07 Nov

Indian Govt. ignoring urban broadband deployments?

Today, I was reading New Telecom Policy from Dept. of Telecom. Must say I am disappointed.
Everyday I hear a new story on 3G & LTE in India. About wireless we all know that due to super limited spectrum, it’s good only smartphones. Hard to call even LTE as an alternate even to DSL. LTE has yet to come, but still it will hardly compete with DSL in tier 3 cities and rural India. For tier 1 cities like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and tier 2 cities like Gurgaon, Jaipur – broadband still suffers badly and we all know but just not accepting that wireless broadband is not way out to that.
I am not against wireless broadband. I totally agree to fact that for mass deployment wireless is way to go but I strongly feel that another serious effort is needed in wired broadband connectivity. I am happy to get 2Mbps connection via 3G on my Idea cellular phone, and I don’t really complain for it’s cost because of spectrum crunch and all but I feel super surprised on fact that I get 512Kbps capped broadband on DSL when technically it can go over 16Mbps easily.
It’s hard to comment on how well fiber connections to Gram Panchayats will perform. All we can say it’s good and nice initiative given they don’t create parallel infrastructure. But why Govt. is missing out demand in big cities where wired infrastructure is “decent” or can be made decent (based on demand)?
I don’t see any good efforts being made by Govt. for improving broadband speeds or connectivity by making maximum use of existing copper infrastructure. Working professionals in cities like Gurgaon/Chennai still suffer badly for “decent” broadband while most of them could have given broadband – demand & technology – both of things are there. Just missing willingness on side of Govt. What’s point in FTTH now which “can” give 1Gbps speed given one is ready to pay ~$1500 a month for that sort of speeds?
Following (not-so-hard) things can bring real change in broadband:

  1.  Force Govt. telcos to increase speed – start offerings from 2Mbps. It won’t really hurt BSNL/MTNL in long run. Excess and cheap International bandwidth really enables telcos to increase speed by as little as 4-8 times and last mile isn’t very bad either for that much speeds.
  2. Change peering policy and start taking niXi seriously.
  3. Just like telephone call benchmarks, have good benchmarking for routing too which is badly screwed up here.
  4. Change new connection policy for students & working professionals. I know atleast a dozen of friends who want, can afford and would love to have an good wired connection for heavy usage BUT for very strange reason one needs an address proof for new DSL connection (which is hard to get for temporary stay), while nothing like that in wireless datacards connections. This needs to be fixed. Simple, but very major problem.
  5. Unbundle last mile – it’s badly required for growth. BSNL can’t really operate all alone on huge copper infrastructure.
  6. Make BSNL more dynamic in deployments – I never understand what’s point in city wide launch of FTTH when there’s no huge demand, nor BSNL is on huge cash to afford things for fun? But surely, if there’s huge demand in say an society/building in say Bangalore – why can’t BSNL pull up fibers there? Worst, they do have fibers in many buildings but plans are same as one gets in Indian village! What’s the point in capping speeds so badly when technically more speeds can be supported?

Private operators can’t do much in this regards. Most of them are doing good in mass deployments which comes into wireless for last mile and backbone capacity to support all this. But Govt. sitting on huge assets of BSNL can really bring change.
How can a $30 android tablet bring change when we don’t have good communication infrastructure to support it?
Hope we will be on faster connection next time you visit my blog! 🙂

10 Mar

What is 4G?

I can see SUPER HEAVY confusion on what is 4G? So thought to make a blog post about it.

Some people even feel like….


🙂 Let’s try to understand from basic definition about 4G.

As per ITU – 4G refers to wireless technologies which gives as fast as 1Gbps speeds when one is stationary, while 100Mbps speeds when one is on move. That’s it. Full stop.


1Gbps!!! Really?

Well, that’s “just in defination”. In real – there is no technology which is real 4G.


So what is WiMax?

