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Videocon Plans To Launch LTE Services In 2013

Videocon Mobile Services, the telecom subsidiary of Videocon Group, is planning to launch high speed LTE services in 2013. The company said that it plans to offer these services in eight Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, UP (East & West), Bihar and Jharkhand, claiming to cover 45% of India’s population.

It’s worth noting that Videocon hadn’t secured any spectrum during the Broadband Wireless Access spectrum auctions held in June 2010. However, the company had secured 24 blocks of spectrum across 6 circles for Rs 2221.44 crore in the recently concluded 2G spectrum auctions. Videocon claims that this spectrum is paired and liberalised, enabling them to roll out LTE services in the country by adapting a Frequency division duplexing (FDD) network which supports bandwidth-efficient 4G technology.

We believe that Videocon is looking to leverage the liberalized spectrum clause mentioned in the National Telecom Policy 2012, according to which the government was planning to establish an appropriate regulatory framework for progressive liberalisation of spectrum utilisation, so as to create technology neutral unified services and enable telcos to deploy any kind of services on any kind of technology platform.

Videocon also claimed that this network will also enable operators to get more efficiency from the same spectrum resources and it will provide about 30 times more data capacity than a regular 2G network. It also claims that the cost of LTE implementation will be much cheaper in the 1800MHz band than in 2300MHz band, which comes under BWA spectrum.

Videocon 2G service in India

It’s worth noting that Videocon’s 2G service hasn’t done particularly well in the country. The company had started its 2G services in Coimbatore in March 2010, almost three years after securing 2G licenses for 21 telecom circles in India.  As of January 2012, the operator had a user base of 5.4 million. However, a month later, the company’s licenses were revoked, as part of the Supreme court judgement which cancelled 122 licenses issued to nine telecom operators in January 2008, following which Videocon was apparently looking to shut down its 2G services in all circles except the ones which have more than 5 lakh customers namely TamilNadu, Punjab, Haryana and Mumbai & Maharashtra.

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In the recently concluded 2G auctions, Videocon regained its spectrum in 6 circles, including Gujarat, Haryana, MP, Chattisgarh, UP (East), UP (West), Bihar and Jharkhand and according to the recent TRAI numbers, Videocon has 4.4 million subscribers (pdf) as of September 30, 2012.

Current status of 4G services in India

Bharti Airtel had launched its 4G service in Kolkata in April 2012, becoming the first operator to offer 4G services in the country. Few months down the line, the company has now rolled out the service to Bengaluru and Pune. The company had reported 3,180 TD-LTE subscribers as of September 2012 and it has BWA licenses in four circles – Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra.

In August 2012, Bharti Airtel had also inked an agreement with Qualcomm, to acquire 49% stake in Qualcomm’s India entities that hold BWA/4G licenses in Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala for an initial investment of approximately $165 million (Rs 909.56 crore approx). The Competition Commission (CCI) had approved the merger in September 2012 and Airtel was expected to assume complete ownership and financial responsibility for the BWA entities by the end of 2014.

Earlier this week, RIL had announced its intentions to roll out the 4G service in Mumbai and Delhi in mid 2013. The company was also reportedly looking to launch MiFi devices for users to access 4G speeds on the go, as well as, set up around 30,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across commercial buildings, offices and malls in Mumbai and Delhi.

Tikona Digital Networks had apparently invested Rs 1,100 crore to buy 4G network gear in August 2012. The company has 4G licenses in five circles including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh-East, Uttar Pradesh-West and Himachal Pradesh and was looking to roll out its 4G network initially in Gujarat and Rajasthan circles early next year.

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State owned BSNL was reportedly looking to surrender its BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) spectrum in 17 circles to get a refund of Rs 8,313.80 crore in October 2011 and had apparently got the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)’s approval in December 2011. Last month, MTNL had also reportedly announced its intentions to surrender its BWA spectrum to get a refund of Rs 4,533.97 crore.

In May 2012, Augere Wireless was looking to sell its 4G spectrum and exit from the Indian market. The company had then stated that it was unable to raise fresh funding from domestic and international investors due to regulatory uncertainty over the telecom sector. Augere Wireless had secured 20Mhz of spectrum in the state of Madhya Pradesh and had plans to roll out commercial LTE services under its under its ZOOSH brand, across 14 cities in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Last month, an ET Now report had however suggested that Airtel was in advanced talks to acquire Augere Wireless, in a bid to secure additional 4G spectrum.

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