Cellular Services – Challenges ahead

- P N Chopra

DIG BSF (Retd)

 

It is interesting to observe that during the 20th century, technology has been developed to travel faster, higher and further than ever before in the history. Now Electronics, Computer, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have made the transfer of information and ideas almost instantaneous. The world and universe around us is shrinking in technological time and distance. Sir J C Bose at the time conducting his experiment about the Radio waves a century ago would not have imagined that his discovery will achieve a highly connected country we see Cellular phone being used by citizen of all walks of the nation

 

We are all aware that the key to a national prosperity, apart from the spirit of its people lies with the effective combination of 3 factors—technology, raw materials and capital. Out of these 3 factors, the technology development through ICT is perhaps the most important to make up for a deficiency in natural resources and reduce the high capital demand. India has achieved a distinctive position for itself in developing ICT based solutions and ICT enabled services and has created a strong skill base. Now, we need to ensure to utilize this technology to the best of our capability as ICT based best design and development, innovation, production of systems by continuously assimilating technologies, creating new solutions supported by education, research and development. ICT based education, human resource development, management etc may itself incur high cost, but such high cost being directly related to development, should be viewed as an essential productive investment, yielding valuable returns to the society and contributing to socio-economic development. Telecom is not just a spectacle of high technology wonders but also a new engine of economics growth in terms of goods, services and higher incomes. An example of this change is that, planning design and even production are now getting information linked and are decentralized to such an extent that the world is heading towards a borderless Economy. Telecommunication as such is a vehicle for the economic growth.

If we look at the Telecom Sector in our country .The national picture is very encouraging, India’s telecom industry continued its robust growth story and Telecom Subscription Data as on 31st August 2009.The total Telephone subscriber base reaches 494.07 Million, with wireless subscription reaches 456.74 Million though the wireline subscription declines to 37.33 Million. There was 15.08 Million new additions in wireless, but the wireline subscription declines by 0.09 Million. Now the overall Tele-density reaches 42.27%.The Broadband subscription is 6.98 million. Mobile has permeated almost every segment of the everyday life of citizens.

 

The contribution of our cellular mobile phones, in the international arena is significant as we are the 2nd largest mobile Subscriber base with about 157 operational networks with an Investments around Rs. 150,000 crores Mobile subscriber base of over 460 million, which is growing at 10-12 million every month. We have the lowest Mobile tariffs and one of the lowest ARPU (Average revenue Per User) in the world, but highest MoU (Minutes of Use) globally The rural subscriber base is also growing at around 3 million every month, served by private GSM operators  91 million by June 2009, - Growing at around 4-5 million every month, i.e. nearly 50% of the GSM subscriber adds are from the rural areas. Currently the Mobile phones are covering almost 75% of population & about 50% of geographic area. India’s cellular services market is projected to surpass $37 billion by 2012, and the nation’s mobile subscriber base is also set to exceed 737 million connections also by 2012, growing at a CAGR of 21 per cent during the same period, according to an international expert

The two cities Delhi and Mumbai, , account for 45.67 million mobile phone customers, or 5.28% of India’s 286.86-million mobile phone customers, The growth is poised to continue through the forecast period, and India is expected to remain the world’s second largest wireless market after China in terms of mobile connections.

 

The Impact Of Mobile Phones In India

Telecommunications is a critical building block for the country’s economic development. The cellular mobile has become a device to provide a personalized mobile experience as you get connectivity when you want it and where you want it. When subscribers turn on their mobile devices, they want to get the services and Internet applications they want, when they want them, where they want them, and how they want them. Mobile subscribers want a personalized mobile experience. They want to be more than an account, a phone number, or an IP address. Service providers have the rich, dynamic, contextual information required to personalize the services. However, much of this information remains untapped due to several challenges, may be in times to come more personalized services will be offered by the service providers other than the data being used merely for the telemarketing. It can be by using the subscriber data and application policies to customize offerings such as of providing a free ‘day pass’ for a new service funded by mobile advertising revenues, delivering more bandwidth to a subscriber who wants to engage in mobile gaming in the evening but not during the day, or allowing a subscriber to download unlimited videos on the weekends, or  providing streaming videos or music when the subscriber is at home but not while roaming and also enabling a new third-party location-based social networking service.

 

Open the mobile ecosystem by creating flexible policy rules that securely broker subscriber data to third-party application providers to generate new revenues, while respecting subscriber privacy preferences. Adopt innovative service models such as mobile advertising and revenue sharing with application providers, which require real-time information on subscribers. Implement fair usage policies on a per session, per subscriber, billing period or time of day basis, and manage network congestion by redistributing bandwidth to improve the subscriber experience. Reduce operating costs by unifying subscriber data, eliminating outdated or duplicate subscriber data sources, easily provisioning subscribers new services, and predicting and upgrading mobile data capacity based on the number of mobile transactions. Access to communications needs to be seen as a foundation on which other initiatives can be built in under served areas, mobile phones can help to widen markets, create better information flows, lower transaction costs and substitute for costly physical transport.

