Reliance wants to create a wire-free India by 2015, a vision plan which might be even more ambitious, albeit also more unrealistic, than TRAI’s plan to provide broadband access to all by 2013.
The latest buzzword these days is 3G, though the actual national rollout of the service is going to be a slow and time consuming process, since none of the operators has 3G licenses in all 22 circles. The rollout will have to be implemented in the circles where the operators have permissions, and then they will need to form partnerships for other circles; so, while Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance are all talking about starting 3G services, we should expect some highly confidential negotiations between the stakeholders, and an actual rollout sometime near the end of 2011.
Most recently, Reliance has announced that it will be starting its 3G service in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chandigarh. The company says that the rollout will take 100 days, which should place it very close to the date for Vodafone’s launch, while Airtel plans to carry out a rollout in select cities by the end of this month. This announcement by Reliance comes hot on the heels of their announcement of a new R-World (the mobile app marketplace by Reliance), which is set to take advantage of the value added services that can be provided by 3G. The company has also tied up with various stakeholders, including Nokia, to provide devices, infrastructure partners and application partners like Facebook to help provide a fully fleshed out ecosystem for 3G users.
Syed Safawi, CEO - Wireless Business, Reliance Communications, said, “The launch of Reliance 3G is an integral part of our Vision 2015 of creating a ‘Wirefree India’ built upon the ‘affordable 3G for All’ platform. Personalisation of services, simplification of tariffs and content rich portfolio on the Wireless Network will enable Reliance customers to get superior 3G service, significantly differentiated from others in the marketplace. Reliance 3G places us in a unique position with our suite of offerings covering 3G, CDMA, GSM and Mobile Broadband Data Services on the wireless platform.”
It could be argued that the reason that Reliance and other players are rushing to announce 3G rollouts and focusing on value added services is because they wish to allay fears that the majority of the 3G spectrum will be used to bolster voice services, which are underserved by the existing 2G spectrum. Whether this is going to happen or not, and whether 3G will be able to deliver the speed and reach which has been promised, remains to be seen and will only be clear by this time next year. However, industry experts suggest that providers need to focus on VAS otherwise they will not see a return on their investment in 3G, as the call rates are too low to meet current costs.
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