The 3G Boom In India Is Already Underway
Telecom operators are already spending generously on expanding 3G services and 90 percent of five service areas, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, will be covered by the end of next year, according to equipment maker Ericsson, which suggests that the 3G boom is successfully underway.
“Telecom operators are now spending on increasing their 3G network coverage. We expect that 90 percent of all A-category circles will have 3G coverage by end of next year,” Ericsson India’s Vice President and Head of Engagement Practices Nishant Batra told PTI.
What’s causing this growth?
Batra informed that the demand for high speed mobile internet is triggered primarily by social networking, video content and web browsing and instant messaging via popular apps like WhatsApp and WeChat. At the same time, the back-end infrastructure of most of Indian telecom operators needs to be upgraded from old technology to next generation technology based networks.
Telecom operators need more carriers (spectrum slot) to deliver high speed. Ericsson with Turkcell and Qualcomm recently successfully demonstrated world’s first live 3-carrier high-speed downlink (3C-HSDPA) on a commercial network which recorded speed of 63 megabit per second, Batra said in his statement. In India, telecom operators holding 3G spectrum have only one slot of 5 MHz 3G spectrum. Ericsson estimated that using single spectrum slot, which is condition at present, telecom operators can deliver peak download speed of 21 Mbps. He believes at this speed, a user can download a video equivalent to Bollywood movie in about 4 minutes.
“Some of the telecom operators won spectrum in 900 Mhz in February auction. They can combine their spectrum in 2100 Mhz (3G spectrum) with 900 Mhz and create more carrier that can also give good 3G speed. However, network as well as consumer devices needs to be upgraded,” Batra said.
Ericsson estimated that by using two slots a telecom operator can deliver mobile internet speed of about 42 mbps. Batra however said that most of the devices being sold in India at low price don’t support very high speed that 3G can deliver. “Most of the devices in India are not geared to support peak speed of 21 mbps that operators can deliver using single carrier,” he stated.
The overall scenario is improving drastically. An Ericsson study published in May showed that the mobile subscriber base is expected to grow to 1145 million by 2020, from 795 million in 2013 and points out that smartphone penetration will reach 45% driven by data usage would increase to 520 million devices from 90 million devices in 2013.
Currently, an average user consumes 155MB of data, which could increase to 390MB by 2017 and 620MB by 2020, suggests the report. The growth in mobile data usage would help existing telecom players reach newer levels, while some regional players may also surface.
Going to the next level: 4G?
Ajay Gupta, head of strategy & marketing, Ericsson India said that the Internet access through mobile was earlier limited to ‘some-time’ of the day, but times have changed and this access has now changed to ‘real-time’.
“Today there is certain level of penetration of 3G services but going forward, by 2020, we will have mobile broadband subscribers, which are about half a billion, which means about 400 million will still be 3G and 100 million will be 4G,” he said estimating the country’s 3G SIMs to grow from 70 million today to 400 million in the next six years.
There has also been an increase in the online video consumption over the past few years. Ericsson estimates that India’s mobile subscriber base will grow to 1,145 million subscribers by 2020. While at the same time, smartphone penetration will grow from 10 percent or 90 million devices in 2013 to 45 percent or 520 million devices.
The telecom gear maker estimates that India’s mobile broadband - generally 3G or 4G - user base is expected to grow four times by 2020 to reach 500 million subscribers.
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