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Airtel To Roll Out 4G Services This Month; What About RIL?

Bharti Airtel will kick start its 4G services in Kolkata this month, hoping to be the first mobile operator to offer 4G services in the country. We had previously heard that Airtel was planning to launch the services last month, but it appears that Airtel now plans to launch the 4G services this month, starting with Kolkata. The announcement about the launch was made by Bharti Airtel CEO, Sanjay Kapoor, at a GSMA event in Delhi. Although, details of Airtel’s rollout plans are still unclear as of today.

In June 2010, Airtel had secured BWA spectrum in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Kolkata for a total consideration of Rs. 3314.36 crores during the Broadband Wireless Access spectrum auction. It had appointed Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei, Ericsson and more recently, ZTE to build and operate its TD-LTE (time division duplex long term evolution) network in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Kolkata respectively.

What About RIL’s 4G Services?

With this announcement in mind, its quite disappointing to note that RIL hasn’t revealed its 4G service rollout strategy yet, considering that it’s been almost close to two years that the company had acquired pan-India BWA spectrum through the acquisition of Infotel Broadband services. Infotel Broadband services had won BWA spectrum in all 22 circles in the country for Rs 12,847.77 crore during the 2010 BWA auctions.

Last week, RIL had stated that it will be kick staring its 4G service trials in Jamnagar before rolling out the service nationwide. Prior to that, reports had then suggested that it will be offering low cost high-speed broadband services based on a 4G network deployment by the end of 2012. While the company had stated then that the rollout plans were still at a planning stage, it was rumored that RIL will be offering tablets at a subsidized price of Rs 3,500 and bundling data plans for as low as Rs 10 per GB along with it. However, later reports had suggested that users could expect a pricing of Rs 1,000-2,000 for 5-10 GB per month for these service.

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Prior to these developments, RIL had also partnered with RCOM to bundle voice services with its data offerings, with UTV for games, bollywood content and children’s content for its 4G services and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Siemens to offer a networked security services using video and other security applications and a possible integration with large scale city and highway projects for surveillance and law-enforcement.

Although, we understand that forging several alliances takes time, it’s strange that the company had not commenced service trials till date. Why did the company take so long when it had demoed the service in 2010, at its campus?

Other 4G developments: Last month, Qualcomm had received ISP license after an 18-month wait, thereby enabling the company to roll out BWA services (4G) in the country. In October 2011, Augere Wireless had announced that it plans to roll out its LTE services under its ZOOSH brand, across 14 cities in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh this year and had partnered with Ericsson for its 4G/TD- long term evolution plans. On the flip side, state owned BSNL was looking to surrender its BWA spectrum and had received the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)’s nod in December 2011. There is no information on Aircel and Tikona’s 4G plans yet.

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