 

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and urban slums can gain maximum benefits in enhancing their businesses through the use of mobile services. Amidst the spreading gloom of the economic downturn following the global financial meltdown, the Indian telecom sector provides the proverbial silver lining as it has withstood the impact. As the communications mainly mobile phones are finding their presence in the rural India, Information via mobile, such as weather reports and market prices, has begun to have an impact on productivity for the agricultural sector. It is generally observed that Real benefits of telecommunications only start when a region passes a threshold penetration rate of about 25%. Many areas have still not attained that level, which indicates the importance of increasing teledensity as soon as possible. Indian states with higher mobile penetration can be expected to grow faster, and as an indicator generally by 1.2% points for every 10% increase in mobile penetration rate.

 

The benefit mentioned are from 2G, but with 3G things are going to brighten up and benefits are expected to increase several fold. It is generally perceived that 3G will bring Mobile Broadband in India as In India fixed line broadband connectivity is very low; We can imagine that many people will probably first use and experience broadband on their mobile handsets.

Thus it is hoped that 3G will bring in the much needed broadband connectivity for both rural as well urban India. In India, when you think Broadband, Think Mobile Broadband

 

MOBILE BROADBAND FOR INDIA

To build an integrated eco-system of service providers, content providers, application providers, etc.

Integrate India & the Indian consumer with the far reaching developments that are taking place across the world.

Bring the much needed foreign investments into the country.

Extremely effective tool in driving penetration of the huge addressable market in the rural areas.

Increased economic opportunity through tele-education, tele-medicine, e-governance, etc.

Facilitate achievement of Government’s broadband objectives.

Now let let us see the  cellular scenario both current and of the future. These technologies can be briefly described:

 

2.5G Wireless:

The best technology now widely available- Features-include: phone-calls/fax-Voicemail—Send/receive-large-email-messages-Web-browsings-Navigation/maps-News,updates-TV,streaming-Electronic agenda meeting reminder-Speed: 144 kb/sec-2mb/sec—Time(typical) to download a 3min MP3 song: 11sec-1.5min

3G System Capabilities- Capability to support circuit and packet data at high bit rates- Interoperability and roaming-Common billing/user profiles-Capability to determine geographic position of mobiles and report it to both the network and the mobile terminal support of multimedia services/capabilities

 

4G Wireless:

Entirely packet-switched networks- All network elements are digital- Higher bandwidths to provide multimedia services at lower cost (up to 100Mbps) - Tight network security.

 

Delivery Platforms:

Terrestrial – Satellite- Cable- DTH (Direct-To-Home) - Microwave Multipoint Distribution System (MMDS) – and WiMax

 

Telecom   based Services:

GPRS /EDGE /3G-WIMAX-(MMDS)

Now  let us talk about the emerging technologies such as  HSPA (HIGH SPEED PACKET ACCESS and LONG TERM EVOLUTION LTE

HSPA (HIGH SPEED PACKET ACCESS PROVIDES

Backward Compatibility

–With Existing 3G/UMTS–Consistent with 3GPP standards. Delivering peak rates of 14Mbps in the downlink and 5.8Mbps in the uplink today Ever-improving performance, with commercially-proven transmission bit-rates of up to 14Mbps today and up to 42Mbps in the near future Highly economic urban and rural coverage, with up to 200km cell range and measured speeds in excess of 2Mbps at the cell border However the technology of the future is LTE.

 

LONG TERM EVOLUTION:

LTE is an all IP network based upon TCP/IP, with higher level services such as voice, video & messaging, built on top .LTE has considerable flexibility, supporting channel bandwidths from 1.4 MHz to 20 MHz. This optimises the use of radio spectrum by making use of new spectrum and reframed spectrum opportunities. Operators evolving to LTE from GSM/WCDMA/HSPA will maintain full backward compatibility with legacy networks. LTE will have scalable channel bandwidths using OFDMA with both TDD and FDD operation.

 

LTE BENEFITS:

All IP nature of LTE means converged services will become a reality It can deliver the massive capacity at a much reduced cost per bit. Applications like High Definition (HD) video streaming, mobile gaming will be possible with LTE. Low latency (below 10 ms) & higher Data throughputs.

