India’s TD-LTE services are starting to see more coverage in major cities, with local carrier Airtel leading the charge.
4G LTE services are finally starting to take off in India, with Airtel, the country’s largest carrier, already boasting a user base of 100,000. Airtel has initially started rollout of its 4G services over four cities in the country, with an eventual rollout set for later this year.
Airtel is the best 4G LTE carrier in India
Airtel began its 4G rollout ahead of every other carrier in India, thereby ensuring that it has a headstart in this segment. Although 4G services from Airtel are offered in just four cities that include Kolkata, Bengaluru, Pune and Chandigarh, these cities constitute a major chunk of the market that Airtel wants to target. In addition to launching 4G services for mobile devices, Airtel also markets 4G-enabled data dongles in these cities.
A significant hindrance in getting 3G services off the ground in India were the high tariffs posted by carriers. This time around, Airtel is making sure that its 4G services are accessible by a wide swath of the audience, and is offering them for similar tariffs to its current 3G services. For instance, the 4 GB 4G monthly data plan costs $12, which is the same amount as it costs on 3G. Ensuring that its data plans are not priced inexorably high is crucial for Airtel as it looks to establish a firm foothold in the market.
Many carriers in India provide 4G LTE coverage
While Airtel has managed to gain a significant headway by becoming the first carrier to launch 4G services, Reliance Jio, another major carrier in the country, is the only one to hold a countrywide 4G license. Reliance acquired the license during the 2010 broadband wireless auction, and although it hasn’t done disclosed much as far as its service rollout is concerned, sources in the know believe that the carrier is aggressively bidding in the 1800 Mhz band. More bandwidth would allow Reliance to roll out better voice services and get more 4G coverage.
What is clear is that 4G services will be available to consumers by the end of the second quarter of 2014. And unlike 3G services, which were inexorably high, 4G services would be affordable. 4G services are set to cost a third of what 3G services debuted for in 2010. While it is good news for consumers, there is a dearth of 4G-enabled handsets in the country.
However, all that might change soon, as carriers are starting to take the initiative in launching affordable 4G-enabled handsets. Reliance has come out and said that it is working on a 4G handset that would cost under $100, and that it is collaborating with Samsung in launching the handset in India. There isn’t any confirmation as to when such a device will be available, but it should be around the same time as Reliance launches its 4G services.
With Vodafone and Reliance set to offer their 4G services later this year, and Airtel set to venture into new territories, it is estimated that the end of 2014 would see around 1 million 4G subscribers in the country. More than half of these subscribers would be using Airtel’s services, thanks to its scheduled availability in major cities and attractive tariff schemes.