While the deal period or the terms of the agreement were not disclosed, ZTE mentioned that as per the agreement, it will start deploying Aircel’s 4G network in Chennai, Rest of Tamil Nadu and few other business critical circles in the first stage and aims to offer data speeds of 65 Mbps during the initial phase. There is however no information on where ZTE plans to deploy Aircel’s 4G network next.
Earlier in 2012, Aircel’s competitor Airtel had also appointed ZTE to build and operate its TD-LTE (time division duplex long term evolution) network in Kolkata circle. Although, it had partnered with different vendors for other 4G deployments: Nokia Siemens Networks for Maharashtra, Huawei for Karnataka and Ericsson for Punjab.
ZTE also mentioned that it had supported Aircel’s 2G and 3G rollout in three North India circles and was a key vendor for Aircel’s Next Generation Networks across the country.
Aircel’s 4G rollout obligations
That being said, there is currently no information on when Aircel plans to commercially launch its 4G service in India. The telco currently has BWA/4G spectrum in eight circles – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu (including Chennai), West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, North-East, and Jammu & Kashmir and had reportedly postponed its 4G rollout to 2014 last August.
Although remember that Aircel and all other BWA Licensees have rollout obligations depending on the service area license, as per which licensees should provide street level coverage in at least 90% of the metro service areas and at least 50% of the rural short distance changing areas (SDCAs) by mid-2015, failing which the BWA spectrum provided will be withdrawn.
As of today, Airtel is the only telecom operator which has launched 4G service in India, offering the service in six cities – Bangalore, Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali. It had also stated plans to launch 4G LTE services for smartphones later this month. Whereas, Reliance Jio which is the only player to have pan-India BWA spectrum, is still piling on 4G partnerships with no signs of any commercial launch yet.