4G: The Road Ahead in India

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The upcoming 4G is expected to push India to the next level in the mobile revolution. This is also expected to accelerate the Digital India initiative. Make in India is expected to reach the handsets, to the customers, with the best features at affordable prices. The industry wants the government to facilitate this transition with proactive initiatives and incentives to drive the telecom industry.
With 4G all set to launch, now handset vendors are vying with each other to provide 4G-enabled handsets with better features. The upcoming 4G is expected to significantly enhance the mobile Internet experience for customers with faster download / upload of videos and music, seamless video chats, greater ease in using their favorite apps, mobile gaming and two-way video calling.

Next, Digital India is an ambitious initiative by the Government of India to ensure that the essential government services are made available to the population, both urban and rural, electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity. Since the delivery of all services under the Digital India initiative will be done on mobile phones, 4G is going to play a key role in connecting the entire country with high-speed Internet networks.

Given the linguistic diversity of our country, the vendors are also introducing a range of devices supporting many Indian languages to encourage adoption.Vendors are increasingly finding it profitable to manufacture in India so that they can make use of tax rebates and other incentives to provide the best features at lowest possible prices. This is expected to push up the global rank of India in Internet usage.

The telecom industry expects that the government must ensure the stability of the 4G network and take care that the promises made by service providers translate to reality. Only then, people can enjoy the real data. Next, the industry expects BIS to be followed strictly to maintain the quality compliance and prevent non-quality products at bottom-low price from creating disturbance for the genuine products and companies. The government must introduce policies including tax holidays, interest subsidies and easy financing options to the India-based manufacturers to give a push to domestic handset manufacturing to establish India as a power in international mobile market. That will help in faster realization of goals like ‘Digital India’ & ‘Make in India’ and take the mobile and Internet revolution to masses.

Indian telecom service providers

Vodafone:
Vodafone 4G will significantly enhance the mobile Internet experience for customers with faster download / upload of videos and music, seamless video chats to enjoy and greater ease in using their favorite apps. Customers will also adore features like high definition video streaming, mobile gaming and two-way video calling.

Leveraging its global network and experience, Vodafone is also the first and only telecom service provider to currently offer international roaming on 4G to its India customers visiting UK, Germany, Romania, Spain and Netherlands.

Vodafone 4G services can be readily accessed from 4G-enabled handsets offered by leading smartphone manufacturers (iPhone, Samsung, Micromax, Microsoft, Lava and Xolo) available across the country.
Naveen Chopra, Chief Operating Officer, Vodafone India said, “Vodafone’s global expertise and experience of launching 4G across 20 countries gives us a better understanding of this technology and the needs of the 4G customers. Initial response from customers who have experienced our 4G services in Kerala and Karnataka has been positive and encouraging. As a steadfast partner of Digital India, we remain focused on deploying multiple technologies –be it  2G, 3G and now 4G-for optimum use as each technology has its own vital role to play in servicing the myriad connectivity needs of consumers across the country.”

Reliance:
Shri Ambani said, “India and Indians cannot afford to be left behind in this new world.  India is ranked around 150 in the Internet and mobile broadband penetration out of 230 countries, Jio is conceived to change this. 1.3 billion Indians cannot be left behind as the world enters a new era. We have the youngest population in the world. Give them the tools. Give them the skills. Give them the environment. They will surprise us. It is this opportunity to transform the lives of our 1.3 billion Indians that motivated Reliance to enter this space. And Jio is the result. Jio will help advance and realize the potential of every Indian and India. I have no doubt that with the launch of Jio, India’s rank will go up from around 150 to among the top ten in the next few years for Internet and mobile broadband penetration.”

