Bharti Airtel launches 4G services in Kolkata
Apr 11, 2012 (Mint - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Bharti Airtel Ltd, India's largest telecom service provider, started fourth-generation (4G) high-speed Internet services for the first time in the country using the TD-LTE standard on Tuesday. The service was launched in Kolkata, which is also where India's first mobile phone call was made in 1995.
"We will launch in Bangalore in the next 30 days, after that in Pune and then Chandigarh," said Sanjay Kapoor, chief executive of India and South Asia. The network has been rolled out in partnership with Chinese equipment vendor ZTE and is theoretically capable of 100 megabits per second speeds. "The speed depends on a number of variables including the application being used, the number of people using the service at the same time etc," Kapoor said.
India's telecom minister Kapil Sibal said at the launch that mobile operators had not lived up to the "challenge" of delivering the "appropriate devices" and the "innovations" required to make 3G's high bandwidth spectrum available to the aam admi, or the common man.
The emergence of a "proper ecosystem" was key to the success of the 4G network, said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and group chief executive officer of Bharti Enterprises.
He was referring to the availability of "affordable devices" and proper service, which, according to him, impeded the expansion of the 3G network in India. Only about 4.4% of Airtel's 182 million customers had until now signed up for its 3G services even after a year of its launch.
Airtel expects 4G services to become cheaper as other companies start services and the number of users rise. India is one of the first countries to start wireless data services using the TD-LTE standard. The firm is offering a wifi-enabled modem that can be installed at the customer's premises and a USB dongle to provide access to 4G.
"As the ecosystem picks up and more people start using the services and more devices become available, the prices will fall," Kapoor said. He expects this to happen in the next two-three years compared with 2G, where it took 10-12 years for this to take place.
In the 2010 auction, Airtel won broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in four mobile operating areas--Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra (excluding Mumbai).
Analysts said the services were expensive but prices will fall as the technology evolves. "For smooth adoption of 4G services, affordability and availability of devices are going to be the key determinants," said Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, information and communication technology practice, Frost and Sullivan, South Asia and Middle East.
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