India's mobile technology is in the slow lane

Featured - July 25th, 2012
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Reliance Industries Ltd.’s ambitious plans for a nationwide 4G network may face challenges from India’s technological backlogs, the Wall Street Journal reports.

India has been a technological late bloomer, owing to its low capita income. According to the Journal, cell phone services were not fully utilized until seven years after the infrastructure was put in place, while the 3G service are still limited a year its their launch.

Reliance and Airtel still need to develop existing infrastructure in India to cater to the advanced technology. Fiber optic lines are needed to carry huge amount of data beyond the 300 meter capacity of 2G networks, according to analysts. But installing fiber would cost billions of dollars, added to the cost involved in putting up 100,000 cell towers. Apart from infrastructure, the companies also need to issue rights-of-way in dense urban areas, which costs up to $200,000. Reliance is also considering using faster technology – used for shale gas drilling – but the process would still require permits from each municipality.

4G networks could still hit a wall as smart-phones using the service will be too expensive and could take at least two years to fall into the $150 range deemed to be affordable to the masses.