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General News Airtel to triple data speed soon
NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel's 4G subscribers may soon be able to browse the internet and stream videos at average speeds of 30-35 Mbps, nearly three times the present day average 4G speed, with the No 1 carrier planning to deploy Massive Mimo technology in key cities in India.

People aware of the details of trials going on in Bengaluru, Manesar and Chandigarh said the market leader may start commercial roll out of the technology, considered to be more efficient than 4G but pre-5G, between December 2017 and February 2018, as the market leader invests into technology to take the speed battle to bitter rival Reliance Jio.

“In a quarter, a critical number of sites will have Massive Mimo deployed in top four metros and Pune, Hyderabad and Bengaluru,” said one of the people aware of the matter.

A second person said technical evaluations are on with gear suppliers Huawei and ZTE for sourcing radio equipment and installations, contracts for which may be closed within a month.

Bharti Airtel declined comment, while Huawei and ZTE didn't respond to emailed queries.

Massive Mimo, or massive multiple input multiple output, increases capacity of a base station by five to seven times and reduces interference substantially, in turn boosting the transmission signal to the devices. This means that a subscriber using voice and data, will get data speed which can be between 30 Mbps and 35 Mbps on average and even up to 50 Mbps in peak times. Comparatively, depending on one’s 4G plan, the mobile internet speed varies from 4 Mbps to 16 Mbps on paper.

The catch is that subscribers having only 4G smartphones will be able to get the full benefit of the accelerated speed as the technology is being deployed on the 2300 MHz band by the market leader. But with the number of 4G devices rising every month – from the present base of 100 million – the lack of supporting devices will unlikely be a hurdle in the long run, say analysts.

"Mimo essentially allows a telco to improve signal reception and hence increases the link capacity, so for the same amount of spectrum, one gets better spectral efficiency and data rates," said Pankaj Agrawal, partner at telecom and media consultancy Capitel. "For consumers, a technology like Massive Mimo will mean better user experience, much faster downloads, no buffering when one streams content.”

Bharti Airtel, which launched 4G VoLTE (voice over long-term evolution) in Mumbai earlier this month, would want to bank on Massive Mimo technology, which can be deployed in highly congested or high traffic areas, to improve indoor coverage and in high-rise buildings, to compete with Jio which has an all-VoLTE network and offers free voice and low-cost data.

The Mukesh Ambani-led new entrant has cornered over 130 million subscribers based on its fast data speeds and free voice offerings.

To compete, Airtel has laid out capex of Rs 16,000-17,000 crore for this year, and a similar corpus for each year over the next two years, and has been investing in technology since last year. In 2016, Airtel deployed India’s first carrier aggregation technology in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kochi, where customers with mobile devices that support 4G Advanced can enjoy data speeds of up to 135 Mbps

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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