2016 is going to be the year of high-speed internet in India. This year we will not only see the launch of much awaited Reliance Jio’s high-speed 4G and broadband services to the masses, but we are also hoping other leading telcos to follow suit.
We are also expecting our favorite state-run telecom operator BSNL to launch some affordable high-speed broadband plans (pun intended).
Reliance Jio is the only telecom operator having pan-India license for launching 4G services, making it the biggest 4G player in the country. Reliance JIo has launched 4G for its employees, but it is yet to become available to the general public. According to the analysts, Reliance Jio will disrupt the 4G data market in India by offering very affordable 4G internet plans.

Idea Cellular:
According to Mr. Sashi Shankar, CMO, Idea Cellular, “With Idea’s foray into 4G services, we are strengthening our 4G portfolio and digital presence through an assortment of digital content in partnership with leading content aggregators, handset manufacturers and e-commerce retailers. ‘Movies and Videos’ is the highest consumed service category by data consumers on the Idea network, and I’m confident that our association with ErosNow will provide an enriching experience to our 4G customers.”

Idea has recently announced the launch of 4G services across five southern states of India, and plans to expand to 750 towns in 10 service areas by June 2016. The association with ErosNow, will enable Idea 4G customers in these markets to enjoy rich premium content from a wide library of Movies, originals and short form Videos, at a monthly subscription price of just Rs. 49. Idea is also offering a special subscription offer at just Rs. 29 per month for its new 4G customers till 31st March 2016.

Idea has its 4G network in many places in India and offers its high-speed 4G services in the telecom circle of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu & Chennai.
Idea is also offering its 4G Internet plans at 3G data price along with 100% extra data. This extra data makes Idea 4G plans much more attractive than other service providers.

Airtel:
As of now, Airtel 4G has the maximum coverage area in the country and is operational in tens of big cities. Airtel 4G data packs vary greatly. Airtel 4G data packs will cost you more if you are in Northern part of the country than if you are residing in the southern part of India. 10 GB 4G data plan will cost you Rs. 1998 in the North but you can subscribe to the same pack for Rs. 1347 in the South.

Tikona Digital Networks:
In January 2014, Tikona received approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board to raise Rs 2.48 billion ($41.8 million) through foreign direct investment. Tikona requested an increase in the foreign equity participation from 71% to 72.58% through the issue of compulsorily convertible debentures and equity shares to the existing non-resident investors. The IFC funding comes as a part of this fund-raising exercise. These expansion plans will also help provide employment to 350 professionals and create 20,000 indirect jobs in support and facilitation functions over the next five to six years.
Tikona Digital Networks recently received $25 million in the form of equity from International Finance Corporation (IFC) after a review. The company is likely to use these proceeds to expand its reach to Tier III and semi-urban markets, as well as for setting up adequate infrastructure for 4G services. The company also broke even on earnings before interest and taxes in early 2013. Tikona is one of the service providers holding broadband wireless access spectrum in the 2300 MHz band and is reviewing for the appropriate time and maturity of the 4G ecosystem before making a foray into the space. Tikona holds 4G spectrum licences in five circles in northwest India, covering Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (East and West) and Himachal Pradesh.
In addition, Tikona claims to have invested in ensuring that their services, particularly WIBRO are not harmful to the environment, and to have ensured that energy consumption and emissions are lower than the industry standard.

Mobile Handset Vendors & OEMs

According to Mr. Shashin Devsare, Executive Director of Karbonn  they recently announced the launch of our 4G series ‘Quattro.’ Karbonn Quattro L50 is the first 4G device of the series. Karbonn as a brand has been focused towards simplifying the technology experience of the customers to encourage adoption and with our 4G offerings. We aim to take this vision forward. Our new UI ‘Kandy’ has been especially developed based on feedback from smartphone users to bring the most user-friendly, stable and secure 4G experience with Quattro L50 HD. It has been designed to allow users to dictate the way they use their smartphones to match their digital proficiency. Cutting on multiple menus, Kandy offers an integrated PCM, wherein users can access the dialer, contacts, logs and messages within a single menu with one swipe. With data consumption key priority for smartphone users, Kandy has been designed to offer users, granular level control over their Internet usage closely monitoring their data consumption daily for each app and customize their expenditure and plans accordingly. Amplified security is another great feature on Kandy, with users in full control of what private information they choose to share with which app.  For a fuss free experience, Kandy allows users to customize their notification and shortcuts tabs to choose which notifications and functions they would want to access on priority giving one touch access to all the frequently used features. Users can also customize the entire look and feel of the device by choosing from a diverse range of themes, icons and colors to reflect their personal style and preference. Further, Kandy is a treat for music and movie lovers offering varied settings including audio enhancers, volume boosters and surround mode features for a never before music and viewing experience.

