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After RIL, Aircel Postpones 4G Rollout: Report

Aircel LogoAfter RIL announced that it plans to postpone 4G rollout in the country to 2014, Aircel also won’t be launching its 4G service this year, reports Light Reading India.

Speaking to the publication, Anupam Vasudev, Chief Marketing Officer said that he cannot comment on the final date of 4G launch on their network but the 4G service rollout is not happening in 2013. Aircel won BWA/4G spectrum in eight circles — Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, North-East, and Jammu & Kashmir. Aircel also holds 3G spectrum in these circles.

However, the company will have to launch its 4G service before mid-2015. Under BWA sepctrum license terms, if BWA license holders fails to cover 50 per cent of the rural area by 2015, the spectrum could be withdrawn. In October 2012, the Department of Telecom has asked companies BWA spectrum license to start offering services at the earliest.

Interestingly, Vasudev mentions that the country is on the cusp of a data revolution and that in coming years data usage will explode. Currently, the company is waiting for the ecosystem to develop. There are very few 4G capable handsets available in the country.

While the company has indicated that it wants the ecosystem to develop, we believe it could be cause it wants to wait and watch how its competitors fair in the price conscious Indian market. Bharti Airtel is offering 4G data plans cheaper than its 3G data plans although with caveat. Airtel has launched its 4G services in select circles by offering 4G dongles and routers. This is not exactly a cost efficient way.

Other issues that Aircel might be facing is how to price 4G data tariffs in the cost conscious Indian market. In July 2013, MediaNama reported that Airtel had updated its 4G plans with 10Mbps downlink and 5Mbps uplink after reducing 4G data tariff, indicating the reduction in Internet speeds. In June 2013, Airtel has reduced its 4G tariff for prepay and postpay customers in  Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune and Chandigarh. Airtel’s new 4G data plans are available at a starting price of Rs 450 per month for 2GB of 4G data. Other monthly 4G plans include 3GB for Rs 650, 4GB for Rs 750, 10GB for Rs 999, 12GB for Rs 1299, 15GB for Rs 1449, 25GB for Rs 2049, 45GB for Rs 2999, and 80GB for Rs 4799. The revised plans made Airtel’s 4G plans cheaper than Airtel’s 3G data plans. For example, a 2GB monthly data pack that costs Rs 450 per month on 4G, is priced higher at Rs 455 on 3G.

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Reliance Jio Infocomm, which has pan-India BWA spectrum, has plans to offer 4G data plans starting at Rs 100 according to a source based ET report, while another report had suggested that RIL plans to offer data plans at Rs 10 per GB. If launched at such low prices, Reliance Jio Infocomm would disrupt the market. Interestingly, Reliance Jio Infocomm has also announced that it plans to launch 4G in the country in 2014. The delay was reported caused due a change in the company’s strategy, in which it plans to own everything including the 4G network, equipments used and allied infrastructures.

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