Tata Docomo’s plans to launch 3G services in India in just a few days time appears to have rankled other telecom operators, who are rushing to let customers know that their own 3G launch isn’t far away. Vodafone first announced a test launch of 3G services, saying that it will roll out by the first quarter of 2011, and now it’s Airtel’s turn. Airtel, probably worried that its data hungry customers might jump ship, has said that it will launch 3G services before the year is out. But in the statement from Airtel, there’s an interesting little nuggest: according to the company, Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad account for only 21% of all data traffic in the country. I expected it to be more, so this is quite encouraging for the Mobile Internet space, that 79% of consumption is from non-metro areas. Note that no source is mentioned by Airtel, so we’re assuming that they’re referring to consumption on its own network.
Airtel has 3G spectrum in the metro areas, and 13 telecom circles in all: Delhi, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh (West), Rajasthan, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, North East, Jammu & Kashmir. These 13 telecom circles also constitute 68% of Airtel’s revenue market share. It has paid Rs. 12,295 crores for spectrum in 13 circles, the most amount spent by an operator in the 3G auction, with Delhi being its most expensive acquisition at Rs. 3316 crores, followed by Mumbai at Rs. 3247.07 crores. Airtel will be deploying HSPA networks provided by Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Network and Huawei.