“We plan to begin this New Year by entering the 4G market. We have a few new 4G compatible models lined up which we will be launching soon. Since the India market is still opening up to the wave of 4G, which is still very new with limited presence, our game plan is to  launch the 4G phones while simultaneously focusing on our 3G phones said Mr. S.S. Bassi, Country Manager – SAARC, Sangfei Mobility (Philips Mobile)

According to Mr. Shripal Gandhi, Founder & CEO, Swipe Technologies a phone is not just a medium of communication, it is a medium of conducting business, providing critical services and entertainment and sharing happiness. 4G is likely to bring in major transformation in the way we use a mobile phone. Mobile communication touches all spheres of life be it education, healthcare, business or entertainment and it has been changing the way people do things every day and Swipe has been one of the stakeholders of this change in India. From its humble beginnings in 1995 with 2G telephony, Indian telecom sector has come a long way and the 4G technology takes the mobile telephony in India and the world to the next level.

To cater to the demand for 4G-enabled mobile devices, Swipe launched ELITE 2 (our most-affordable 4G device) & Swipe Ace Strike 4G Android Tablet in the last quarter of 2015. Most mobile services will be offering 4G services in this year and being a leading mobile communications devices maker in India, we at Swipe are quite excited about the transformation that is under way.
We have planned a number of 4G-supporting products – smartphones & tablets – this year under our ELITE range of mobile devices. Our R&D team is working on creating some of the most feature-rich phones with compelling user experience and affordable prices. We are in talks with service providers for bundled offerings, wherein the service providers will offer 4G-enabled devices at discounted prices for subscribing to their 4G services. We are extremely optimistic about Indians’ preference for 4G.

“The mobile phone industry is moving at rapid pace to welcome the real use of 4G network. Today, all the handset manufacturers endeavour to have 30% product portfolio of 4G-enabled handsets. With Reliance Jio slated to roll out their services soon, the mobile Internet eco-system and dynamics will surely change in India market in 2016. Particularly, the demand of 4G will increase in metro cities and A-class cities with the clientele being proactive to exploit the data revolution. At Videocon, we also understand the importance of 4G network. The same will be exhibited in our new range of smartphones. In near future, we will have 12 to 15 4G enabled models with 5”, 4.5” and 4” screen sizes said Mr. Jerold Chagas Pereira, CEO Videocon Mobile Phones

Elaborating  on their 4G plan for India Vivo CEO Mr Alex Feng said “The Indian 4G market has experienced an abrupt rise in demand. Over the coming quarters, India’s 4G data business is expected to demonstrate tremendous growth opportunities due to the declining ownership cost and rising consumer awareness. Continuous technological advancements and increasing need for high speed wireless connectivity are expected to drive the Indian Data Card market. Our upcoming new launches will ALL be 4G-supported devices. We want to prepare our customers for this incoming technological evolution”.

