Thursday, April 10, 2014

When will 4G networks become mainstream in India?


It has been quite some time since the 3G services were rolled out in India. But it has still not managed to really capture the market. Despite being faster and more reliable than 2G, the high cost of 3G-enabled devices and data plans, have kept people from patronizing it.

However, nothing in this world is constant and change is inevitable. Especially when it comes to technology, things move really fast. Before 3G could even make inroads, 4G, the next generation of wireless networking is here. The fourth generation seems to have become the new preferred choice of cellular operators, and it might soon become mainstream. In fact, Airtel has already started to roll out 4G services in India.

The silver lining is that it’s being offered at the same price as 3G. However, it’s only available in Bangalore so far. To add to the woes, it can only be used on the iPhone 5S and 5C, being the only devices that support the 2300MHz band on which the service is being offered in India.

Other operators are expected to follow suit and may start the 4G rollout soon. Moreover, the devices supporting 4G will definitely increase. That would eventually lead to increased potential for 4G in the near future and will help 4G become mainstream. Let’s explore the reasons why and when 4G networks will gain more popularity.

Availability of existing infrastructure

Experts believe that unlike 3G, 4G can be built over the existing 3G infrastructure, and the operators don’t have to invest in fresh infrastructure for 4G and spectrum. Besides 4G can integrate with the 2G and other existing technologies seamlessly.

It’s pretty obvious that 4G will offer higher data speeds than 3G and will make life easier for people who need higher bandwidth and streaming. Besides the retail customers, 4G will also be a boon for businesses that are highly dependent on the internet. In fact, the e-commerce businesses are the ones who would benefit the most from 4G being rolled out on a large scale. It can create a large customer-base by offering seamless services across multiple platforms to small and medium enterprises.

More profitability may get the carriers to roll-out soon

As already discussed, it is cheaper to invest in 4G infrastructure than 3G, and it could build on the already existing infrastructure. It would be cheaper than 3G, and would be easier for the telecom operators to recover their fixed investment and reach break-even. The telecom companies in India have always been complaining of very tight profit margins. This could be a blessing in disguise for them. They may offer the basic services at a cheaper price to the individuals or retail customers, and charge a premium from the businesses that would be ready and willing to do so for consistent and advanced data services.

3G Vs. 4G

India is still in its early days with respect to 4G, and it would take a while before 4G could offer some serious competition to 3G. The telecom companies have invested heavily in 3G infrastructure and spectrum during the recent years, and would like to recover their costs before they could move on to 4G. It also depends largely on how the consumers and end-users receive this new technology. The recently launched 4G services by Airtel should give a good idea to other operators about the target audience. If people develop a liking for the same, it may encourage Airtel to roll out the services in more circles, and the other telecoms may follow suit.

Some people also feel that 3G and 4G will complement each other and work side by side, as both have different strengths and weaknesses. For the time being, 3G is going strong and is not ready to yield an inch. Despite all the fuss, we cannot predict with certainty about 4G networks becoming mainstream. We can only have a proper idea once the 4G roll-out starts in all the circles in India. As of now, it is uncertain what the future has in store for 4G networks in India.


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