TD-LTE will become the “saviour” of the mobile industry as it faces massive data growth, proclaimed Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal.
“At the time we joined the GTI [Global TD-LTE Initiative] as a founder member, we didn’t realise how mission critical it would be. We started to take baby steps and monitor what China Mobile was doing,” he said.
Speaking at the GTI Summit this morning at Mobile World Congress, Mittal said: “I can’t imagine our lives without the big development of the TDD ecosystem, given that India has just 5MHz of 3G spectrum to serve the very large capacity of its customers.”
GSMA chairman Jon Fredrik Baksaas said TD-LTE has seen the fastest adoption rate of any consumer technology. In June last year TD-LTE connections made up just 7 per cent of all LTE connections. “Now it’s closer to 25 per cent, and next year when LTE connections reach one billion, it will account for almost 30 per cent.”
The fact that TDD and FDD share common technologies and have merged on common chipsets and devices, “means that the entire LTE ecosystem has flourished,” added Baksaas.
He said operators will continue to invest heavily in both TDD and FDD as they roll out their next-generation networks and look for ways to monetise their investments.
“As we look to the future, the interdependence between the two is only going to grow, especially as carrier aggregation becomes more common. And FDD is being optimised for use in M2M applications.”
He also said 2015 will be the year when we see VoLTE become mainstream, with the support of more devices.
Meanwhile ITU Secretary General Zhao Houlin encouraged China and other GTI partners to promote the advantages of unpaired spectrum to a wider range of services.
Li Li, deputy director general of China’s Department of Science and Technology, said China’s three mobile operators have worked together to “give TDD a unique advantage in the 2.6GHz band to make it possible to operate efficiently with synchronisation, without the need for a guard band between two frequency ranges.”
He noted that this is a big booster of frequency resource utilisation. “We also are very supportive of the TDD-FDD convergence and related applications.”
TD-LTE terminals last year accounted for 40 per cent of all sales in the country and China is on track to have 400 million LTE connections by the end of this year, he said.
While 4G has made huge gains in China in just one year, he said there are a number of upstream and downstream challenges, such as the incomplete maturity of VoLTE and hybrid communications.
China Mobile executive VP Sha Yuejia said its 4G buildout has progressed even faster than it had imagined, ending 2014 with more than 90 million 4G subscribers. He noted that the ARPU of its 4G customers is 1.46 times that of 3G users, while data usage per user increased over threefold.
China’s mobile leader offers more than 1,300 4G devices from about 200 vendors. The price of 4G handsets has dropped to as low as $60.
He said it is aiming to cover all domestic cities and rural areas with one million 4G base stations by the end of this year. Coverage will also include 73 high-speed railways and 26,000 km of highways.
It expects to have 250 million 4G customers and sell 200 million 4G devices this year.