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Service Innovation: Operators launch new offerings to drive 4G uptake

March 29, 2013

Long term evolution technology was introduced in India with Bharti Airtel’s 4G service launch in Kolkata in 2012. This year, players like Reliance Jio Infocomm (earlier Infotel Broadband), Aircel and Tikona Digital are expected to introduce these services.

4G networks offer high speeds and innovative applications, and are expected to provide business opportunities for operators. The high speed connectivity offered by this technology will result in fewer dropped calls, faster video streaming and enhanced mobile applications. The high speed of data transfer offered by 4G could play a major role in bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas. For example, in rural areas, 4G can be used to provide high speed broadband access in an  economical manner as compared to fibre connectivity.

Globally, 4G has made significant inroads in markets like the US, the UK and Europe. Players such as NTT DOCOMO, Sprint Nextel, Verizon and AT&T have rolled out 4G networks and are offering high speed data connectivity bundled with innovative applications at low prices.

In India, the demand for innovative applications is expected to play a key role in the adoption of 4G services. To drive uptake, operators are planning to offer bundled data packages at affordable rates with low-cost smartphones and tablets.

tele.net highlights the key applications that can be offered on 4G networks…

 Mobile video

4G services would enable multi-way video chat and content streaming. In India, customers will be able to access these services on devices such as the Aakash Ubislate and the Beetel Magiq tablet. Also, the availability of 4G devices operating on the Android, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry platforms is expected to drive the uptake of these services.

Globally, several specialised application providers offer services that support video streaming from mobile handsets to the internet. These applications are also supported by devices like Samsung’s Mondi Mobile and the HTC EVO 4G.

 Mobile gaming

Mobile gaming has witnessed significant uptake. According to a joint report by KPMG and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the mobile gaming market is likely to be valued at Rs 14.3 billion by 2014.

Meanwhile, most operators are offering gaming facilities on their 3G networks. Going forward, these services are expected to gain traction as 4G becomes popular.

Globally, customers have opted for portable 4G Wi-Fi routers such as Sprint’s Overdrive and Clearwire’s Clear Spot. These routers enable five to eight online gamers at various locations to collaborate with users simultaneously.

 M-commerce

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the domestic m-commerce market would grow from Rs 4 billion in 2012 to Rs 20 billion in 2015.

There has been a growing uptake of m-commerce services following the launch of virtual wallet facilities like Airtel Money and Mobile Money by Bharti Airtel and Aircel respectively.

The scope of these services is expected to increase significantly with 4G, and will include facilities supported by near field communications technology. Users can also use this technology to download the Google Wallet application on Android-based smartphones. The application allows users to make payments through their Visa, MasterCard or American Express cards and by placing mobile phones near point-of-sale terminals at various retail outlets.

 Emergency response and telemedicine

The speed offered by 4G networks can significantly reduce the response time for emergency services. Globally, Cisco and AT&T are developing telecom equipment and services for the health care segment. 4G can also be deployed by the government to provide health care services to rural communities through telemedicine.

Navigation

Currently, Google Maps is the most popular navigation application used by 3G subscribers. With the availability of higher bandwidth on 4G networks, navigation application providers are looking to offer real-time visual data through the global positioning system or a phone camera.

Worldwide, 4G networks are used to support voice-enabled navigation applications like Waze, Layar Reality Browser and Wikitude (available for iOS- and Android-based devices).

 Cloud-based applications

4G networks are expected to have a major impact on the cloud services market in India. According to Deloitte, 4G-enabled cloud computing will ensure higher efficiency of hand-held devices. The research firm also states that organisations may find it difficult to leverage cloud computing effectively without investing in 4G-enabled devices.

The main advantage offered by 4G networks in the cloud computing space is high connectivity speeds. These networks will make cloud computing operations more efficient and secure as well as offer faster access to data and applications stored online. High speed 4G networks will improve the operational performance of enterprises that rely on transaction-based applications on the internet. They will also enhance customer relationship management and strengthen other real-time collaboration platforms.

Moreover, high-bandwidth 4G networks will enable various business applications on the go. They will help cloud service providers to ensure quick user access to files. Given that consumers will be able to access a cloud faster as compared to 3G networks, the cloud provider can deliver a greater number of applications and larger data sets to its clients. Further, 4G networks are likely to increase the collaboration between employees using cloud services.

Offering cloud services through 4G technology also helps organisations to collect a range of data sources that can be used for analytics and business planning. These services will enable media and publication houses to charge for premium content, which can be enriched with photos and video inputs.

 Challenges and the way forward

A key concern is the underdeveloped ecosystem for delivering 4G applications. The high price of 4G handsets is another impeding factor. In a price-sensitive market like India, handset manufacturers are required to launch low-cost devices that are bundled with relevant content. Therefore, aggressive pricing is important to drive the mass adoption of 4G in India.

Going forward, operators will be required to play the price card and offer tailor-made and cost-effective applications to promote these services.

 
 

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