Obviously still missing from the LTE honours list today are China and India. In China, the standards battle took time as they were pushing through the TD-LTE protocol version. We saw China Mobile run a showcase trial during Shanghai Expo 2010 and they are now planning a demo network in Beijing for 2012. While China Unicom has not divulged its plans, it seems likely that China Telecom will be the first one to launch commercial LTE service later in 2012. It is safe to bet that once they get moving, the absolute numbers of Chinese LTE subscribers will surpass all others probably by 2016.
In the meantime in India, after often delayed spectrum auctions, the result was a number of winners which had won licences in a patchwork of service regions (circles). Only one, Infotel, won licences in all 22 circles. They were subsequently bought by Reliance Industries (RIL). MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) had been allocated spectrum before the auction.
As it stands today, three operators could be first out of the gates claiming the national First LTE Deployment title. Augere announced that they would start services in 14 cities in the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh telecom circles in the first quarter, starting with Bhopal. Reliance also has plans of rolling LTE soon.
And what about IPv6 in all of this? It is or soon will be under the hood. It still holds that faced with deluges of data and floods of handsets and applications, a drought of IP addresses might be perceived as a rather minor issue in the big scheme of things that would be resolved in due time. As address depletion became a reality, the excitement went largely unnoticed by the vast majority. Things will change when broadband networks like LTE networks fail to deliver enough bandwidth to provide a satisfactory user experience.
LTE recommendations specify that IPv6 support is required in the end devices. Some mobile network operators including the most prominent IPv6 supporters here in Asia have been rather discreet but are most certainly quietly working on IPv6 deployment in the context of LTE. They probably consider upcoming IPv6 support as implicit, considering that IP addresses are IP addresses and their format irrelevant to the general public.
Mobile operators often cite the lack of LTE-ready end devices as a reason why they have delayed with IPv6 deployment. That argument is now passé. At the end of October, the GSA listed 197 LTE-enabled devices from 48 manufacturers, up threefold since February 2011.
Now that both voice and data are becoming more widely available over LTE and concerns about voice revenues are starting to move backstage, competitive pressure should be allowed to start working its magic. The choice and the versatility of LTE enabled devices, associated with quality of service and adequate pricing, is what will turn on a mobile broadband-hungry public, especially the always-connected younger generation.
It can only be an upward slope for IPv6 as it rides on LTE's coat-tails.
Yves Poppe is director, business development IP strategy at Tata Communications.
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