Scopes and Opportunities for Vendors:
According to Mr. Devsare  as per IAMAI, the local language user base in India grew 47% and touched 127 million in June. The growing consumption of local language content on mobile phones is a clear indicator of the need for vernacularizing the smartphone ecosystem for bridging the digital divide. We are very focused at building a strong local language ecosystem on smartphones to ensure that the benefits of technology could be experienced by users across the spectrum irrespective of their English language proficiency.  We recently launched K9 smart which offers users the option to navigate the device in up to 12 Indian languages offering non-English speakers the comfort of accessing the device in their first language thereby lowering adoption barriers. The smartphone also allows users the freedom to express themselves to their loved ones in their native language by giving users the flexibility to choose from 21 Indian languages for typing input. Additionally, K9 Smart users can easily search and even add contacts in up to 11 Indian languages. With smartphones becoming an important source of news and information, K9 Smart gives users the option to access news and magazines on Newshunt and enjoy cricket commentary, score and live updates on CricBuzz in six languages of their choice dissolving language barriers to information access. Users can also access various utility and social apps like Google Maps, YouTube, Facebook and Whatsapp in various Indian languages for Indian users.

“We believe that 4G has indeed immense potential in a country like India, provided the existing issues like poor network quality, low penetration, etc are swiftly resolved. There is already a growing demand for data with excellent network quality. The penetration of 3G and the launch of 4G will further contribute to a greater demand said Mr. S.S. Bassi.

According to Mr Gandhi 4G is the next big opportunity for the mobile communications devices makers like Swipe. With Reliance Jio expected to launch 4G services at competitive prices, we feel that other providers will follow the suit with similar offers and Indian mobile users’ will steadily migrate to 4G devices. However, the availability of affordable 4G-enabled devices will be important for the successful acceptance of 4G in India. Swipe is consciously focused on the affordable devices segment, where the consumer base is going to the largest”.

“The current roll out of 4G network is small in comparison to 3G network reach in the country. While 4G is yet to go mainstream, telecom companies are expanding their 3G network in different regions to provide better data experience and instant connectivity. With the proper execution of 4G network, the next phase in the India telecom market involves building data and services to deliver greater value to consumers and drive growth that is more profitable said Mr. Pereira.

Mr Alex Feng said  the burgeoning Indian economy, increasing youth population, and high untapped potential have made India gain popularity as a business destination globally. Also, we see a parallel in the Indian mobile market and what we witnessed in China during 2011 to 2014. The market is moving rapidly from 2G to 3G and now to 4G. There has been a paradigm shift from feature phones to smart phones in India. Further, over the time, wireless connectivity has become an indispensable part of the lives of the Indian consumers and especially amongst the youth. This is the right opportunity to foray into the Indian market as it’s a potential market for smartphone industry.

Key Challenges :
According to Mr. Bassi one of the main hurdles in the path of 4G in India is the lack of suitable ecosystem in terms of proper device support. While in case 2G and 3G, there is a greater uniformity in frequency across countries, with 4G the frequency is different in different countries. In India itself, the private and non-private cellular operators have received different 4G spectrum, inadvertently affecting the operability of the 4G devices across regions with different spectrum bands. In India, 4G faces further limitations as not all cellular operators hold 4G licenses.
The challenge for the manufacturers like Swipe will be to scale up to meet the huge demand of 4G-enabled smartphones. The challenge will also be to offer superior user experience by way of offering highly customizable user experience and the software said Mr Gandhi.

Mr. Pereira mentioned that  the lack of a robust ecosystem of devices, which happens with every new technology, is one of the major challenges that come in the way of 4G deployment. While some mobile players have already launched 4G-enabled devices in the market, but not the necessary volume is available. The price of 4G handsets is high, so making the 4G technology mainstream is not going to happen in anytime soon. Additionally, the upgrading of 2G and 3G networks along with deploying 4G service would be challenge for the telecom players”.

According to Mr Alex Feng good network infrastructure is required and 2. Customers’ awareness of our brand, and of our commitment to 4G development.