With the current scenario Mobile tariffs are likely to lower further in 2009 – As per an expert report; telecom tariffs are set to fall significantly in 2009.  A reduction in IUC tariffs coupled with increased competition with the entry of several new players could lead to local call tariffs being as low as 10 paise per minute and STD at about 25-35 paise per minute by 2010.  This will be the huge challenge for new entrants and some of the existing operators who have been demanding a reduction in IUC tariffs for a long time. An expert report on mobile messaging suggest that SMS will continue to be the cash cow of mobile data revenues for some time to come.  The whole mobile messaging industry was worth US$ 130 billion in 2008.  It is predicted to be worth US$ 224 billion by 2013, 60 percent of non-voice service revenues and that there is nothing to stop continued growth of mobile messaging in the short term, driven by a cocktail of ubiquitous SMS, media rich MMS, enterprise based mobile email and youth conscious mobile IM.  MMS is growing fast and certain countries, such as China and the United States, are becoming very big markets.  Worldwide MMS traffic of 75 billion messages in 2008 is impressive, and the future growth looks very good in Asia, as affordable camera-equipped handsets flood the market with Chine leading the way.

       With such an impressive picture of the Cellular mobile service a darker side need also to be mentioned before we conclude the paper .This in respect of the consumer experience .we have come a long way from the era of no dial tone to connectivity any time any where but few personnel experience which I think all of us are also getting used to and taking it for granting, these are Mobile telephony — that brought a communications revolution to India since it was introduced 15 years ago is now almost an irritant, due to the poor quality of its services No network in certain areas even in city like Delhi the connectivity is not universally available this what is termed as call dropping

 

The Menace of Call dropping:

This is very frequently happening in the current Mobile using. One get wrong feed back that the respondent is not picking up the call where as he has not got any indication Mobile telephony — that brought a communications revolution to India since it was introduced 15 years ago is now almost an irritant, due to the poor quality of its services

Fixed lines phones are once again in the front, though they don’t offer complete mobility or at best have restricted mobility getting someone to call you on your landline is the best practice and safer for business many people have shifted to fixed telephones now for all important business calls, many people say that ‘call drops’ that is getting disconnected before the call ends had seriously affected their business.

“When you want to make an important call, you are unable to do it, SNAPPED Overloaded networks, inadequate spectrum and poor infrastructure are some of the reasons for calls ending abruptly.

There three reasons for the Call drop. When the network is overloaded that is there are more subscribers than the network’s capacity can carry, inadequate spectrum (airways through which voice signals travel) Spectrum planning that was done when network roll out took place in mid-1990s is no more valid and poor infrastructure.

• Telecom operators who provide the service are the main culprits of this call drop problem as they have not invested in infrastructure. Each tower (it holds the equipment that transmits signals) should not have more than 800 subscribers. But some operators are running 1,000 or more subscribers to save costs. • Large operators need to put at least 1.000 towers more in New Delhi and          Mumbai which means additional investment for them The DoT is equally responsible for this as they have done Poor spectrum planning — operators have been allotted much lower spectrum compared to their international peers. , All over the world an operator normally gets 20 MHz of spectrum. In India, the start-up spectrum allotted is only 4.4 MHz and the maximum is 10 MHz.

The four GSM operators in London have less than 50 subscribers per sq km per MHz.

. Market leaders in Delhi and Mumbai have over 200 sub scribers per sq km per MHz. Call drop is a serious problem as the communication gets snapped only when you need it. According to a study, 95% Professionals surveyed said that at least one call drop out of 10 and 64% Professionals say that call drops has effected their work adversely 74% surveyed say have Professionals said that mobile number portability is a solution to the problem Overloaded network, inadequate spectrum and poor infrastructure are some of the reasons for calls ending abruptly According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI),it is gearing up to curb the problem of call drops. The problem of call drops exists and it has reached an alarming proportion. As far as the surveys are concerned, TRAI is known to have conducted a survey throughout the NCR (National Capital Region), across all categories of subscribers, but this survey is limited to businessmen, professionals and self-employed. They generally move in business and commerce districts, where traffic is more and hence, the problem is more acute. However the service providers claim that non-availability of spectrum is the main reason for calls drops. But according to an expert the, spectrum is not the only issue. There are various other issues -like- whether the equipment being used gives maximum spectrum efficiency, if the operators have introduced in-building solutions which is an important practice. According to TRAI the authority is going to ask operators to improve the situation once the problem is completely identified after a survey.

There are other factors which create an irritant with user they are the telemarketing efforts by the service provider is nothing less than a nuisance one is likely to get a marketing call at the most odd moment. The future  deliberations to suggest improvement in this very important social tool  needs to take care of some of the issue including

Expansion of existing Network without deterioration in service level; improvement in connectivity; up gradation of Technology-Fixed – Mobile Convergence-Number portability.

Social aspects-Radiation Safety for the users-Aesthetic mobile Tower Scenario keeping in view the city skyline Control on misuse of SMS & MMS services.

I would like to conclude by quoting our new Minister of State for external affair Shri Shashi Tharur who talks of Mobile Magic I quote-The transformation in telecommunications has accomplished what our socialist policies couldn’t — empower the less fortunate”. Unqoute