Qualcomm pitches for LTE TDD; are operators ready in India?

Qualcomm and other telecom equipment vendors are
aggressively pushing for the roll out of LTE TDD services in India by telecom
operators who have received spectrum through BWA auction last year.


As of now, only 2-3 BWA operators are getting ready to
launch LTE TDD services. The Mukesh Ambani promoted Infotel Broadband Services
has set up a LTE TDD division to look at the possibilities of launching
broadband services. Infotel Broadband Services spent Rs 12,848 crore for
bagging BWA spectrum for 22 circles.


Aircel is yet another operator in the trial stage.  Aircel recently experienced LTE-TDD
functionality using multimode devices based on Qualcomm’s MDM9600 chipset in
its GSM/UMTS/LTE-TDD network provided by Huawei at Hyderabad. The experiment is
expected to further equip the operator to offer a rich mobile broadband
experience to the subscribers.


Aircel spent Rs 3,438 crore for getting 8 BWA circles.
However, the company is yet to announce its mobile broadband plans and telecom
equipment partner.


Bharti Airtel is also very keen on launching LTE
services. The country’s larget mobile operator spent Rs 3,314
crore for 4 BWA circles. It is currently busy launching 3G services across the


The chip major Qualcomm which invests Rs 4,913 crore for
spectrum in Mumbai and Delhi circles will be in a position to launch as it
needs to ensure confidence among Indian mobile operators.


Though Mukesh Ambani is trying to become the first Indian
operator with commercial LTE service, there are questions about the market
acceptance. Since 3G is yet to be accepted among masses and lack of availability
of quality 3G services due to capex constraints, the debate currently is on who
will embrace LTE TDD.


Tikona Digital, MTNL, Augure are the operators who burnt
their fingers. Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications, Tata Communications,
Idea Cellular, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Uninor and S Tel did not make
serious efforts to buy spectrum in 2011.


If BSNL goes ahead with LTE TDD, it will be a big boost
for Qualcomm and other telecom equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Huawei,
Nokia Siemens Networks and others. But there are concerns about the
preparedness of the eco-system.


Recently, Qualcomm, in association with Huawei, ZTE,
Quanta and BandRich, announced the launch of LTE TDD multi-mode devices based
on Qualcomm’s MDM9x00 chipsets.


Qualcomm feels that the launch at IndiaOn 2011
demonstrates the LTE TDD ecosystem’s readiness for deployment and
commercialization of LTE TDD to enable seamless mobile broadband experience for
Indian consumers.


The announcement of multi-mode LTE TDD devices today is
a significant milestone for the commercialization and deployment of LTE in
concert with 3G for Indian BWA operators,” said Avneesh
Agrawal, senior vice president of Qualcomm and president of Qualcomm
India and South Asia, during the launch.


Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s
(TRAI) consultation paper on IMT Advanced (LTE Advanced) said
that both LTE TDD and LTE FDD will be widely used, while it is anticipated that
LTE FDD will be the more widespread.


Since LTE has become backward compatible with 3G and 2G
technologies which use paired spectrum, LTE FDD using the paired spectrum can
form the migration path for the current 3G/2G services.


Around 74 percent of the operators from the 3GPP camp
plan to take the W-CDMA to HSPA+ to LTE migration path. 11 percent of
respondents are deploying LTE as a greenfield network, according to Infonetics


This is significant for mobile operators in India as most
of the leading players are in the process of deploying 3G. Migration to LTE
Advanced will be easy for such 2G / 3G operators.


LTE’s interoperability with existing 3G HSPA and EV-DO
networks enables operators to leverage investments in current infrastructure to
offer seamless mobile broadband services through multi-mode devices.


Are Indian BWA operators convinced about LTE TDD launches
utilizing their BWA spectrum received in 2010?


Lack of preparedness among operators suggests that LTE
launch will happen in 2012 only, while masses can utilize LTE in 2013-14.


The government made Rs 38,617 crore through the BWA
auction. But lack of direction in the industry is forcing operators to park
their funds in unused spectrum and look for funding. This trend has the
potential to kill the telecom industry in India.


By Baburajan K
[email protected]