4G users in Nepal has crossed half million mark this month. The landmark subscription is possible within three months of the launch. The number of 4G users has surged after launching the service for Prepaid on Feb 4, 2017. Till now, 4G service in Nepal is being provided by the government owned telecom operator: Nepal Telecom. The users are from Kathmandu and Pokhara, as it is only available in these two cities as of now.
Though Nepal is little bit late in launching the 4G service, now we need to switch to 4G network to move further for more enhanced services. I am here to analyze the reasons for why 4G is a better technology and why we should start using 4G technology. Long term Evolution a.k.a LTE is the technology behind the 4G service. LTE can be termed as the pre 4G or 3.9G or first 4G technology which forms the basis for further evolution. Now, LTE is used as more generic term for cellular 4G technologies.
First thing with 4G that comes in everybody’s mind is the high speed internet that we can get with it. But the services are not only limited to it. The 4G speed depends on the frequency bandwidth used. Now in NT, only 5MHz in Band 3 (1800 MHz band) is used for LTE. It is also possible to use multitude of spectrum bands for LTE using aggregation feature to increase the speed significantly. The multiple antenna technology can also be used for doubling or quadrupling the speed. The maximum speed that NT can provide is right now is near to 30 Mbps whereas on average you can get around 4 to 6 Mbps. The speed also depends on the 4G signal power received by their handset. Comparing to 2G, 3G technology, 4G can provide some minimum speed even if the signal is quite low.
The spectrum efficiency of 4G is high in relative to 3G and 2G. For an operator, it means they can provide high speed data with the same frequency chunk (high bit per Hz). As frequency is a scarce and expensive resource, 4G technology makes them efficient in providing high speed and better services. For a user, if the cost per bit (from the mobile network side) is low, it makes it affordable. Here, I am not referring to the cost per bit (from the internet side) which is common to all technologies.
Most of the users seems to be hesitating to use 4G by terming it as expensive which is not the case. It’s just that you will get fast download for browsing website or app data, so that you will be able to browse the same stuff within lesser time. In the long term, being fast means your usage rate is going to increase by habituation. As more and more users use it and high speed usage become a part of their life, the price will also go down gradually.
LTE is a data only technology which means there is no legacy voice calls like with 2G and 3G. But VoLTE (voice over LTE) feature allows to make a call directly from 4G. Nepal Telecom is not using that feature now, so the voice calls will be made through 3G or 2G network through a feature called CSFB (Circuit Switched Fall back). The mobile in 4G network automatically falls back to either 3G or 2G network when you call or someone calls you. So if you have already subscribed to a 4G network, it is better to keep the network in 4G preferred mode. Later, VoLTE and ViLTE will surely come with the possibility to include HD quality conversational voice and Video from LTE.
Being a part of the making of 4G network here, I happen to witness the testing and development of 4G. Last month, I also happen to experience the 4G network of much hyped Jio Network in India. Being free and under test phase, Reliance Jio experience is not up to the mark that we expect. As Jio is a 4G only operator, there is no other network to fall back. I also suffered for having no signal around when I needed it the most. I also did not have a backup SIM unlike most of the users. Similarly Recent MWC trip made me realize 4G is not ubiquitous there, as it seems to many of us. Some of the areas and metro lines were missing 4G. Though the European operators have launched LTE advanced pro, only high paying customers can subscribe to it.
The investment of a network always depends on the usage prospect and the revenue to generate from there. No any operator is going to invest on 4G in a lonely island or forest where no or less user exists. It is due to the Return on investment that most operators are calculative of.
Evolution of Next generation Mobile technologies.
The World is now moving with development of pre 5G or 4.9 G technologies. Two weeks back, when I was there in Mobile World congress, it was mostly about 5G technology and its services. They had showcased several services like Connected Autonomous cars, connected stadiums, Smart home, smart utilities, Virtual / Augmented Reality and high speed data up to 50 Gbps. It is all possible due to high bandwidth in mm-wave, new enhanced radio technology, Network function virtualization, multiple antenna streams, cloud based network/ applications and many more.
With 5G, as it is possible to connect infinite devices and stuffs, it will bring a revolution for Internet of Everything or IoT. The operators who have a matured network and services in 4G, are now moving ahead to LTE advanced pro (4G+ technology). They are also adding more recently standardized features to their network. The vendors are also partnering with them to do the trial of some Pre 4.9 G technologies. It is all possible as people there have used the newest technology. They also helped the operators grow their network to more advanced features and services.
Now that Nepal Telecom has launched 4G in Kathmandu and Pokhara, People from several areas are eager to welcome 4G. I must say that It is in the hands of those people who have 4G handset & 4G coverage, to encourage the operators to make a lot of investment in 4G and bring the evolution to much more advanced services here in Nepal. Sooner or later, the competition in 4G is here to come. And later we will say we have made it happen.