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Airtel looking to launch Wi-Fi hotspots in Kolkata; taking on Reliance Jio

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Airtel has sought permission from the West Bengal government to set up Wi-Fi hotspots across Kolkata, reports IndianTelevision.com. If Airtel receives the requisite permission, it will be directly competing with Reliance Jio in the city, which had tied-up with the West Bengal government to introduce 4G-enabled free Wi-Fi service in some parts of Kolkata in January this year.

This development coincided with Airtel launching its upgraded 3G service in Kolkata. Note that the telco had acquired 2.20 MHz spectrum in the West Bengal telecom circle, during the recently concluded spectrum auction, which is different from the Kolkata circle. The telco claims to have over 40 lakh subscribers in Kolkata.

Interestingly, last month, Airtel and Vodafone had also formed a joint venture called Firefly Networks to offer Wi-Fi services in the country, and were reportedly looking to take on Reliance Jio which is expected to roll out its services across India this year. Firefly Networks was reportedly eyeing maximum chunk of the Wi-Fi deployments in New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) areas of Delhi and vying for the Delhi government’s plan to provide Delhi citizens with Wi-Fi facilities. In October last year, Airtel had tied-up with the Govt of Telangana to launch public Wi-Fi hotspots in 17 locations across Hyderabad.

Mobile Internet, which accounts for 19.45% or 42.25 million of Airtel’s overall user base (as of December 31, 2014), generated 16.2% of its total India revenues in Q3 FY15. Airtel’s mobile Internet average revenue per user (ARPU) stood at Rs 170, with average data usage per customer at 622 MB. The telco didn’t disclose any details regarding its 4G service, however, Airtel mentioned during its earnings conference call that it is experimenting with offloading data traffic to 4G, and voice traffic to 2G.

Reliance Jio, which holds spectrum in either 800 MHz or 1800 MHz or both in 20 out of total 22 circles in the country, had launched free Wi-Fi hotspots in eight locations at Ahmedabad and nine locations at Baroda and Surat, in June last year. This was part of Gujarat Government’s e-Nagar project.

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