Now slated to happen over the next two months. A statement in April this year by Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) said it “plans to provide seamless 4G services using LTE (long-term evolution) in 800 MHz, 1,800 MHz and 2,300 MHz bands through an integrated ecosystem”. The company holds the pan-India Unified Licence and is the only private player with broadband wireless access (BWA) spectrum in all 22 telecom circles of India. Reliance Jio, like the others, in its statement promises “reliable (fourth generation) high-speed Internet connectivity, rich communication services and various digital services in key domains such as education, healthcare, security, financial services, government-citizen interfaces and entertainment”.
Credit Suisse, which closely tracks large listed companies, predicted a soft launch by mid-July this year, earlier than market expectations, and said retailing agreements would only be signed a couple of weeks in advance. The initial launch is expected to cover five cities. Reliance Industries’ annual report for 2014-15, however, puts Jio’s sights on ramping up to more than 800 cities over time.
India’s dominant telecom player, Bharti Airtel, has been quieter but quicker. It has been in the game longer. Airtel kicked off 4G in Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai. According to an Airtel press release, existing Airtel customers with 4G-ready mobile devices can walk into any of Airtel’s retail touch-points and upgrade to a 4G SIM and experience mobile Internet speeds like never before. Airtel has also announced go-to-market partnerships with Samsung and Flipkart to proliferate 4G devices and transition more and more customers to experience the fastest browsing experience.
With 20 more cities on Airtel’s agenda, a price war is in the offing. Services like wi-fi, IP-TV and new digital content that call for high speed, will become a reality. The industry that has just emerged scathed from a gruelling round of spectrum auctions is waiting with mixed feelings for the slugfest. What does the immediate future of 4G look like? Airtel shared some details, but attempts to speak to Reliance on Jio hit a wall. Other telecom operators were also tight-lipped. However, such a massive rollout is difficult to keep under wraps, and conversations with equipment vendors and service providers in other countries provide a window to an interesting scenario.
42 BW BUSINESSWORLD i 15June2015