Broad­band off­take? Wait till 2013

Voice&Data - - PERSPECTIV­E - Pravin Prashant

The Broad­band Wire­less Ac­cess (BWA) auc­tion hap­pened in June 2010 when play­ers such as Air­cel, Augere Wire­less, Bharti air­tel, Qual­comm, Re­liance In­dus­tries and Tikona Dig­i­tal Net­works paid $8.23 bn to bag the li­cense. It is around 17 months now but no­body is in a hurry to launch the ser­vices ex­cept Augere Wire­less which has given the equip­ment or­der to Eric­s­son for the Madhya Pradesh and Chat­tis­garh cir­cles, and plans for a soft launch in early Q2 2012.

So the big ques­tion is: Why are op­er­a­tors still per­form­ing tri­als and are not con­fi­dent of giv­ing or­ders to equip­ment ven­dors?

Ex­perts say that TDD-LTE chipsets are still not ready and are still in the sam­pling stage. For eg, chipsets like MSM 8960 (a mo­bile pro­ces­sor with in­te­grated mo­dem for TDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/EV-DO/HSPA+) from Qual­comm and M7400 (a mo­dem sup­port­ing TDD-LTE/FDD-LTE/HSPA+/TD-SDCMA/EDGE) from St-eric­s­son are still not ready and will be com­mer­cially avail­able only in the H12012. Once the chipsets are avail­able it would take 6-9 months to de­velop LTE/3G smart­phones. So ex­perts are pre­dict­ing smart­phones avail­abil­ity by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

Re­cently, Qual­comm launched the Gobi 4000 plat­form that sup­ports TDD-LTE in 2.3 GHZ band but there are no com­mer­cially avail­able Gobi 4000 mod­ules till date. This is ex­pected to be launched only in 2012 by No­va­tel and Sierra Wire­less. Gobi 4000 will help in bring­ing lap­tops, tablets, and other de­vices re­quir­ing 4G con­nec­tiv­ity of the mar­ket. So, in toto, we do not see don­gles, tablets, and smart­phones based on TDD-LTE in 2.3 GHZ launched be­fore H2 2012.

If we look back, a lot of hand­set ven­dors in In­dia launched 3G hand­sets or smart­phones be­fore the 3G ser­vices were launched by op­er­a­tors but in the case of TDD-LTE we are not see­ing the same mo­men­tum. Till now no­body has launched tablets or smart­phones in the In­dian mar­ket cater­ing to TDD-LTE in the 2.3 GHZ band, and this is only be­cause the chipsets are not ready. It is ex­pected to hap­pen only by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

TDD-LTE will also en­able a lot of de­vices, apart from smart­phones and tablets, be it com­mu­ni­ca­tion en­abled util­ity me­ters, health de­vices, consumer ap­pli­ances, and many other con­nected de­vices. And all this will hap­pen only when the chipsets get ready and the sil­i­con play­ers start mak­ing mod­ules for spe­cific ap­pli­ca­tions. Open­ing of the ap­pli­ca­tions mar­ket can re­sult in large scale de­ploy­ment of BWA in the coun­try in ver­ti­cals like health, ed­u­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture, and util­i­ties.

In the ab­sence of cus­tomer premise equip­ment, BWA op­er­a­tors have no other op­tion but to de­lay their or­ders as no­body is in a po­si­tion to do end-to-end tri­als along with the de­vices and ap­pli­ca­tions. It is ex­pected that BWA play­ers will take an­other year for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and tri­als. It seems large scale com­mer­cial de­ploy­ment of TDD-LTE will hap­pen only in 2013. Even if one looks at the NTP 2011 doc­u­ment, it talks about af­ford­able and re­li­able broad­band on de­mand only by 2015 and 175 mn broad­band con­nec­tions by 2017, which is jus­ti­fi­able know­ing the de­lay in com­mer­cial­iza­tion of TDD-LTE world­wide. So it is cer­tain that broad­band off­take in In­dia will hap­pen in a big way start­ing 2013.


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