Airtel’s Mistakes in 4G/LTE Business Should not be Repeated by R-Jio

Airtel, country’s largest mobile service provider is not able to make its 4G services profitable after almost 2 years of the launch of 4G services. In April, 2012 Airtel became India’s first operator to launch 4G/LTE services. Starting from Kolkata, which was the first city of the country to see mobile services in 1995, Airtel expanded its 4G services in Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh but Airtel’s 4G is never be a success story like India’s 2G basic mobile services.

Airtel 4GIn my early analysis I wrote that 4G in India can be the last mile connectivity between users and OFC network. And top cities have quite good fiber coverage, thus initially their 4G may be unseen. At the same tier 2 & 3 cities will have much demand of high-speed broadband and to succeed in that market 4G is to be priced affordable, as the entry cost (=device price) is high.

Also Airtel followed a strategy which gives them to follow roll out obligation. They cover many pockets of the cities but many places have category I or level I LTE signal which gives poor speed. That affects user experience in a way people feel 3G is better – available over smartphones, dongles, tablets etc. Airtel arranged free test drive of 4G for homes and enterprises but ultimately most of them saw very poor performance of 4G and stay away from it. Out-of-mouth reviews also put Airtel 4G in a mess.

As people are not buying it, Airtel crunches the investment in 4G - no network upgradation and no coverage expansion. Airtel launched 4G voice in Bangalore for Apple iPhone 5c and 5S, at the same data tariff of 3G. But again in Android dominated market it backfires. Airtel should look into Android smartphone supporting TD-LTE 2300. There are some options from Huawei and Xolo already available.

Well in short Airtel missed the opportunity to enjoy the first mover advantage. I strongly believe that Reliance Jio will not make such mistakes to make 4G a failure in the country. Do you think as a reader Reliance Jio can make a difference in the market when its services are launched ?

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  • Ivan April 21, 2014 7:37 pm

    Well the 4G business hasn’t taken off due to a no of reasons sone of them being as follows
    1. Too expensive from the advent so early adopters were hard to come by
    2. Not many options on the hardware side
    3. Network throttling by airtel to 10 Mbps I mean what’s the point of 4G??
    4. Instead of 2300 Mhz probably 800Mhz cud have been better and wud have ensured superb NW strength at most places.
    5. And lastly for heavens sake expand your network coz that’s the only way you can get moving forward

  • Sutripta Roy March 3, 2014 10:40 am

    I think broadband is profitable for use.Because it has no data limit for only Rs.400 in a month in Kolkata.So,why I use 3g or 4g? If I need Speed I’ll take higher broadband plan like Rs.650,Rs.750 etc etc.At least they give me unlimited data for a month with almost 3g speed.But 3g packs will not give me unlimited for Rs.750.Even there have no unlimited 3g plan even for Rs.1000.But if I take Rs.1000 broadband plan,I can enjoy 3g speed with unlimited data.I normally download 40-50 gb/month for Rs.450.Is there any 3g or 4g plan who gave me unlimited data like this for at least Rs.1000?????
    So,why 3g or 4g? For mobile,3g its enough with 1gb in a month for emergency purpose and FB only.So,why 4g? where Broadband is present…

  • Darshan March 2, 2014 9:21 pm

    Biggest mistake airtel made is by launching 4G in a city where it dont have 3G license i.e Pune…Instead of Pune it would launch 4G in mumbai where it has 3G license by which more would prefer it. ..What is problem of 4G in pune is 4G coverage is not available everywhere and if there is no 4G coverage the user gets over to 2G coverage Its like paying 4G prices for using 2G….

    • Akshay March 2, 2014 11:13 pm

      Completely agree
      I thought they would take 3G spectrum in maharashtra in the recent auction but they did not take it…Atleast in my area maximum people use bsnl….n also idea 3g quite good over here….Bsnl care has improved a lot I called 1503 from my bsnl landline for customer care of local CSC by mistake the phone.disconnected the next minute I got a call on my cell from them…Superb service

    • Anish March 3, 2014 1:14 am

      same is it for Kolkata.

  • Rizvi March 2, 2014 9:05 pm

    Reliance jio should concentrate on high speed dongles, wi fi dongles over 4G with affordable plans, which can replace wired broadband, cdma dongles.

  • Vinod March 2, 2014 8:40 pm

    Airtel expand its network in OFC in khatima uttarakhand up-west in year 2005 but didn’t distribute his broadband connection till date.

  • dskushwaha March 2, 2014 7:35 pm

    Besides entry cost I will never put money in a thing which is available only in selected cities and that too in some areas if the city. Reliance jio should expand its network within a few months unlike Airtel which is still limited to 3 cities in 2 years. Better to use landline than to use 4G.

  • Yogesh March 2, 2014 4:08 pm

    Here in Delhi , I could see a war-pace work in OFC laying by Reliance JIO.
    we have a great hope from JIO after disappointent from AIRTEL.

