BRTI calls for LTE to be used in ‘certain business districts’

15 Oct 2014

The Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Body (BRTI) is calling on the government to allow the use of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in ‘certain business districts’ in the country, to enable mobile operators to make a return on their investments more quickly. The Jakarta Post reports BRTI member Riant Nugroho as saying that his association has filed a white paper to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), arguing that the technology should initially be deployed in business districts to help companies make better use of e-commerce and related business transactions, and allow cellcos to charge higher rates for the service. The official says that one of the challenges faced by operators when it comes to 4G centres on fears over them making an adequate return on investment: ‘Even six years after the inception of the 3G network, most telecommunication operators providing the service have not had a return on investment yet,’ Riant said, noting that most domestic operators have been forced to lower their data services tariffs.

Backing this assessment, XL Axiata chief executive Hasnul Suhaimi is quoted as saying that his company makes a 10% loss on each gigabyte of data provided to its customers.

In a bid to drive the development of 4G – and mindful that the government looks likely to miss its target to launch LTE by the year-end – Riant says: ‘What’s in our white paper is that operators, in collaboration with vendors, may first deploy LTE Frequency-Division Duplexing [LTE-FDD] in a handful of business areas in Jakarta, namely Mega Kuningan, the Sudirman CBD, the Sudirman and Thamrin areas and Pondok Indah.’

However, Riant’s call has been questioned by some, not least by the chairman of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel), Setyanto P Santosa, who argues that the incumbents need to expand their 3G coverage before moving to 4G. ‘The 3G network coverage currently stands at only 30%. To prepare for 4G, operators have to migrate the 2G network to the 3G network,’ he argues.

Adding to the headache, the country is still wrangling over what frequency spectrum to use for LTE. The matter needs urgent discussion from all sides but despite the government having already issued 4G licences to a number of companies in the 2.3GHz band, a consensus is growing that frequencies in the 1800MHz and 1900MHz band would be more efficient for 4G.