How affordable Devices make an impact:
The very fact that in spite of being a domestic brand we offer international quality devices is one of the main reasons why Brand Karbonn clicks. Today consumers are very price sensitive and aspire for products which bring them the best-in-quality at the most affordable prices. It is here that we come into the picture and offer them the best quality in mobile technology at a price which is well within their reach. Increasing price to become a niche’ product is never a business strategy for Karbonn. We believe in pricing our products as per our consumers buying capability and thus bring to them the best value-for-money offering. Our higher priced smartphones have top specs in the tech world which our competition offers at roughly double the price. Thus we aspire to bring world-class technology at affordable prices to take innovative technology to the masses said Mr. Devsare  of Karbonn Mobiles.
Mr. S.S. Bassi  said affordable devices can make a huge impact on 4G as it will enable greater level of 4G penetration in India. While it is easier for a person belonging to the upper middle class and above to change phones after every new upgrade, in the present scenario wherein 2G and 3G continue to flourish, bringing out affordable 4G compatible devices will go a long way in achieving higher 4G penetration in the country.

“India offers a huge market for mobile phone makers. A large part of the overall Indian demand comes from aspiring youth in the Tier 2 and 3 cities and towns. While they aspire to use a better device, their affordability is limited at this stage. Hence, if a mobile phone maker is targeting the pan-India market, which includes a large hinterland, it must factor in the price sensitivities of this population. There are 300 cities in India with population of 1 million plus. Per capita income in these cities is almost equal to that of metros and they offer immense potential. As a strategy, we target aspiring young population from Tier 2 and 3 cities and towns for our products. We have been fairly successful at this by ingenious methods. While we have received PE Funding (from Kalaari Capital), we are extremely prudent with our cash flows. We maintain our asset turnover at around 20 days, which enables us to use our financial resources efficiently “ said Mr Gandhi.
According to Mr. Pereira India is a price-sensitive market so the cost might be one of challenges to speed up the slower adoption of 4G network. There is no denying that affordable devices will create a great impact on 4G plans for Indian customers. With affordability of 4G-enabled devices, the high smartphone penetration, demand for high-speed online content and inclination towards Internet-based services are going to push the 4G-network in Indian market.”

India is a diverse market with requirements from feature phone to smartphone. In India, 65% smartphones sold are below the Rs 10,000 price point. Affordability also completely depends on technology, brand & market situation. We experienced that to reach out to maximum number of people and gain market share, we need to capture market with affordable range of products and that’s why we launched V series and Y series in India with price range from 6k-20k said Mr Alex Feng of VIVO mobiles.

Key role in Digital India:

According to Mr. Devsare ‘Digital’ is definitely the fastest growing advertising & marketing medium for the corporates. With 213 million mobile Internet users in India and 120 million smartphone users separately, digital and mobile advertising is the new hype for the marketers to enhance their brand visibility and appeal. There is certainly a possibility that digital will emerge as one of the primary or even the sole medium of advertising and marketing for the upcoming and existing brands in the future. However, the Indian smartphone user demography is highly fragmented with advanced users forming only a small chunk of the overall market. With an increased smartphone penetration in India, the ‘language problem’ has emerged as one of the key hurdles in the mobile ecosystem which is pushing back users from adopting mobile phones across cities. Thus, it is imperative to offer advanced smartphone solutions while being simple enough to be adopted intuitively by the user.
Also given the linguistic diversity of our country, we have introduced a range of devices supporting up to 21 Indian languages to encourage adoption. As a brand, Karbonn has also been very supportive of the Make in India strategy. We plan to manufacture around 700,000 to 1 million smartphones for the Karbonn brand initially out of the manufacturing facilities which will be set up in our country. We are planning to invest around Rs 800 crore over the next couple of years for manufacturing handsets locally including a Rs. 450 Cr. mobile manufacturing hub in Hyderabad.

