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4G/3G/WiFi

Indian Telcos Start Exploring 4G+

Indian service providers have started to experiment with advanced forms of 4G, with mobile market leader Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) being the first to commercially deploy an LTE Advanced service.

India's largest telco has used Nokia's carrier aggregation technology across TDD-LTE and FDD-LTE on a live 4G network in the state of Kerala in southern India. The operator combined capacities in the 2.3GHz and 1800MHz bands to deliver connection speeds of up to 135 Mbit/s on its 4G network in Kerala.

This deployment is part of the Project Leap plan, a $9 billion initiative aimed at modernizing and upgrading the operator's network infrastructure. (See Bharti's $9B Network Splurge in India.)

"Our strong 4G footprint and a rapidly maturing device ecosystem will now allow us to deliver the next level of high-speed mobile data services on our network," said Gopal Vittal, the managing director and CEO of Bharti Airtel's Indian and south Asian businesses, in a company statement.

Bharti Airtel also plans to deploy ECI Telecom Ltd. 's Neptune family of products to expand its mobile backhaul transport capabilities across India, and thereby support the growing demand for bandwidth. The operator has now deployed 4G services in more than 300 towns and cities across India.

Carrier aggregation should help India's telcos to enhance network capacity and reduce costs. It could also lead to improvements in customer experience, which might be a key differentiator for Bharti Airtel once new entrant Reliance Jio launches its own commercial 4G services. (See RJio Sputters Into Lyf With 4G 'Launch'.)


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Other Indian telcos, including Vodafone India and Idea Cellular Ltd. , are also likely to adopt this technology to reduce costs and provide higher-quality services to their customers.

But while Bharti Airtel has taken the lead, RJio is not too far behind. Although it has yet to launch commercial 4G operations, it is believed to be experimenting with LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), a technology that should allow service providers to offload data traffic on to unlicensed spectrum. Similar to carrier aggregation, LTE-U could be used by telcos to offer enhanced coverage and faster connection speeds to consumers.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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