Monday, January 10, 2011

Aircel To Launch 3G Even As Reliance Industries Eyes 4G

Despite many speculations and announcements, only Tata DoCoMo and Reliance (and not to miss out the state owned BSNL and MTNL) have been able to start the 3G service. Other providers see it coming soon.

3G Today
For instance Aircel has plans to roll out the much awaited service within 45-60 days in all of the 13 circles where it has spectrum, provided government has no objections on it. And guess what; the company is eyeing collaborating with other competitors to offer the service in other areas where it has got no license, even before it starts the same in its own licensed areas. It’s the more the merrier proposition for now.

For those uninitiated, Aircel is a joint venture between Apollo Hospitals and Maxis Communications, a Malaysia based company. Operators are being denied licences for video calling services, as a part of 3G, by the Department of Telecom, Government of India considering the fact that law enforcement agencies could not intercept them in real time. They are expected to evolve a technology on their own to allow interception only then will they be issued the licences.

The thirteen circles to be covered by Aircel include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kolkata, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (East), West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, North East and Jammu & Kashmir. According to the company, as none of the operators have got licences for pan-India operation, tie-ups would be the key driving force for almost all the companies. For instance, efforts are on to allow intra-circle calling. For your information, Aircel has a tie-up with Tata for 2G intra-circle roaming service.

4G- The Way Ahead
While that is the status of 3G rollout in the country, Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL) has gone one step ahead of others by announcing that the company is rolling out 4G service across the nation on 28th December this year on the occasion of the birthday ceremony of Shri (L) Dhirubhai Ambani, the company’s founder.

According to a report by DNA, RIL, in association with a company called Rancore, is in the process of evaluating proposals from different network equipment makers and service providers to make the rollout successful on the scheduled date. By around the same time, the 3G service would be in full bloom in the country when the customers would have become quite used to the service and would not like to move out of their comfort zones. RIL, certainly has to take this into account and offer a competitive service.

Rancore had already invited Request For Information(RFI) from prominent equipment manufacturers including Nokia Siemens Network, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei and ZTE Telecom in December last year.

RIL kickstarted its telecom operation on the same day in 2002 and revolutionized the way the whole India get connected with cheap mobile phones and plans. Following a split between the Ambani brothers in 2005, the telecom business of the company went into the kitty of Anil Ambani led ADAG group. The latter has since touched many grounds in the telecoms sector until last year when the former gained re-entry into the sector, based on a family agreement, by picking up 95% stake ( for about Rs 4,800 Crore) in Infotel Broadband, which won pan-India licence and spectrum to offer Broadband Wide Access (BWA) .

As of now, RIL is pinning all its hopes on Qualcomm’s LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology. Generally, LTE and Wi-Max are two main components of 4G Service. Globally, providers prefer LTE over Wi-Max as the former has the capability to carry more data in limited spectrum. All said and done, both LTE equipments and end-user devices are at their nascent stages. The availability of better equipments and devices may take time and that could be the main reason why RIL has slated the roll out for December this year, giving it ample time.

The launch of BWA may also happen by around the same time. This is so because RFI is followed by Request For Proposal (RFP), which normally takes not less than 6 months. Once that happens, only then will the deal be closed. In any case, it is unlikely that 4G service would be available before the stipulated time. Instead, it may even get delayed.

To Sum Up
As of now, 3G is not yet offered by all the six providers that have won the auction. Though there have been many press releases on the roll out by these providers, only two of the private operators have actually started offering it. To say the least, there is much delay than expected. Even when 3G has not live up to its expectation till now is not it way too early for someone to expect 4G?

No matter what happens, it is a good thing to expect a newer version or upgrade of any product or service or anything. But that should be good in terms of speed, pricing and utility. Only then will customers accept them.

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