Nokia Networks Bets on 3G Expansion in India

With a spectrum auction looming and mobile data services flourishing, Nokia Networks is confident of growth in India this year.

But even as 4G deployments increase, 3G will continue to be the main technology for mobile broadband in the country, according to Sandeep Girotra, the head of the India region for Nokia Networks .

"3G is going to be the primary vehicle for mobile broadband in India and we will see selective deployment of 4G this year," he says. "This is mainly because the coverage and ecosystem is better developed for 3G."

Reliance Jio is planning to launch 4G services later this year. Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) has already launched 4G in a few circles of Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Pune and aims to launch 4G services in Delhi soon.

Indian service providers have been recording a significant increase in data usage over the last few quarters. Bharti Airtel, the country's biggest operator, recently reported that 22.6% of its revenue was coming from non-voice services in the October-to-December quarter. In the same quarter, Vodafone India reported 40% growth in average data usage per customer.

However, this growth comes with challenges for Indian operators. "Mobile broadband is finally becoming a reality in India," says Girotra. "With this trend more and more spectrum would be needed because we are just witnessing the start of data growth. The Indian market will face spectrum and capacity challenges ahead."

For all the latest news from the wireless networking and services sector, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.

The country is holding a multi-band spectrum auction next month to address these challenges. Coupled with positive regulatory changes, that bodes well for the likes of Nokia.

The auction of 1800MHz will be of particular interest to the vendors. Operators such as Vodafone and Idea Cellular Ltd. -- which lack Broadband Wireless Access spectrum -- are likely to use these airwaves to support the rollout of FDD-LTE technology, allowing them to offer high-speed 4G connectivity to their customers. (See Spectrum Pricing Provokes Jitters in India and India Targets $10.3B From Spectrum Auctions.)

"The [forthcoming] auction of 1800MHz is going to be important from the deployment of LTE perspective," says Girotra. "Besides that we are continuously interacting with the service providers to enable them to reduce opex and to help them in their journey from 2G to 3G to 4G."

After a downturn that lasted from 2012 until mid-2014, India's telecom market has shown signs of a revival in the last six months.

Nokia claims to have signed 34 operator deals last year, including a multi-year agreement with Vodafone covering 19 circles (service areas) as part of the operator's Project Spring investment program.

Nokia has also captured a significant share of 3G expansion deals and last month announced India's first LTE-FDD deal with Bharti Airtel, covering six circles.

Even so, with rivals like Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. also looking to grow their share of the Indian pie, it will have to be on its guard.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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Susan Fourtané 2/14/2015 | 2:10:01 PM
Re: Seems like a sound bet abucek, 

I am not sure that's what they really want. 

That would only be if I ask the Brits in England, not in the rest of Great Britain. :D 

abucek 2/11/2015 | 8:11:19 AM
Re: Seems like a sound bet @Susan - I am sure Nokia Networks would like to participate in the build out of 4G services in the US - but they didnt win an 3G or 4G contracts.  As you know in Telecom you build off of pre existing infrastructure, which in this case Nokia Networks has limited install base remaining from 2G / Edge.

I guess you will have to ask some Brits if they think they are European, I would guess most would say they were "English".  LOL :)

Susan Fourtané 2/11/2015 | 7:53:52 AM
Re: Seems like a sound bet Because for a variety of reasons some companies prefer to expand to other markets.

" ... providers' competing ads for 4G LTE services ..." 

That doesn't mean anything in the real world of 4G LTE adoption, which is what it matters.

As for who is the leader in mobile broadband, I suppose that has to be estimated according to mobile broadband penetration per capita, etc. 

"While most British and European consumers ..." 

I thought the UK was part of Europe and the Brits were also European. :D 

abucek 2/10/2015 | 7:26:42 AM
Re: Seems like a sound bet "While most British and European consumers will have to wait until 2014 or 2015 for meaningful LTE offerings, U.S. wireless consumers are being flooded with providers' competing ads for 4G LTE services that are available today. To be clear: these are not mere commitments or trials, but actual deployments that continue to expand throughout the U.S. These aggressive network buildouts point to why the U.S. is the global leader in mobile broadband. Even though the U.S. comprises less than 5% of the global population and has less than 6% of the world's mobile wireless subscribers, it boasts about 87% of global LTE subscribers as of 3Q 2011"


Why wouldnt you focus on the US market, because NSN's R&D cycle is based on a European cycle, this was even true of Nokia Mobile phones back in 2G / 3G.  
Susan Fourtané 2/10/2015 | 5:54:35 AM
Re: Seems like a sound bet abucek, 

I still don't see the problem. Not each and every European company wants to focus in the US market. What is the problem with having the US last on the list for you?

abucek 2/9/2015 | 12:11:27 PM
Re: Seems like a sound bet @Susan - My point was that NSN at the time was never really prepared to win any 3G, 4G contracts in North America.  

Prepared - having demo products based on known customer specifications, instead NSN only demonstrated capability with European based products.

It seems NSN just like Nokia Mobile phones tend to be more focused on Asia, India, Europe and the United States last where as companies like ALU and Ericsson are more focused with their products and winning contracts in North America.
nasimson 2/8/2015 | 11:37:14 PM
Re: Seems like a sound bet @smkinoshita: Fixed wire line infrastructure is not so good in India. Consequently people use 3G even for fixed internet use. So the data growth is not surprising.
Susan Fourtané 2/7/2015 | 11:32:37 PM
Re: Seems like a sound bet Yes, smk; however, India has always been a good market for Nokia. It was a good market before for Nokia phones and it is a good market now for Nokia Networks. 

smkinoshita 2/6/2015 | 8:41:47 PM
Seems like a sound bet Seems like a sound bet to me, provided that the development of 4G leads to lower costs for 3G.  I'm actually surprised that 40% growth in data usage per customer isn't a bit higher.
Susan Fourtané 2/6/2015 | 8:21:59 PM
Re: Gain or Loss abucek,

"I dont believe Nokia Networks has won any 3G or 4G deals in North America." 

And what's your point with that statement? 

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