The Indian telecom sector is in for a price war once again. Bharti Airtel has launched 4G services at 3G prices in 296 cities and towns, and is inviting 3G customers to upgrade. Reliance Jio, with its reputation of cut-throat prices, is making announcements of lower tariffs and cut-throat prices for 4G devices. Vodafone, Reliance Communications, and Idea Cellular are not far behind. Challenges like inadequate spectrum holdings, providing uniform high-speed Internet connectivity across the country on 4G technology, and recovering 3G investments remain.
The Indian consumer too will have reliable technology, 10 times faster than 3G, mirroring global adoption patterns. (Globally, 4G-LTE subscribers are projected to grow 35 percent compounded annually over the next five years, with China leading the pack).
Telecom equipment makers are anticipating a Rs. 6000 crore 4G network infrastructure market, inclusive of network software, over the next couple of years. With 9674 mobile sites already installed, an estimated 73 networks are expected to be deployed in the next one year. It is forecast that by 2020, LTE subscriptions in India will be 230 million, with a 17 percent share of the subscription base.
4G deployment is also likely to create momentum for IoT. Together with the cloud, IoT services will become a significant generator of revenue for enterprise customers. Mobile network operators have started work on development of technologies and platforms to satisfy ensuing demand.
Having said this, for the next two years, 3G will remain the mainstay of Indian telecom. (Globally too, despite its rapid growth, 4G may not surpass 3G till the next decade.) And by next year, we will see 2G, 3G, and 4G co-existing with differentiated user experience.
India may finally have an open sky policy that will allow private companies to buy or lease foreign communication satellites and operate over Indian skies and the South Asian region. VSAT operators that provide connectivity for banks and ATMs would no longer have to depend on ISRO's Antrix Corporation for connectivity requirement through satellites.
India's telecom landscape is certainly vibrant!