LTE to drive broadband business: Ericsson

Written by Nikita Upadhyay | Nikita Upadhyay | Paris | Updated: Sep 30 2011, 07:31am hrs
Global telephone equipment makers are gearing up to grab a pie of the Indian market with their fourth generation technology, otherwise known as long term evolution or LTE, which provides faster broadband connectivity.

We see LTE to be a huge driver of broadband services in the country, said Johan Wibergh, head of networks, Ericsson, on the sidelines of the World Broadband Forum 2011 in Paris. We hope to see some of these operators' interests translating into commercial bids, Wibergh said.

Ericsson claims to have around 60% global share for 18 months, since it started selling its equipment after LTE was deployed in many countries. We bring a lot of value to the Indian operators due to our learning in the other markets, said Wilbergh.

Reliance Infotel, owned by Reliance Industries, won licenses in all 22 circles, Aircel 8, Bharti Airtel, Indias largest mobile telephony by subscribers and Qualcomm 4 circles each during the government auction of broadband wireless spectrum in June 2011. New broadband service providers like Tikona, majority owned by private equity funds, won 5 and Augere 1 circle.We are engaged with all major BWA spectrum winners for TD-LTE trial networks in India, a Nokia Siemens Networks spokesperson said in a email statement.

Now with our commercial launch of LTE devices, the operators will be able to launch LTE technology much faster, with better user experience and speed up the monetisation of their TD LTE mobile broadband investments. Ericsson in December had done trial runs of LTE with Reliance Infotel and Qualcomm. Reliance Infotel is expected to launch the services by early next year.

The global LTE test equipment revenues will rise four fold to $1618 million by 2013 from $357 million in 2010, an estimate by Frost and Sullivan says.

The initial launch of 4G LTE service is expected in early 2012, with Reliance, Aircel, and Bharti Airtel already announcing their firm commitment for the same. said Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, South Asia and Middle East for Information and Communications Technology Practice, at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

For a subscriber, LTE would mean faster access to internet on the go. However, the service launch will be limited to only a few metros and major cities, with nationwide network expected only in 2013-2014. LTE subscribers in the country are estimated to grow at a CAGR of 258.9% in the next five to seven years while the revenues by 220.5% in the same period, Chauhan said.

The third generation technology in India was rolled out early 2011 and 12 million 3G subscribers use it. Mobile subscribers will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 9.7% to 1440 million by 2017 and 1100 million Indians will use mobile phones, says an estimate by Frost and Sullivan. Though LTE penetration might see a marginal uptake initially, it is expected to rise with gradual coverage expansion and more developed device ecosystem, said Wibergh of Ericsson.

(This correspondents visit to World Broadband Forum 2011 in Paris was arranged by Ericsson).