Bharti Airtel is launching 4G LTE services for smartphones in Bangalore within the next three weeks, the company announced on Twitter earlier today. However, It is not clear how much Airtel will charge customers for the service.
The only issue is that there aren’t a lot of devices that support TD-LTE band used by Airtel. For example, Google’s flagship device Nexus 5 that went on sale on Google Play does not support this band though it has LTE capability. On the other hand, the version of iPhone 5s being sold in India does support this band, which is also used by RIL’s upcoming 4G service. It also needs to be pointed out that Airtel had launched a 4G capable smartphone, Huawei Ascend P1 in India last year, which supports TD-LTE.
According to Times of India, Airtel has adopted Circuit Switched Fall Back (CSFB) technology for providing voice calling facility over its 4G LTE networks in the country. With CSFB technology deployed within the network, the telco would be able to offer voice to its LTE subscribers through its 3G and even 2G network.
Only Airtel has rolled out 4G service in India till now and has spectrum to launch 4G services in four more circles, and more importantly, in the key cities of Mumbai and Delhi, as well as the states of Haryana and Kerala, after the acquisition of 100% stake in Qualcomm’s broadband wireless entity in India – Wireless Business Services Private Limited. It had launched 4G services only in Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali till now and one had to use a dongle to connect to this network. That said, the 4G service doesn’t appear to be doing particularly well either. The company had to reduce prices, but, apparently capped speeds to 10mbps.
As of now, the telco offered LTE compatible wireless devices including multi-mode USB dongles (Huawei E392) and a Indoor Wireless gateway (Huawei B593). The USB dongle is priced at Rs 4,999 and will feature a USIM card slot, a Micro SD card slot and a USB 2.0 connector while the Indoor wireless gateway is priced at Rs 7,750 and will convert the LTE connection to Wi-Fi network which can then be shared across multiple devices.
Reliance meanwhile tied-up with Samsung to procure BTS infrastructure for its 4G rollout. It was earlier in talks with Samsung to buy LTE handsets, but apparently the deal fell through over pricing issues, as Reliance Jio Infocomm wanted the handsets to be priced at Rs 5,500 while Samsung refused to go below Rs 8,500 along with a commitment that Reliance purchase 3 million handsets from them. It apparently held talks with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) in August for the proposed rollout of 4G services in Kolkata.
In unrelated news, Airtel also launched Manchester United Tricks game for soccer fans in India on iOS platform priced at Rs 55 in association with the football club. The game lets customers perform tricks to gain points and bonuses which can then be used to unlock players and in-game virtual goods.