A ground-based mast (GBM) tower design without back-up diesel generators. Incidentally, telecom is the third largest consumer of diesel in the country, thanks to a patchy power scenario.
Jio’s GBM design integrates a lithium-ion battery as a back-up inside the towers itself. The design was presented at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. It also takes much less space and offers better coverage. The tower can be set up on 4 square metres and connected by fibre. According to Jio officials, the competition did not make it easy for them to get access to towers, which had fibre connectivity. “Even in places that had towers with fibre connectivity, there were more than six operators on it. So we had to install our own towers in key high-density traffic areas,” says a Jio official.
“LTE operators have to deploy VoLTE as voice will remain ubiquitous and help save costs”
India head, Nokia Networks
Airtel is the only operator among the incumbents serious about 4G implementation. It has already started rolling out services to pre-empt the Jio launch. Airtel’s strategy is to upgrade its existing 3G network to 4G, and it has
- out of1,75,000 towers 3G-enabled. Srini Gopalan, head of consumer business at Airtel, says, “We will have 4G in 20 cities by 2016, and as we already have a 3G network we will use it as a fallback for voice for our 4G networks.”
The fallback for voice is another issue that has delayed the rollout of the Jio network. It’s really designed for data, not voice. 4G networks use a technology known as voice over LTE (VoLTE) for carrying voice. Sandeep Girotra, head of India, Nokia Networks, says LTE operators will have to deploy VoLTE as voice will remain ubiquitous and it will help save operating costs. Moreover, the voice and video experience is possible. So for voice, Jio has to add both infrastructure and data centres.
4G Handsets At Hand
For many years, 4G handsets haven’t been available in India. It’s been a chicken-or-egg situation, with handset manufacturers waiting for some sign of life before launching them in the country and cellular operators waiting for enough users to warrant moving up to faster connectivity. 4G handsets need to be configured for VoLTE and the ecosystem for this is still evolving, but LTE-capable handsets are now being launched in almost every price segment, except the absolute bottom tier. Samsung and LG’s flagship phones, for example, are 4G-ready. These are, of course, expensive handsets. But down in the Rs 5,000 to Rs
- segment, phones like the Redmi 2 are also similarly 4G-ready. All that is now needed is 4G networks, such as the one set in motion by Airtel.
Airtel is able to roll out services faster as it has the advantage of working in the 1,800 MHz space, which is far