Telecom minister Kapil Sibal played the proverbial party pooper on Tuesday, questioning the very need for 4G services at the event held to launch them.
“I dare say that though 3G was launched, the benefits are not yet seen by the aam aadmi. Now we are launching the 4G,” he said at Bharti Airtel’s much anticipated 4G launch.
“But a lot of work has to be done, because even for the 3G, the handsets are not yet affordable. What Sunil has done is allowed a network to be established. But the rest of the industry must ensure that relevant devices which will connect with the network are low cost and affordable. It is only then that the true revolution will come about in India,” said Sibal.
Bharti is rolling out the services using time division long term evolution (TDLTE) technology in four cities starting with Kolkata.
Bharti chairman Sunil Mittal chose to agree with the minister, urging peers mulling 4G launch to use the TDLTE technology so that 4G device makers can chase a single technology, thereby pushing down prices of dongles, modems, smartphones and tablets, and make them affordable to the aam admi.
“There was this storm built up around the CDMA technology. We stood firm and batted on the side of the GSM technology even against some strong advice that we must switch to CDMA. We knew very clear that the right technology is one which is most vastly used and massified. 3G on WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access), which was an evolution from GSM, followed the same trend. No doubt, TDLTE, which will sit on top of 2G and 3G, will follow the same trajectory and become a global standard allowing us to provide affordable devices and services,” Mittal said.
Mittal’s love for TDLTE is understandable. Bharti was part of the trio that created the standards for use of the technology in the Asian region. “It’s only 14 months back when a group consisting of China Mobile, Bharti Airtel and Softbank Mobile came together, called GTI (Global TDLTE Initiative) in Barcelona and we signed the commitment towards TDLTE standards for the Asian region. Some more operators have also joined this forum now, making TDLTE a real possibility in this part of the world, which I think is much more powerful than FDLTE which has been launched by Verizon and many others in Europe,” he said.
Bharti hopes to launch 4G service in Bangalore within a month, and then in Pune and Chandigarh within 2-3 months.
“We are not chasing a deadline though. It’s not about putting the service only. It’s also about ensuring the right customer experience and ensuring that right pockets are covered. If that takes another 30 days extra, then we’ll take that much more time,” said Sanjay Kapoor, chief executive officer, India and South Asian operations, Airtel.
Mittal declined to comment on whether Bharti will participate in the bid to get some more spectrum in other circles when 4G licence in the 700 MHz band is auctioned later this year, but said that it won’t confine its 4G services to just the four circles.
Bharti’s 4G service comes with rentals of Rs999, Rs1,399 and Rs1,999 for 6GB, 9GB and 18GB free usage, respectively and promising up to 100 mbps speed for downloads and 50 mbps speed for uploads. A dongle made by ZTE comes for Rs7,999 and a wireless modem for Rs7,750.