India on Brink of 4G
Airtel, one of a number of operators in India that holds Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses to offer 4G services, announced unofficially this week that it will turn on its Long Term Evolution Time Division Duplex (LTE TDD) network in the Kolkata 'circle' (or service area -- there are 22 "circles" in India). (See Bharti to Launch LTE In April, A Brief Guide to India's Telecom Market and India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama.)
The 3G market in India only kicked into gear in late 2010, and Bharti Airtel, which boasts about 177 million mobile connections in its domestic market, only launched its 3G services in early 2011. (See Airtel Launches 3G in India.)
But the 3G operators were awarded limited spectrum, which they have largely needed for voice services capacity. The introduction of WCDMA-based 3G services here has done little for the broadband market in a country that has a fixed broadband penetration level of just 1 percent (about 13 million lines). Estimates suggest there are only about 8 million active 3G users in this massive mobile market that boasts about 660 million "active" mobile connections. (See Mobile Line Count Tops 900M.)
So the country is crying out for the type of services that LTE could bring. Bharti's launch (when it happens) may be only limited, but it provides a springboard for the expected widespread availability of wireless broadband services across the country and should provide a fillip for a market currently in the doldrums. (See India Suffers From Policy Hiatus and LTE Subs to Hit 17M in Four Years.)
Keep up to date with developments in the action-packed India telecom market by checking out Light Reading India.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading