Smartfren to boost LTE speed to 240Mbps with 3Ca tech

  • However, limited supply of handsets that can support 3-carrier-aggregation
  • Can make voice and video calls through WiFi
Smartfren to boost LTE speed to 240Mbps with 3Ca tech

JUST months after it began deploying 2Ca (two-carrier-aggregation) technology to give its customers a better broadband experience, Indonesian operator PT Smartfren Telecom Tbk (Smartfren) has moved to the next level and begun testing 3Ca technology.
Carrier aggregation allows devices to connect on two or channels (carriers) at the same time. Smartfren’s 3Ca deployment will make use of three spectra, and would allow it to offer Internet surfing speeds of up to 240Mbps, the carrier claimed.
According to chief technology officer Christian Daigneault, Smartfren has rolled out 4G LTE (Fourth Generation/ Long-Term Evolution) connectivity to 188 cities and districts, and now has 1.4 million active 4G users, out of its total of 13.5 million customers nationwide.
3Ca deployment will be rolled to all these areas nationwide later this year, and the company has already begun deploying it in 22 major cities, he told a media workshop in Serpong on June 17.
The 3Ca trial is being conducted using a Mobile Development Platform Smartphone (MDP/S) powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset, on Nokia LTE Advance technology and Smartfren’s 4G LTE network.
Nokia Networks is working closely with Smartfren on its 4G base stations in the Western Indonesia area: Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung, Cirebon, Lampung, Palembang, Padang, and eight other cities in Sumatra.
READ ALSO: Preparing for the bandwidth crunch in an IoT future
Meanwhile, the head of Nokia Networks’ customer team Ripudaman Lamba said that the LTE population in Indonesia was still low – only 2% of smartphone users at the end of 2015 – but there was great potential for growth.
“In 2018, we predict LTE users will grow to 14% of 100 million smartphone users. With more affordable devices, we believe the adoption rate will be even faster,” Ripudaman said on the sidelines of the media workshop.
Meanwhile, Smartfren is also testing out VoWiFi (Voice over WiFi) that would enable users to make voice and video calls through WiFi connections, according to its special project network vice president Munir Syahda Prabowo.
In April, the company rolled out a Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) app with international roaming support.
For VoWiFi, “those who cannot get an LTE connection can use WiFi to make voice and video calls, either from our app or directly from devices that support it,” he said, adding that the VoWiFi feature will officially roll out “soon.”
READ ALSO: Singtel’s HetNet trial sets stage for VoWiFi, paves way for IoT … whaaat? 
The number of global active VoLTE connections worldwide, according to Juniper Research, could reach two billion by 2020, up from the 123 million recorded in 2015.
Nokia Networks predicts that by 2020, each smartphone user will consume up to one gigabyte of data per day.
About 80% of Smartfren’s revenue of US$228 million last year came from data services, while voice services only contributed 10%.
Limited handset support
While the networks are getting ready, the handsets are lagging. Qualcomm Indonesia country director Shannedy Ong conceded that devices that can support 3Ca are still limited in supply.
The Snapdragon 820 chipset is mostly used for premium devices.
“Globally, devices that support 3Ca are already available, but for Indonesia, we predict they would only be available at the end of this year, at the earliest,” said Ong.
Even Smartfren’s Andromax-branded smartphones, part of its open market handset (OMH) strategy, cannot support 3Ca, Munir admitted.
“[Andromax] has a different customer segment, and was not created as a premium device,” he said.
“But this year, we will work closely with manufacturers to bring their supporting devices to the Indonesian market,” he added.
Related Stories:
Smartfren ups 4G ante in Indonesia
Smartfren in VoLTE drive, launches an app
StarHub, Nokia Networks boost 4G experience in Singapore with VoLTE deployment
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