Mr. S.S. Bassi  said with proper launch and implementation of 4G, there will be better connectivity which will in turn provide greater access to Internet to all. This will further lead to digitization as the easy access to Internet will facilitate various targets of Digital India such as e-learning, especially in rural areas.
“ Digital India is an ambitious initiative by the Government of India to ensure that the essential government services are made available to the population electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity. The initiative envisages connecting the entire country with high-speed Internet networks. The delivery of all services under the Digital India initiative will be done on mobile phones. Since the focus of Digital India is to digitally-enable the rural India, Swipe and other mobile communication device providers will have major role to play. The real empowerment of the rural population will come only when the people will be able to connect directly with the government without the intervention of the third parties. A mobile phone will be the device that will be instrumental in this empowerment of rural Indian population. As mentioned earlier, our conscious strategy is to focus on the Tier 2 and 3 towns which will have larger traction with the government’s Digital India initiative. In future, we plan to create user-friendly software that will enable the rural user to do more from their mobile device” said Mr Gandhi of Swipe Technologies.

According to Mr. Pereira the 4G LTE technology is expected to be a game changer in the coming years, bringing the next generation of mobile phone users in India. With 4G technology, more users will use social media, web browsing and live chat, thus creating a platform for Digital India to flourish and reach out in more sophisticated and speedy manner. With Internet consumption also continues to grow, the 4G network will push the Digital India program further to be a key driver to India’s growth in the IT and telecommunications sectors.
“4G spectrum will play an active role in Digital India, but depends on the government policies. As of now, smartphone plays an important role for making the digital environment as wireless connectivity has become an indispensable part of the life of the Indian consumers and especially amongst the youth said Mr Alex Feng of VIVO mobiles.

Expectations from government:
The Indian mobile industry is going through a phase of transformation and government cooperation is a must to sustain the phenomenal growth of this sector. A cut in the taxes on mobile phone brands of Indian origin will help the Indian phone makers to compete well with our international competitors. We shall also seek from the government rebates in state rates for importing raw and finished goods from offshore clients based on which we will be able to pass on more value-for-money product range to the consumer. As an impetus to the Indian mobile makers, the government must pitch in for rebates to set up indigenous plants which will help the Indian mobile manufacturers in bringing out more value for money products to empower the telecom boom in the country
The government must introduce policies including tax holidays and interest subsidies to give a push to domestic handset manufacturing and increase the mobile phone user base in India. To establish India as a global power in international mobile market, the government needs to provide easy financing options for mobility goods like mobile phones, tablets, etc. The indigenous products will help in realizing goals like ‘Digital India’ & ‘Make in India’ and take the mobile and Internet revolution to mass consumers. The strong willingness and campaigns around such initiatives will help in developing a digital environment in the country. Additionally, there is an urgent need for establishment of a robust mobile design eco-system to enable and promote manufacturing and exports. With locally manufactured products, we expect to see billion hands using mobile phones for communicating and sharing data in coming years.” said Mr. Devsare .

According to Mr. S.S. Bassi  “We expect BIS to be followed strictly to maintain the quality compliance and prevent non-quality products at bottom-low price from creating disturbance for genuine products and companies”

According to Mr. Gandhi of Swipe the government’s focus is in the right direction as evident from the initiatives like Digital India, Make in India and Skill India. The success of these – and many other – initiatives will depend largely on the availability of connectivity. We expect the government to be friendlier towards start-ups like Swipe. We expect friendly policies, including tax holidays and interest subsidies, in the forthcoming Union Budget to help revive a segment that they say has the potential to create more than a million jobs in India and bring billions of dollars in foreign currency. While India has emerged as the fastest-growing mobile phone market, it has fallen short of countries like China and Vietnam in mobile device manufacturing. Incentives such as a long-term tax holiday have helped Vietnam even become an alternative to China, which is losing some of its attractiveness due to increasing cost. India could generate as much as $50 bn in annual turnover by 2019 from manufacturing handsets and offer jobs to 1.3 million people, if friendlier policies are implemented”.
Government must ensure the stability of the 4G network and take care that the promises made by service providers translate to reality. Only then, people can enjoy the real data to act as a catalyst for the users in Tier 2 and 3 cities to experiment with 4G said Mr Pereira of Videocon.

Mr Alex Feng  “said We expect to have timely information and support/guidance in order to implement it in a better way as we support Digital India campaign initiated by Indian government.