Telecom network vendor Nokia Networks is gearing up for the 4G LTE network deals at a time when Indian mobile operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio Infocomm are looking for mobile data business expansion in the next 6-12 months.
Nokia Networks claims that it is a leading LTE 4G infrastructure — both radio and core — vendor in the global as well as Indian market. Nokia has the largest 4G share in commercially launched LTE services in India. Airtel, which has launched 4G services in more than 300 towns in India, is one of its main customers.
But based on signed 4G deals announced till now, Samsung is the market leader after bagging 4G equipment deal from Reliance Jio to launch 4G in the 2.3GHz band across all 22 circles. The Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is investing nearly $20 billion in its Indian telecom business, also holds spectrum licenses in the 1800MHz band across 14 circles.
Estimated 4G signed deals
Samsung: 22 circles (Reliance Jio)
Nokia Networks: 17 (including 6 circles from Videocon)
ZTE: 13 (including 7 circles from Aircel)
“Like Reliance Jio, Samsung is an upstart within India’s telecom market. With the launch of Reliance’s LTE services, Samsung will demonstrate its ability to compete with Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson for contracts from incumbent operators Idea Cellular, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India,” said Michael Soper, telecom analyst at Technology Business Research.
Nokia Networks strategies
4G LTE has immense potential for large-scale implementation in the years ahead, and will soon be a key growth vehicle in specific locations across India. In this context, addressing bottlenecks such as inefficient networks, poor network coverage, and a deficiency in spectrum support of LTE will be a shot in the arm for the growth of 4G in the future.
Nokia Networks was the first telecom vendor to manufacture 4G equipment in India in 2011 from its Chennai manufacturing plant. It also received several patents on 4G from its Bangalore R&D center.
Its global delivery centers support remote network planning and optimization for LTE rollout in over 30 countries.
Nokia Networks was involved in India’s first LTE commercial roll outs in 2012 and early 2013. Nokia Networks and Bharti Airtel made the first 4G call using circuit switch fall back (CSFB) technology on TD LTE technology on 2300 MHz spectrum band using special handsets with Qualcomm chipset at Bharti Airtel’s operations in Maharashtra circle in Pune.
Nokia Networks announced an agreement with Bharti Airtel again for expanding 4G partnership to 5 circles for FDD-LTE technologies and 2 additional circles for TD-LTE technologies.
“We are proud to be part of the Indian LTE story right from its beginning, just like Nokia has been for the GSM revolution in India,” said Amit Marwah, head of Technology, India Region, Nokia Networks.
4G smartphone boom
While it is early days for 4G, India has about 14.8 million consumers who have 4G capable smartphones. Lenovo, Samsung, Apple, Micromax and Xiaomi are active in the 4G smartphone market. Qualcomm, the leading chip maker for smartphones, has assisted the 4G market to grow in India – thanks to its low cost chips.
Nokia Networks’ Amit Marwah admits that 4G subscription is still very low in India. It indicates significant opportunity for selective rollout of 4G networks and services. “There have been some very selective and early rollouts in 2300 MHz band, but huge opportunities lie ahead of us,” said Amit Marwah.
Both Reliance Jio Infocomm and Bharti Airtel announced that they will launch 4G on FD LTE and TD LTE technologies.
Amit Marwah believes that there will be a balance between FD LTE and TD LTE technologies. Both are required for different purposes – coverage vs capacity. The handset ecosystem development will also define the relative adoption rate of the technologies.
Impact due to 4G at 3G prices
Amit Marwah says there will be no impact due to the availability of 4G services at 3G prices. Airtel is offering 4G at 3G prices.
“There is still millions of Indians who need to be connected through mobile broadband. While 4G experience will be significantly better than 3G, coverage of 4G will take some years to match to 3G for most operators,” Amit Marwah said.
Amit Marwah said it’s also encouraging to see that Indian telecom industry has taken learning from the high differential pricing between 2G and 3G.