Bharti Airtel launched India’s first LTE network a couple of days ago, and other operators like Reliance Infotel, Aircel and Tikona are likely to follow suit soon. However, users who are expecting that popular handsets launched in the USA and Europe with LTE support will also be launched in India are in for a disappointment.
Handsets like Nokia Lumia 900, HTC Thunderbolt, Apple’s New iPad and Samsung Galaxy Nexus 4G do support LTE networks but of a different kind, called FD-LTE, while Indian operators are deploying a TD-LTE network. That is why Nokia will not launch a 4G variant of Lumia 900 in India.
The devices for TD-LTE networks are not yet available anywhere in the world, and the reason is clear: there is only one commercial network in one city in India, that of Airtel in Kolkata. While China Mobile is also deploying a huge TD-LTE network in China, it is still in the trial phase. USA-based operator Sprint has also announced plans to install a TD-LTE network and this is likely to boost the availability of TD-LTE devices further.
Companies like Mediatek and Qualcomm, which make reference designs for mobile phones chipsets, have come up with designs based on TD-LTE. Devices based on these designs will only enter mass production by the middle of this year.
Qualcomm’s latest chips, such as dual core MSM 8960, support various international telecommunication standards, including TD-LTE technology, but again they are yet to enter production.
Right now consumers using Airtel’s 4G network will only be able to use dongles (data cards) to access the high speed wireless network. Reliance Infotel, which is the only player to have a nationwide BWA license, has not yet announced the dates for launch but is expected to launch its network by October (Diwali) this year. Reliance is also expected to bring in tablets with TD-LTE support at that time.
Till then people will have to contend with WiFi hotspot dongles and standalone data cards for accessing LTE networks in India.