4G LTE networks are gaining momentum in the country, and as such we decided to clarify some of the details regarding the service and its imminent rollout in India.
What is LTE?
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, which is the latest wireless communication standard. It is called 4G because it is the fourth-generation standard, after 3G. LTE allows for much faster data connectivity, and allows users to access data at 300 Mbit/s downstream (download), and at 75 Mbit/s upstream (upload). Current 3G networks in the country enable users to download at 14 Mbit/s and upload at 5.76 Mbit/s. So, the 4G networks will be much faster, and will also have a better quality of service, which means that the data transmission will be uniform no matter where a user is located. Along with faster data transmissions, voice quality will also be better on 4G.
There are different variations of LTE, and while most countries in the world use FD-LTE (Frequency-Division Long-Term Evolution), carriers in India will use the TD-LTE (Time-Division Long-Term Evolution) standard. The difference in TD-LTE is that transmissions in this standard use the same frequency band, whereas the FD-LTE standard allocates two different frequencies, one for transmitting data and the other for receiving it. The TD-LTE frequency band that will be used in India falls under 2.3–2.4 GHz, and comes under LTE Band 40.
When will 4G services start in India?
Carriers like Airtel have already begun rolling out 4G networks in cities like Bangalore, Pune, Chandigarh and Kolkata. Other carriers also interested in starting LTE services in the country include the likes of Vodafone. These carriers are bidding for TD-LTE licences and will launch their services as soon as they acquire the licences. Reliance Jio Infocomm has already acquired a country-wide license for TD-LTE servicers, and a rollout of the 4G service to all major cities across the country will begin next year. Aircel and MTS India will do so likewise.
Reliance Jio Infocomm announced in a statement that 4G tariffs will be lesser or equal to what 3G tariffs were when 3G services were initially offered. The tariff a carrier sets for its data services is often determined by how much the carrier had to pay for the auction. So, it will be likely that 4G tariffs will be similar to the 3G tariffs.
What handsets will work with 4G networks in India?
Although a lot of the newer high-end handsets that launched in India, like the LG G2 and Sony Xperia Z1 come with LTE connectivity, they will not work with India’s 2300 MHz frequency. Qualcomm, one of the major manufacturer behind the wireless LTE radios that go into these mobiles, is yet to inculcate this band into its offerings. However, that might all change very soon considering that the Indian government is collaborating with China in creating a similar 4G TD-LTE network in China.
This makes for a combined user base of around 1 billion who will be utilising the TD-LTE Band 40. That is a major incentive for manufacturers to launch devices that have this frequency. Furthermore, a similar band for both India and China mean that manufacturers can launch one version of their handset with this frequency which will work in both countries. Already, devices like the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S come with LTE Band 40, which means that these devices will work on 4G networks in both countries.
So, if you’re looking to buy a handset that works with India’s LTE standard, you have to check whether the handset includes LTE Band 40, which has a frequency of 2,300 MHz. As for mainstream availability of such handsets, Reliance is rumoured to be collaborating with Samsung to launch affordable 4G handsets that cost in the vicinity of Rs. 5,000. Micromax is also allegedly testing its future 4G offerings on Reliance’s network to ensure that there are no accessibility issues.
Other manufacturers are also intent on launching 4G enabled handsets that work on India’s LTE band. These handsets will be more widely available starting next year, once the 4G networks from major carriers begin rolling out to more cities.