    Waiting eagerly for WIfi hotspot..

  • Esmail March 2, 2014 2:30 pm

    Airtel rushed up with offering 4G services to gain the early mover advantage but Jio has taken its own sweet time to research Indian consumer base and usage patterns to make sure they don’t dish out half baked services. Jio will be offering broadband to corporate institutions and fixed TD-LTE services to homes on its chunk of 20Mhz spectrum in 2300Mhz band, where they may go ahead and offer speed tiered true unlimited plans without FUP at attractive prices. While for mobile phone users it will offer 4G FD-LTE on 1800Mhz band which will be volume based or FUP based unlimited plans cheaper than current 3G plans so as to disrupt the market share of incumbent operators. For 4G data dongles they could use LTE advanced, using a combination of both spectrum bands they possess, since 1800Mhz has better coverage and 2300Mhz has more bandwidth. It’s just a matter of 6 months till Jio launches services in my circle as they declared in a press release.

  • adil March 2, 2014 2:08 pm

    rjio has taken 4years(somewhat) for lying networks , optic fiber cable etc. so we should see some wat better coverage than airtel which came in hurry to be the first 1 in 4g.

  • shuvi March 2, 2014 1:11 pm

    lets wait for 700 mhz itz wll take 2g n 3g big bump…

  • Al March 2, 2014 12:42 pm

    It will take ages for 4G to be successful in India.

    1) One of the major reasons will be the initial costs to the consumer.

    - 3G established when are costs became somewhat affordable.

    - So, the infrastructure and implementation : costs to consumer ratio is proportional to time.

    2) One more factor is 4G may not be required by major chunk of the users. This is because of the miniscule percentage of high-consuming mobile data users. For high consumption, they may prefer land-line or cable connection.

    - 3G, if not 2G, is fine, for the majority of data consuming users.

    3) Finally, FUP is a big dampener – not considered ‘fair’ by end-users when it’s come down to justifying costs that they are shelling out.

  • Anoop March 2, 2014 12:41 pm

    Companies want to make a large profit it short time . So they sell a small amount of data for a heavy price and eventually will fail.We know the speed of a 4 g net work .But what we get 1 gb or 2b for 400 to 800 Rs.Some people will go for it but the majority will stay and neglect them.So companies should give at least 20 gb for 100 Rs or more or they really doomed because every one know if they didn’t sold data with in a particular period it will go for nothing

    • vinay March 2, 2014 8:56 pm

      20gb= 100 rupees??? I think we can’t even expect at that cost cos for every 1gb of data transfer it will cost around 10rs for ISP in Global internet Exchange but after adding infrastructure costs, maintenance cost we can at least expect for 25 or 30 rs/ Gb. But its interesting to see what JIO does so that people are attracted to their 4G service. But as of now expecting too much from a new player in telecom market is incorrect. Even if they introduce some very affordable service we cant expect same for long time as they get fair customer base they may gradually increase their tariff. if i give example when i got my first tata docomo connection monthly data plan was 48rs/2.5gb but now its 126/1 gb!! so it all depends on customer base and companies stratergies.

  • Rama March 2, 2014 12:25 pm

    Airtel screwed up because of coverage and speeds.

    Patchy coverage was already a problem,apart from that 10 mbps by no means can be considered 4G speed,especially when vodafone 3G in my area gives speeds as high as 7 mbps.

    Apart from this when airtel launched 4G in banglore at 3G data rates,it was actually higher since before that airtel 4G was cheaper than airtel 3G.

    • Darshan March 2, 2014 9:13 pm

      Vodafone 3G 7mbps speed???…really in maharashtra we don’t get more than 3mbps speed in Vodafone 3G…here Idea 3G has maximum speed I.e 4.9mbps speed….

      • prasad mayya March 2, 2014 10:20 pm

        airtel launched 3g at my place last week ( kota/udupi/karnataka ) … i am getting around 7mbps ….

      • Rama March 2, 2014 10:27 pm

        Yup,I am getting awesome 2G as well as 3G speeds on vodafone in my area.In morning even i get only 5-6mbps on 3G but at night like 2am or 3am 3G speeds shoot upto 7 mbps.

      • Shuvam Dutta March 2, 2014 11:13 pm

        Vodafone 3G in West Bengal, 12.5 Mbps Download Speed tested in Speedtest app by ookla on android device.. real time download speed around 800-1400 KBps. At present, 3G with cheap tariff is all I want!

      • hrishi March 3, 2014 9:21 pm

        I am From Maharashtra(Kolhapur) using Vodafone 3G I have got maximum speed of 12.5 Mbps at -63 dBm

  • Ankit rana March 2, 2014 12:17 pm

    article is good but ril jio start pan india 4g broadband based on wifi so its so cheap price in teriff like unlimited plan under 1000 rs, wait for ril jio