Well WiMax is yet another technology which enables wireless broadband. WiMax comes in two flavors – fixed wimax (802.16d) and mobile wimax (802.16e). Fixed WiMax is available from long time. As per its name – “it’s fixed!”. It needs a clear “line of sight”. It works quite good as “alternate to DSL” in Rural areas where demand is very low. It’s also more suited for Rural environment because of easy line of sight clearance, apart from very long distance links (as long as 40Km’s). What WiMax we hear these days (the one which is operated by ClearWire in US, for carriers like Sprint, and BSNL wimax in India) that’s “mobile wimax”. It’s a totally different technology then fixed wimax, and both share “almost” nothing other then “name” wimax. It’s one of technologies heavily backed by Intel – who considered it as an alternate to Wifi covering whole city with just a couple of hotspots. Intel’s dream was much like having WiMax in way we see WiFi, though it seems it failed. Have a look at this promo video:



So how much speeds WiMax supports? Is that 1Gbps?!!

Mmm…NO! (not even in theory).

Current version of mobile wimax supports peak (read it theoritical) speeds of somewhere around 70Mbps. (no way close to 1Gbps)


What about LTE?

Well that’s one of other popular wireless technology. One must note that LTE is an upgrade from GSM > GPRS/EDGE > HSDPA > HSPA+ > LTE…

meaning it is not directly related to (wireless) broadband, but it’s an evolution from cell phone technologies. That’s one of prime reasons of why people call these as 4G technology. Present LTE standard too does not support 1Gbps of speeds, and so it’s also NOT the real 4G.


So what’s the real 4G?

Well till now – there is no commercially available technology which can support “real 4G” speeds. Recently NTT DoCoMo did tests for Advanced LTE, and it seems that might come as real 4G. In case WiMax, an advanced version 802.16m might be real 4G, but that has years to come!


But till now all operators are just calling their own technology as 4G.

In US , firstly Sprint came with mobile wimax based network (running over ClearWire’s network). It gives average downlink speeds of somewhere around 4-5Mbps, which is far away from 4G standard. Next, At&t and T-mobile upgraded their 3G network to HSPA+ which supports peak speeds of 21Mbps and they call it “almost 4G network”. Next, Verizon came up with their “4G LTE network” which supports real world speeds of somewhere between 5-12Mbps. One remarkable thing here was – Verizon is atleast giving real world speeds in their claim. Wireless broadband ads are all full of “peak” theoretical speeds while at the end users just get hardly 1/5th of that (on a lucky day).

A few interesting facts:
  1. If At&t and T-mobile keep on calling their network as 4G, all Indian telecos can call their new network too as 4G as they are also deploying HSPA+ (right from start).
  2. In rough and more real sense HSPA+ is considered to be 3.5G. They give end user a speed from 3-5Mbps which is definitely good for mobile broadband.
  3. In real mobile WiMax & LTE (current standard) is 3.9G – a way to 4G. That’s why they call it as Long Term Evolution 🙂
  4. Even if LTE advanced comes into picture, we still need really big slot of spectrum. These technologies are mostly about how efficiently we are using limited spectrum.
  5. If DSL players start claiming “peak” speeds in their ads, then expect BSNL banner saying – “24Mbps for just 150Rs/month” 😛 🙂 and FTTH – Fiber to home deployments will go as high as “1.6Tbps of  peak speeds just for $60 a month”! 😀
  6. Even FTTH players like Verizon FiOS are yet not giving 1Gbps speeds. Issue remains with capacity and overall demand. (who really needs that much bandwidth today?)
  7. LTE is in picture from many years but development was very slow till mid of 2010. Reason remains high cost of building new infrastructure, and not really any significant demand.
  8. In India Reliance Infotel is expected to launch wireless broadband over TD-LTE in middle of this year. You should be excited about it – considering fact that Infotel is only player which holds pan India spectrum for BWA, apart from fact that it’s return of billionare Mukesh Ambani in communications industry.



So stop using word “4G” unless you can really download 1G of data in 8 seconds!


Fun fact: I am making this post after hearing from a friend that iPhone 4 is never going to launch in India since we don’t have 4G!