Marty Cooper with Dynatac400-600 million more Indians will connect to the broadband Internet in the next few years, almost all wirelessly. Currently, most Indians have terribly slow net connections. Ambani's new $25B LTE network is coming on stream and will improve things.  The 2300 MHz of spectrum on offer is enough to change that. It's four or five times as much as used by all the U.S. carriers. With robust networks, most users soon will be able to watch 4 hours of HD video daily (or other things that need bandwidth.) Without improvements, many are cautious about the cost of a single YouTube video.

The Indian press and analysts are predicting only $12-20B will be raised at the auction. The telcos don't have the cash or borrowing power to bid anything like $80B, more than the total market cap of the companies. The Indians set a reserve price for the different frequencies. If no one one bids that price, the spectrum is held over for another auction in a few years. Not selling all the spectrum this time probably won't have much effect in the long run. They couldn't build out that fast. 

 The new Indian broadband users may be more than the U.S. and Western Europe combined. Currently, Indian telcos have one of the world's worst ratios of spectrum to users, drastically limiting what users can do.

If most of the spectrum is put to use, India will come closer to world speeds, Speeds in India today are dismal. The majority connect at 2G and low 3G speeds, sometimes little faster than dial-up. Most of us today would not consider that a true Internet connection. They can check their Facebook for news from friends and the outside world, send email, and slowly load web pages. Fewer than 5% of the population has broadband. Broadband speeds are often below three megabits and caps are often low. The Internet thrived 

 The available spectrum was split among ~12 telcos in wildly uneconomic allocations. AT&T's John Stanky points out anything less than 10 x 10 is impractical. LTE-A was designed around 100 MHz per company. Release 13 will raise that. In India, some telcos have 2 MHz bands and even less. That's starting to change as the companies die, merge or share deployments. Three of those companies are gone and Sunil Bharti Mittal expects four or five more to go in the next two years. That could be a self-fulfilling prophecy if investors believe Bharti will do what is necessary to make it so. Mittal has the liquidity to outbid any of the smaller carriers and block their entry into 4G. Verizon and AT&T have done that for a decade, driving out Alltel and other. The money might run away from the smaller carriers out of fear and sink them.

Except in the short term, spectrum is not the major limiting factor for wireless networks. A carrier can add antennas, cell sites, and better technology to upgrade. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told Wall Street they could have delivered the same capacity for a third the cost by upgrading rather than by spending $10B in the last spectrum auction to keep competitors out.

India today is the important exception. India has 1.25B people. The U.S. has 315M in three times the area. India has only 36M landlines so Wi-Fi offload is limited. They haven't done a good job clearing spectrum. Telcos in India have 70-90% less spectrum per user than American ISPs. 

"There is no spectrum shortage and there never will be, " Marty Cooper told a startled D.C. audience. Marty hasn't seen a major shortage since he built the world's first cell phone in 1973. In the eight years I've been covering wireless, technology has been improving faster than demand has been growing. The improvement going from 3G to LTE Advanced is at least 10x and probably more. There's another 4-5x improvement coming in the next few years even without more spectrum or "5G." At Deutsche Telekom, BT, & Verizon, capital spending has been flat to down. It's easy for any of us to confirm that; have your mobile speeds gone up or down each of the last ten years? 

That's always the choice. More spectrum brings down the cost of delivering the bits, a good thing. That's always the choice. You can get the same result by adding more towers and antennas, using more Wi-Fi, or improving the technology. TDC is using advanced 256 QAM to deliver gigabit LTE tests. There are dozens of other improvements practical in the near future. 

 Since 2012, I've been asking people how the Internet will change when there are more Africans than Americans connected, probably in 2017. India will have more connected than the U.S. and Western Europe combined. Anyone hoping to reach that audience will need a truly multi-lingual system. 260 million Indians are native Hindi speakers, more than three times the number of native German speakers. More than 50 million speak each of Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati, or Bengali. Most do not speak English. The total population of Norway. Sweden, Finland, and Denmark is 25 million. 

 The U.S. and Europe will also have to adapt as their combined share of the Internet plummets below 25%.

 
An interesting chart from Quora based on Wikipedia data. India is about a third the size of the U.S. with more than three times the population. In the U.S., serious spectrum issues are rare and mostly from poor company planning. India has a real shortage.
Relative to China's area: 
  1. Russia        179%
  2. Antarctica 146%
  3. Canada      102%    (excluding water areas, 96%)
  4. China         100%
  5. USA             99%     (excluding water areas, 96%)
  6. Brazil           89%
  7. Australia     80%
  8. India            33%
  9. Argentina    29%
  10. Kazakhstan 28%
 
 
 

Newsletter

Often interesting

Latest issue

 Gig LTE & Massive MIMO ushering in the Age of Wireless Abundance

Wireless Abundance is here: What the new tech means http://bit.ly/Wirelessabundance
Sprint & T-Mobile Charge to be 1st in U.S. to Gig LTE bit.ly/STMOgig  AT&T bit.ly/ATTGIG2016
Kitahara of Softbank “I am crazy about Massive MIMO” http://bit.ly/MMIMOCrazy
20 Gig mmWave, Massive MIMO & Gig LTE at the Huawei MBBF http://bit.ly/Huawei20
LTE gets to the gigabit explained for non-engineers http://bit.ly/GigLteexplained
Massive MIMO explained. http://bit.ly/WHMassiveMIMO
2017's Big Gigabit story: Qualcomm 835 is ready http://bit.ly/BigGigLTE
Doubling speed with 4x4 MIMO & 256 QAM at T-Mobile http://bit.ly/2k1gEOQ
Netgear Nighthawk M1, Telstra do "gigabit class" LTE http://bit.ly/2k1s5Gq
Spectrum price down by half http://bit.ly/Spectrumhalfoff
Dish and the telcos see big asset cut http://bit.ly/auctionlosers
Shorts on 3GPP,  NYU research, Ralph de la Vega, 5G new radio

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5GW News

dave right5G? 4G? Whatever the name, wireless is going to a gigabit, soon.  I've reported broadband since 1999 and now is the time for gigabit wireless. Catch a mistake or have news? Email me please. Dave Burstein

 

Stories worth writing

Starry may match Verizon 5G at half the cost
OFCOM in UK: Share all spectrum, even licensed
OFCOM's Boccardi: 26 GHz worldwide: U.S. goes 28 
Verizon 5G fixed tests will be only 100's of homes
Massive MIMO FD at China Uni, Tele, Huawei, ZTE

 

 

 

Datapoints

Verizon and AT&T burying price increases in fees. 

Huawei's Richard Yu intends to pass both Apple & Samsung in smartphones in five years. 

The 3,000,000,000 transistor Qualcomm 835 is a revolution. Gig LTE, incredible cameras, better VR & AR, & ... State of the art CPU, DSL, GPU, ISP tightly integrated

1,000 T-Mobile small cells 2016, 6,000 more coming. Tech Life

New $84 Reliance Lyf Wind 7S has a 5" screen, a quad-core Snapdragon, an 8 megapixel camera, and some extras. Not state of the art, perhaps, but completely usable at a modest price. 

Orange/FT 4G covers 97% of Poland, 96% of Moldova, but only 84% in France, Q3 2016. They have 113.5 mobile customers in Africa compared to 25.5M in Europe.

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