With the recent acquisition of MTS India by Reliance Communications, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology seems to have reached the end of the road in India.
MTS India had been India's only pure-play CDMA service provider. But as Reliance Communications Ltd. starts to move its CDMA subscribers over to Reliance Jio 's 4G network, there is little chance of the technology surviving or reviving in India.
As part of the deal between RCom and RJio, which have also signed infrastructure- and spectrum-sharing agreements, the former plans to offer RJio's 4G services to its own subscribers at a discounted rate. Although RCom only recently began offering 4G services to its subscribers, nearly 90% of its 8 million CDMA customers have opted to upgrade to 4G, according to media reports.
Ironically, CDMA technology was first introduced to India by Mukesh Ambani, RJio's owner, about 14 years ago. Now, it is RJio that is driving CDMA out of India.
The technology already looked on shaky ground, with just 46.9 million users at the end of December, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) , in comparison with the 963.99 million on GSM networks. The lack of a developed CDMA device ecosystem in India largely explains why the standard failed to gain traction.
Possibly the biggest achievement of CDMA in India is that it made the mobile technology affordable. RCom's launch in 2002 of CDMA handsets costing as little as 500 Indian rupees ($7.47) forced other service providers to reduce tariffs and put mobile services within economic reach of more customers. Today, Indian ARPUs are among the lowest in the world.
CDMA players also made a mark in the data card segment. Until 3G services were launched at the end of 2010, CDMA players were the only ones offering data-card products to customers. At the time, the data-card business generated much higher ARPUs than regular mobile services.
Other CDMA players, including Tata Teleservices Ltd. and government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) , have already begun phasing out the technology. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) , another government-backed operator, has already surrendered its CDMA spectrum to authorities. The standard's days are well and truly numbered.
– Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading