Radio Technology.
“Additionally we are also working with existing 3G operators to enhance their throughput speeds and user experience in order to compete with LTE speeds and experience by deploying DBDC, PUM, CEM, IP transformation of core and backhaul and other ground breaking technologies to enhance their networks. We are also involved in planning and consulting activities around re-farming of 900 GSM band and deployment of 900 WCDMA with both the operators and regulators,” Marwah added.
Nokia Siemens Networks has posted 2.2 percent increase in revenues from mobile broadband business in Q1 2013 to Euro 1.24 billion from Euro 1.21 billion in Q1 2012.
Uniqueness of NSN 3G networks
NSN is offering network offering in BTS termed as “Triple RF module”. All the 3 sectors are integrated in 3U based module which weighs ~ 20 to 25kg. Due to lower weight, the RF module can easily be mounted on flyovers, rooftop pole installation, lamp post etc. The RF module due to lower power consumption and form factor has considerable of carbon savings in place. This makes it perfect for deployment in smaller towns and cities, helping bring mobile broadband to these markets.
READ Nokia Siemens Networks’ strategies for WCDMA/HSPA operators
With most operators’ Q1 2013 results out, it is evident that the 3G subscribers are beginning to contribute positively towards the operators financials, boosting data traffic and improving ARPU. The exact 3G ARPU figures are not disclosed by operators.
The Indian telecom industry considers increased penetration of affordable smart phones/tablets as the primary growth drivers in bringing the mobile broadband experience to the Tier 2-3 cities especially where fixed broadband is in a very poor shape. Customized and modular data plans along with plan sharing are also making the mobile broadband experience affordable and more accessible to the masses.
“There has been a significant drop in 3G tariffs as compared to 2G over the last 5 quarters from nearly 1:7 to current 1:2, which in our opinion is in the right direction,” Nokia Siemens’ technology head said.
The traffic mix in the operator networks also show that the these moves are helping the growth of mobile broadband usage and high end 2G subscribers are indeed migrating to 3G.
Highest growth is coming from Category B, followed closely by Category C circles. Growth is highest in mature markets like Gujarat, Kerala, and emerging markets like UP and Bihar. Metro Circles have reached high levels of penetration and uptake and are stabilizing to medium levels of mobile data usage, with pockets of high usage. This is primarily due to the availability and high penetration of fixed broadband in metro circles.
3G customer satisfaction
The demand for 3G services has grown at an unexpected rate in India. The operators were initially conservative on 3G, with rollout model which was based on hotspots which caused coverage gaps and a poor experience level for consumers.
As demand grew, and uptake improved the operators moved capacity in hotspot and increasing the number of markets they covered through the hotspots.
Now with the growth in demand in Category B and C circles, the operators are now moving to carpet coverage rollout plans which have hugely improved the user experience.