Tech Mahindra: It would take around 4-5 years for Indian operators to consider LTE

Raju Wadalkar, Sr. VP
– Network Tech. Solutions & Services, Tech Mahindra talks about how India
will be an early adopter of LTE, and how this will take mobile broadband
services into the next level

 

What is Tech Mahindra
doing towards 3G in India?

Tech Mahindra is working with equipment vendors in the areas
of network planning, 3G rollout for service providers, product and device
testing services. As an industry first, TechM recently completed the 3G
Benchmarking drive tests trials for Mumbai city and benchmarked various 3G
services like Video Calling, Video on Demand, Data Speed, Mobile TV across 3G
Operators in Mumbai.

 

What has been the uptake for 3G services in India?

BSNL/MTNL had launched their 3G services a couple of years ago.
However, the uptake has been very poor and they have not been able to
capitalize their lead in this space. 3G spectrum is already available with
several other operators and they have made initial launches in major cities.
However, statistics on the usage is not available as these services are barely
a month or couple of months old. The increasing popularity of video on demand,
high speed Internet applications usage for social networking and media
broadcasting by users will spur the demand for 3G services and will expand
across the country progressively.

 

Will there be better
scope for LTE in India? How soon do you estimate we will move towards LTE
trials in India?

Long Term Evolution (LTE) will strongly emerge as the next
generation wireless technology that will lead the growth of mobile broadband
services into the next level. Also, since it is a logical extension of the
current 3G technology with a fall back option on to the deployed 3G / GSM
network , it makes the subscriber experience that much more seamless. In our
view, wireless high speed data services are likely to flourish only if a range
of BWA devices are available in the market at most affordable price levels for
prospective price sensitive Indian consumers.

 

Initial LTE rollouts will happen in metro cities where
individuals and enterprises are willing to pay a premium for the services. It
would take around four to five years for most operators to consider LTE because
firstly, they have made huge investments in 3G spectrum and they want to
extract RoI quickly, and secondly, LTE technology is maturing, and it would
take few years before the technological challenges are sorted out. In the
meanwhile, 3G operators can trade the HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) path and
reap the benefits while readying their networks for LTE.

 

What is Tech Mahindra
doing towards LTE abroad and in India?

Much of our work on LTE is based globally. We are currently
working with a Tier-1 operator in US in the area of network device and
interoperability testing. Our services in the LTE area include Radio network
planning, access and core planning, backhaul services, network optimization and
benchmarking activities, network deployment, testing and integration services,
content and applications, OSS/BSS, security and testing.

 

We are also working with an equipment manufacturer in the
APAC region in building a Femto LTE gateway product.

 

What are some of the
preparations that Indian operators can make for LTE in India?

We believe that India will be of one of the early adaptors
of LTE and Indian telecos can adopt this technology by acquiring a 700 MHZ
digital dividend spectrum slated to be auctioned next year. 3G operators can
gradually offer HSPA services to urban customers. Since the network upgrade is
mostly through software, it won’t affect the architecture. In addition, Greenfield
LTE operators like Reliance Infotel will help develop the device ecosystem
faster and bring the cost down.

 

However, CDMA operators/3G operators will continue to use
the existing networks for voice services, while LTE would be an overlay network
in the beginning. In order to keep the CAPEX down, operators could consider,
and are thinking of active/passive infrastructure sharing. Thus, in short, each
service provider with whatever technology they have in place would continue to
adopt its evolution path for at least few years to come. Depending on the
business case, they shall/can transition or transform to LTE. However, operators
should plan for the smooth migration from 3G to LTE for SMS & voice
applications as it requires some infrastructure upgrade & backward
compatibility considerations.

 

There is a debate on
whether we will need new devices, or we can just use LTE chipsets for handsets,
as well as towers. What do you feel about this?

We certainly need devices which are multimode with
affordable price points and long battery life, besides a host of applications
and localization. There are still challenges in these aspects even though LTE
chipsets are available.

 

Do you believe that
operators will wait for LTE price points to come down before it is adopted
here, or will they adopt it in another standard, like TD-LTE?

 

Since spectrum available in India in unpaired, the natural
choice for operators is to adopt TD-LTE. Considering the mass market potential
and company like Reliance Infotel having PAN India license, we feel that it
would drive the TD-LTE adoption faster and economies of scale for devices

 

What has changed since
the last year in terms of the telecom industry’s consensus and reactions
towards LTE?

There were discussions whether the Indian operators would go
for WiMAX which is more matured technology than LTE. However, with the global
LTE momentum and Reliance, Bharti, Qualcomm and Aircel carrying LTE trials, it
is almost certain in that TD-LTE is going to be launched by these operators
while BSNL is going with WiMAX.

 

By Beryl M

editor@telecomlead.com