The recent launch of Bharti Airtel's 4G pan-India network and the impending launch of Reliance Jio's LTE service in December has spurred other Tier 1 service providers, such as Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications, to advance their 4G plans.
India's largest operator, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), recently switched on its 4G network in 296 cities in 14 circles (service areas) in the country. Airtel is also offering home delivery of SIMs and touting postpaid connections in just four hours and has launched a mobile app called Wynk Movies that offers a library of movies and popular videos.
"With the help of the feedback received from the beta launches, we have now built India's first commercial 4G network that will make high speed mobile broadband a reality," says Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO, Bharti Airtel (India & South Asia) in a statement.
With tariff packages starting for as little as Rs 25 (US$0.38), Airtel is trying to build as big a market lead as possible over Reliance Jio.
Though the scale of its initial 4G operations is smaller than those planned by Reliance Jio (RJio), Airtel has become the first service provider to launch pan-India 4G services. Reliance Jio is planning to launch 4G services covering 80% of India's population by the year's end. (See RJio Prepares for Take-Off , RJio to Launch 4G in December and Airtel 4G Gathers Momentum in India .)
In view of the increasing 4G momentum, it's not surprising that Vodafone India , Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications have also advanced their 4G plans. Vodafone India has started the trial of 4G services in selected areas, according to a recent statement issued by the company. The company had earlier decided to focus on 3G to cater to growing demand for data services. (See India's Operators Plan 3G Push.)
"Smartphone penetration is now 26% across the country and 47% in the four metro circles and we now have 22 million 3G customers compared to 10 million a year ago," Vodafone India noted in its statement.
Idea Cellular Ltd. , meanwhile, now hopes to start 4G operations by the first half of 2016, much earlier than its initial plan to launch in 2017. The company plans to launch 4G in 10 circles initially.
Reliance Communications Ltd. has also recently outlined its 4G timetable for the first time and plans to launch services in early 2016.
In the coming months India is likely to witness heated activity on the 4G front as Airtel expands at breakneck speed, RJio gears up to its 4G launch and both operators prepare to launch their own branded 4G device lines to help stimulate demand. (See RJio to Launch Its Own 4G Devices Brand .)
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading