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Aircel launches 4G services in four circles; No word on rollout dates yet

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Airtel finally has competition for 4G services: Telecom operator Aircel has became the second telco to launch 4G services in the country.

The telco said that it will be initially offering 4G services in four circles namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Odisha. However, it hasn’t disclosed any information on the availability or the tariff of its 4G service. Note that Aircel had secured 4G spectrum in eight circles, during the BWA auctions in June 2010.

After postponing its 4G rollout to 2014 last year, Aircel had appointed ZTE Corporation for pan-India deployment of its 4G LTE network in January this year. Interestingly, the telco had then mentioned that it will start deploying 4G network in Chennai, Rest of Tamil Nadu followed by a few other business critical circles in the first stage.

In May this year, Aircel had also received conditional approval from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to roll out its 4G services in the Tamil Nadu circle. Aircel had apparently sought DoT’s permission in January to launch the service after completing trials in the circle. So, it’s a bit surprising that Tamil Nadu doesn’t figure in the initial phase now.

Like Airtel, Aircel will also provide 4G LTE services under the 2300MHz band, which essentially means the service will be limited to select devices which support this band. That being said, its worth noting that Aircel has 2G spectrum in the above mentioned circles and it had also secured 8.20 MHz in the 1800 MHz band for Rs 209.90 crore in the February 2014 auction.

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Rollout obligations: While there is currently no information on when Aircel will start offering 4G services in these circles, keep in mind that that BWA rollout obligations kicks in by mid-2015, as per which all BWA licensees including Aircel have to 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and at least 50% of the rural short distance changing areas (SDCAs), failing which the BWA spectrum provided will be withdrawn. 

Other Players

Airtel is currently the only Indian telco providing 4G LTE services.  It had claimed to have 0.1 million 4G subscribers as of December 31, 2013 and had expanded 4G on mobile to four more cities in Punjab earlier this week.

Reliance Industries is expected to commercially launch its 4G services in 2015, after conducting expanded trials through the end of 2014 and early 2015. On the other, Videocon is planning to launch its 4G services by December 2014 in the country.

Both BSNL and MTNL had received the government nod to surrender their BWA spectrum earlier this year. This surrender was done to improve its existing financial condition.

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