BRIC taking leading role in 4G

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
 
The move towards the LTE era has seen the emergence of some unpredictable trendsetters. The real interest of the vendors and analysts lies in how quickly the BRIC economies (Brazil Russia India China), the world's growth engines, will start to invest heavily in 4G.
 
We would expect the first two of these powerhouses to lead the way in 2012. India's government has made many pledges to auction 700MHz and other LTE-suitable bands in short order, and there would be a logic, given the nascent state of 3G in the country, to pushing a direct-to-LTE policy. However, in reality huge obstacles lie in the way of the grand plans, combined with the country's cumbersome telecoms bureaucracy. Most of the designated bands are occupied by defence departments or broadcasters, with no clear process yet laid down to vacate them.
 
The carriers invested heavily in 3G spectrum and have little resource to spend again in auctions, before they have seen some ROI on their previous purchases. The country's famously low ARPUs and device prices are inflating a little as a result of 3G, but it is hard to see how they could support a 4G profit model for some years. And the creation of an ecosystem is being complicated by government insistence that cellcos buy large percentages of their equipment from domestic suppliers, even though India has only a very immature wireless manufacturing base of its own.
 
All these factors suggest that the only “4G” build-out for the next three or more years will be in the TDD 2.3GHz BWA band. Here, state-owned BSNL kicked off with a Wimax rollout but is now looking to hand back its frequencies, citing lack of a business model. The largest deployment, then, will be Reliance Infotel's national TD-LTE plan, but even that may not take off until 2013.
 

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