Kolkata: Vodafone India, the country’s No. 2 carrier, will roll out 4G services from December starting with Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Kochi, setting the stage for a slugfest with market leader Bharti Airtel and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm.
In addition, “Vodafone India will also roll out its own 3G networks in 7 circles — Assam, North East, UP West, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha — to expand its overall 3G footprint to 16 circles across the country,” the local unit of UK’s Vodafone group said in a statement on Friday.
Vodafone India is now testing its upcoming 4G services and partnering with global technology infrastructure service providers for the network rollout, the local unit of UK’s Vodafone group said.
It is also putting in place a robust architecture with a strong backhaul to support volumes and deliver high network speeds since customer experience is slated to be the key differentiator in the highstakes 4G battle.
4G services, typically, make it much faster than 3G to surf the web on mobiles, tablets and laptops.
While Bharti Airtel has got the first mover’s advantage, having already commercially launched its 4G services across some 300 cities and towns, Jio is said to have started beta trials for its data and voice services using ‘long term evolution’ or LTE — a technology standard for offering high-speed 4G services, with an eye at a December launch.
Idea Cellular, India’s No. 3 operator, expects to launch its own services next year.
In the February 2014 spectrum sale, Vodafone India had acquired 4G LTE airwaves in five circles, including Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka, which collectively garner roughly 50% of the company’s total data revenues. Globally, Vodafone UK has already launched 4G services in 18 countries. It has over 20 million 4G customers across the group.
“Given the expertise and experience of launching in so many global markets, Vodafone understands the needs of the 4G customer and is well positioned to launch 4G pan India at an appropriate time,” the company said.
Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel, which initially started 4G services from Kolkata in 2012, is offering 4G at 3G prices to upgrade as many users as it can before Reliance Jio hits the market. Earlier this week, It also acquired Augere Wireless Broadband India in a clear bid to consolidate its 4G footprint.
Vodafone’s 4G ambitions in India are also taking flight at a stage when Idea said it will spend Rs 1,000 crore on a 4G services rollout in 2016.
Bharti Airtel’s MD & CEO for India & South Asia Gopal Vittal had recently attributed the acceleration in 4G-related capex spends to “the faster than expected evolution of the 4G devices ecosystem,” especially since 4G device prices in India are rapidly approaching the Rs 7,000 level from Rs 20,000 not so long ago, and are tipped to plunge further to the Rs 5,000-7,000 range. Proliferation of affordable 4G devices is largely why smartphone users are demanding faster download speeds.
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