India doubles 4G network in 18 months, has 1.25 mn base stations

Jio accounts for about half of India’s 1.26 mln 4G base stations

The total number of 4G base stations in India has more or less doubled in the last 18 months to 1.26 million, according to numbers from the Department of Telecom.

Against 6,76,462 4G base stations as of December 1, 2017, India had 12,62,841 (1.26 million) 4G base stations as of June 1, 2019.

During the same period, the number of 2G base stations fell by 1.2 lakh to 5.25 lakh from 6.45 lakh.

The decline in 2G base station numbers can be attributed to the shut down of operators such as Tata DoCoMo, Reliance Communications, Aircel and Videocon.

The number of 3G base stations, at 3.57 lakh, remains more or less unchanged from the 3.53 lakh recorded 18 months ago.

In all, India had a total of 21.45 lakh base stations as of June 1.

Though the number may look very large, China is estimated to have around 3.5 million base stations on 4G alone, almost three times what India has.

India’s 2.15 million base stations are put up 7.06 million sites.

A site can refer to a tower — which can host multiple base stations from different operators — or a rooftop.

Out of these 7.06 million sites, about 31% are connected with fiber optic cable, while the remaining are connected primarily using wireless (microwave) links.

Two years ago, only about 20% of the total sites in India were connected by fiber.

Operators such as Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel are rolling out or combining their fiber networks to connect more and more tower locations, so that they can use the towers to provide high-speed broadband services via 4G technology.

Faced with heavy demand and congestion, all the three main operators in India have also deployed technologies such as Massive MIMO in an effort to push as much data through their existing spectrum as possible.

4G speeds will get a further boost later this year with the addition of more spectrum as the government prepares to auction off more airwaves this year.