2018 is now over and we’re officially into 2019. During the last 12 months, the telecom industry has seen a lot of ups and downs. We all should admit that tariffs have gotten a lot cheaper, self-care applications of telcos are now actually very useful, and yes, services provided by operators improved as well. Now the biggest question in everyone’s mind is what’s next from telcos in 2019? Well, it could be better than 2018 as operators as betting big on 5G and Internet of Things services, looking to further improve download/upload speeds on the network by implementing Massive MIMO and various other technologies. Here’s what we expect from telcos in 2019.
Improvement in Download/Upload Speeds
The first thing which we want telcos to improve in 2019 is download and upload speeds. Already in 2018, telecom operators worked hard to improve the download speeds. Both Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio deployed Massive MIMO and Pre-5G technologies in major cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and so on. In various parts of Hyderabad, Airtel is providing download speeds of more than 100 Mbps, which is something dream come true for many Indians out there. Hopefully, telcos ramp their deployment this year to improve the download/upload speeds.
Making In-Roads for 5G in India
To recall, the 4G services was available since 2009, but it reached India in early 2012, which is underwhelming to hear. It was after Reliance Jio’s launch, Indian telcos aggressively expanded their 4G LTE network service across the country. Right now, India has 96% of LTE coverage which is impeccable. But the biggest challenge in front of telcos is 5G.
Since H2 2018, Indian telcos have been touting about 5G. In fact, Reliance Jio went ahead and said that 5G is just a software-based rollout which will happen once the government gives the nod. The 5G spectrum auction is expected to happen during the second half of 2019 because big telcos such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea are claiming financial stress. But Jio is eagerly waiting for the spectrum auction so that it can roll out the services to the public.
In various countries like Europe, United States, telecom operators are expected to launch 5G services in 2019 itself. Also, smartphones with 5G support are expected to make debut in the second half of 2019.
VoLTE and VoWi-Fi Becoming the Standard
It was Reliance Jio again which introduced VoLTE or Voice over LTE service to the Indian consumers. At the end of 2017, Airtel announced VoLTE on its network, although in very limited circles. In 2018, Vodafone Idea also followed the suit. Right now, Airtel has its VoLTE service spread across 21 telecom circles, Vodafone has the same in 17 circles, while Idea VoLTE service is available in 20 circles.
Surely, in 2019, Airtel and Vodafone Idea will rollout VoLTE on the pan-India basis, but that’s not all, Jio and other telcos will implement VoWi-Fi service across the country. Recently, we reported that Jio is already testing VoWi-Fi service in Madhya Pradesh and other circles. Once the approval from DoT comes, Jio will be the first to rollout VoWi-Fi in India.
Improving Self-Care Apps
At the moment, self-care applications like My Airtel, My Jio, My Vodafone, My Idea and My BSNL have become quintessential ones for smartphone users. Every prepaid/postpaid customer can use the self-care apps from telcos to check their account usage, remaining balance, perform a prepaid recharge and so on. But there’s more room for improvement.
The My Jio app from Reliance Jio offers a lot of functionalities, but very often, users complain about issues with the app. My Airtel and My Idea apps are the best self-care apps available right now. BSNL recently out a major update to its My BSNL app, but it’s still way behind in terms of features when compared to private telcos.
At the start of 2018, we predicted that content tie-ups would play a major in acquiring new subscribers. And that’s what happened. An average postpaid customer is now looking for content services like Amazon Prime, Netflix among others. While Jio doesn’t offer any such additional service, Airtel, Vodafone and BSNL have tied up with Amazon to offer one-year of Amazon Prime subscription with their postpaid plans.
Airtel and Vodafone are also offering free Netflix subscription, but that’s not the case with Idea Cellular and BSNL. It’s also said that the top telcos are in talks with Hotstar for a potential tie-up, so that they can provide free Hotstar Premium membership to the users. It’s also said that Jio is working with content providers to bring some ‘Orignal’ content to the customers.
BSNL 4G Services Might Finally Become a Reality
Right now, BSNL has over 110 million subscribers, but it’s still providing 3G as its high-speed data services to the customers, which is underwhelming in 2019. BSNL is expected to receive 4G airwaves from the government sometime earlier this year, and if that happens, the telco will launch 4G services across all the circles where it has operations.
Already, the state-run telecom service provider is testing 4G services in various parts of the country. So the commercial rollout is expected to happen in the next three-four months.
Gigabit Broadband Services at Affordable Prices
The next major thing in the Indian telecom industry is Broadband. After stirring up the wireless market, Jio has set its eyes on the wired broadband segment. The company, back in July 2018, announced Jio GigaFiber high-speed broadband service in the country. However, the service is limited to select users at the moment.
Jio is expected to offer speeds up to 1 Gbps under the Jio GigaFiber service. Right now, only a few Internet Service Providers are delivering speeds up to 1 Gbps in the country, but that’s expected to change this year — other broadband service providers such as Airtel V-Fiber, YOU Broadband, Hathway and so on expected to step up the game to offer gigabit broadband service.