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MTNL to compete in 4G space, launch 8 Mbps wi-fi service in April

Saturday, 25 January 2014 - 10:24am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

State-backed metro telecom major MTNL will launch an 8 Mbps wi-fi service in Mumbai and Delhi by April or latest by July. MTNL is in talks with around 40 large corporates, food courts, branded cafe chains and Mumbai and Delhi airports to offer its wi-fi service (which could be extended to railways at a later stage).

The planned unlimited service will be six times faster than MTNL’s current broadband offering of 2 Mbps.

It will be made available via a modem costing Rs 6,000 (whose price will be lowered as volumes expand) and a roaming device costing Rs 50-100. MTNL wi-fi can be also accessed via existing devices like mobile phones (which are operator-neutral), data cards and other broadband devices by paying a fee of Rs 50-100.

With Reliance Jio Infocomm, Airtel and Aircel readying to launch 4G services, possibly across India, MTNL said it can’t afford to lag in Mumbai and Delhi where it operates.

Peeyush Agarwal, executive director, MTNL, said, “In partnership with C-Dot, we are going to come up in a big way in wi-fi technology using unlicensed spectrum.”

The move is confirmation that MTNL is not exiting high-speed data services, a notion that gained ground early this year when it and BSNL, another state-backed telecom firm with pan-India footprint, decided to surrender their BWA (4G) spectrum and receive government refund for the same.

The planned refund would put Rs 4,500 crore in debt-laden, cash-strapped MTNL’s kitty.

So far, Tikona is the only telco that uses unlicensed spectrum which has limited uses like wi-fi and defence communications. However, MTNL sees a potential in wi-fi to earn Rs 100 crore in revenue per year starting next fiscal without it having to use costly additional 2G/3G/4G spectrum or erect more towers.

MTNL already has about 6 lakh broadband customers. In data, its average revenue per user or Arpus is Rs 650. The proposed wi-fi service could add another 2 lakh customers in 9-12 months; Arpus may remain the same, but overall revenue will likely increase. This, Agarwal said, would prove “a boon for non-3G and 4G customers”. For, 3G roaming is banned and 4G is considered expensive for the common man.

Free incoming roaming service too
State-backed MTNL is offering a Republic Day gift: free roaming plans between Mumbai and Delhi, while BSNL will offer roaming between these cities for Rs 1 per day for a 90-day period.
With this, both the state-backed firms will join several other telcos that already offer various roaming plans.  Communications minister Kapil Sibal launched the roaming service in Mumbai on Friday, and said the government is likely to merge BSNL and MTNL if the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM)  decide this month or early February. Spectrum usage charge and the final list of the February 3 2G auction bidders will be announced after the EGoM meeting on January 27.

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