AMJ 2015 has been a good quarter for telecom equipment manufacturers, with one reporting an 85 percent growth in revenue over the same three-month period last year. This is attributed to the continued mobile broadband investments, driven by growth in mobile data traffic.
H2 2015 is a crucial period. The operators are working to satisfy demand for GSM and WCDMA/HSPA efficiently, maintain a high-quality user experience, and maximize their revenue potential. Reliance Jio is planning to launch its 4G services in December, and Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular are looking to expand and upgrade their respective 3G networks and enhance their mobile data services. Bharti plans to spend Rs. 6400 crore, Idea Cellular Rs. 5400 crore, and Vodafone `9000 crore similar to its investment last year as it looks to introduce 4G technology. Other service providers will have similar plans.
However, on the quality of services front, networks plagued by call drops are facing major challenges. In the backdrop of unresolved issues as spectrum sharing, spectrum trading, and a more liberal mergers and acquisitions policy, CSPs are not being allowed to set up cell sites and towers at appropriate places. About 523 sites in Delhi and 801 sites in Mumbai were shut down in the past six months with alleged radiation scares and issues with municipalities. Shutting down one tower affects 700 or more attached subscribers and impacts performance of at least half-a-dozen towers adjoining the sealed tower.
The spectrum auction scheduled in early 2016 for 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, and 2500 MHz frequencies (and perhaps 1427-1518 MHz in L-band) will provide respite. Currently, India has markedly less mobile broadband spectrum than markets with high mobile broadband penetration. Spectrum strategy, which will define mobile operators' businesses, will be crucial.
Globally, as CSPs warm up to the phenomenon of 5G and gear up for commercial implementation, commencing from 2020, India is being considered by Nokia Networks as a production base for making 5G telecom systems. India may well emerge as a key player in the next round of communication technology revolution, bringing with it the Internet of Everything era!