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Vodafone Unveils India 3G Timeline

Indian mobile operator Vodafone India is all set to launch its 3G services during the first quarter of 2011, the company announced at a press conference today.

As anticipated, the operator's initial services will be launched in the major metro markets of New Delhi and Mumbai, where many of India's high earners are located.

Vodafone Essar, India's third-largest operator with 113.8 million 2G customers (at the end of August), won 3G licenses in nine of the country's 22 circles (service areas) following the spectrum auction held in May this year. Recently, the company named Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Networks as its 3G equipment suppliers. (See India's 3G Auction Ends, Raises $14.6B, India's Vodafone Essar Names 3G Suppliers, and India's 3G Equipment Market a 'Bloodbath'.)

Most of Vodafone Essar's rivals, such as Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL), Reliance Communications Ltd. , and Aircel Ltd. , are planning to launch their 3G services by the end of this year or early in 2011. (See More 3G Action in India, Reliance Hands 3G Deal to ZTE, and Aircel Earmarks $500M for 3G.)

It's Tata Teleservices Ltd. , though, which looks set to be the first of the privately owned 3G license-holders to offer the new services -- it's targeting the first week of November for its 3G launch. (See Tata Eyes India's 3G Gold Medal .)

The introduction of 3G services by a number of India's major operators is set to fuel dramatic growth in the country's mobile data services market, according to a new report just issued by Pyramid Research , which expects the "the entrance of more players in the 3G arena [to lead to] a higher acceptance of services such as music, video, and broadband," which are predicted to be "the fastest-growing mobile data services between 2010 and 2015."

Pyramid's report, "India: Sheer Size of Untapped Mobile Market Offers Huge Potential for Operators," suggests that revenues from mobile data services will more than treble in the next five years from the US$3.8 billion expected to be generated in 2010.

— Gagandeep Kaur, India Editor, Light Reading

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