Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Will India Get LTE?

The spectrum auctions in India were postponed once again a couple of weeks ago. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) was scheduled to convene on 31 July but the meeting had to be delayed because one of its members was not be able to attend.

The EGoM formed on 13 July has been tasked with resolving a number of issues that have hampered the government's 3G plans, including how much spectrum to auction, the reserve price for 3G and WiMAX bandwidth, and annual spectrum charges. The panel must also decide how many companies will be allowed to operate mobile services in each of India's 22 telecom circles, and it must rule on administrative and auctioneer fees.

Still, both of India's state-run mobile operators BSNL and MTNL have already launched commercial 3G services after rules set out in August 2008 guaranteed the two operators would have access to spectrum. In April reports claimed BSNL had signed up between 8,000 and 10,000 3G customers, while MTNL in June set its sights on adding between 200,000 and 300,000 subscribers during the first year of operations according to Total Telecom. The two operators will be required to match the winning bids made for bandwidth when the 3G auction finally taes place. On the whole, it seems positive for LTE in this region with BSNL and MTNL likely to go on and migrate their 3G networks to LTE. So does India need WiMAX as well?

Even as the policy for auctioning spectrum for 3G mobile services is yet to be finalised, the Department of Telecom is already thinking about the introduction of LTE. The DoT has taken a view that each operator offering 4G technologies should be given at least 10 MHz spectrum compared to just 5 MHz for 3G services.

LTE may therefore come in India in at the 2.1 GHz band, as 2.5 GHz is mostly used for satellite-based networks. According to industry experts, the DoT is on the right track by identifying at least 10 MHz for LTE. But it has also earmarked 20 MHz for WiMAX.

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