Indians spend three hours daily on phones and 25% check phones 100+ …

Chris Houghton is head of the India region for Swedish telecom equipment giant Ericsson. With spectrum auctions reaping bumper revenues for government and spurring mobile operators eyeing India s growing appetite for high-speed internet, Houghton spoke with Pankaj Doval about India s mobile broadband boom, Ericsson s response to Make in India and when 2G could exit and 5G arrive:

What factors are fuelling mobile broadband usage in India now?

Mobile broadband usage is on the rise with social media, web browsing and chat. These are driving more than a third of the traffic currently.

Ericsson s Consumer Lab study shows that on an average, Indian consumers spend over three hours daily on their smartphone and 25% consumers check their phones over 100 times a day.

Smartphone prices are expected to fall by 40-50% over the next three years.

As a result, the number of subscribers who ll be able to afford smartphones and services are expected to reach over 700 million by 2020 up from 110 million in 2013.

Will 3G or 4G technology be dominant in the near future?

We clearly see 3G services being availed by 80% of broadband customers and 4G services being availed by 20%. Given the large total base of subscribers, we d expect 4G numbers to be crossing the 100 million subscriber mark only by 2020 3G will drive growth for the next few years as 2G subscribers migrate to 3G services.

4G will still take time to take off in India as the affordable device ecosystem needs to be developed.

By when realistically could 2G be phased out in India?

We do not see 2G being phased out any time soon 2G networks provide pan-India coverage and unless we have 3G pan-India coverage, 2G will continue to exist.

2G penetration will also continue to increase in areas with limited 3G coverage and affordability constraints.

India still has only 40% rural penetration much 2G growth can still come from these areas.

How do you see the evolution of high-speed 5G networks in India?

The introduction of 5G will not happen in a single, clearly visible step. We expect 5G to evolve gradually over time, extending into the next decade.

We expect fully commercial 5G systems to enter the market sometime around 2020.

Meanwhile, can you provide details on Ericsson s plans to ramp up manufacturing operations in India?

Well, as part of the Make in India campaign, we have announced our plans to set up an export-oriented manufacturing unit in Pune with an investment of $15 million.

This facility, which is the company s second in the country, is expected to commence production in the first half of 2016.

Ericsson was the first vendor to invest in telecom equipment manufacturing in India back in 1994.

The Pune facility is now being set up for the production of telecom core products in India which will include products for 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

This unit will serve as an export hub for regions such as Southeast Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa that s apart from catering to the Indian market.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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