Worldwide, the most widely used spectrum band for LTE network continues to be 1800 MHz (3GPP band 3) in comparison to all other LTE spectrum bands and Indian mobile operators both Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio plans to go with the majority.
As per GSA’s (Global mobile Suppliers Association) latest update of the Evolution to LTE report, 176 LTE1800 networks, almost 50 percent higher than a year ago, are commercially launched in 86 countries so Indian operators have no other option but to choose 1800 MHz for LTE deployment.
With 2300 MHz spectrum band not ideal for Indian environment as there is lot of concrete infrastructure and not glass infrastructure in homes and commercial buildings unlike western countries so in-building coverage is a big problem. A lower frequency band i.e. 1800 MHz is ideal for LTE deployment in the country as it increases coverage as well as in-building penetration.
Not only operator deployment is high in 1800 MHz, even device eco-system is higher in 1800 MHz. 1800 MHz is used today in 45 percent of LTE network deployments and continues to dominate the user devices ecosystem. Over 43 percent of LTE user terminals can operate in the 1800 MHz band. The next most popular contiguous band for LTE deployments is 2.6 GHz (band 7) and is used in almost 25 percent of networks.
In the recent spectrum auction, Bharti Airtel has acquired 1800 MHz spectrum in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Kolkata, Orissa, Haryana and North East circles. In 2014 spectrum auction, Bharti Airtel won 1800 MHz spectrum in 15 circles. All these acquisitions says Bharti Airtel has now more spectrum in 1800 MHz vis-a-vis 2300 MHz and Bharti is choosing 1800 MHz as the defacto spectrum for LTE services.
Reliance Jio had acquired 1800 MHz band in 14 circles across India in 2014. In March 2015, Reliance Jio successfully acquired the right to use spectrum in 800 MHz and 1800 MHz in 13 key circles across India. With this acquisition, in addition to the pan-India 2300 MHz spectrum, Reliance Jio has spectrum in either 800 MHz or 1800 MHz or both in 20 out of the total of 22 circles in the country.
Recently, Reliance Jio also commented that it plans to provide seamless 4G services using LTE in 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands through an integrated ecosystem. This combined spectrum footprint across frequency bands provides significant network capacity and deep coverage.
Alan Hadden, VP, Research, GSA said, “Interest in VoLTE (voice over LTE) has surged and over twice as many operators are investing in VoLTE compared to a year ago. 16 operators have launched HD voice service enabled by VoLTE in 7 countries, compared to only 3 launched in March 2014. Many more launches will happen in 2015.”
In 2015, it is expected that Indian mobile operators both Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel will do a big bang launch of LTE with or without VoLTE using 1800 MHz as the primary band