It seems that 4th Generation communications in India will not be delayed and will be at a time with the global pace. Like other countries, Indian operators favor for LTE over WiMAX. LTE has backward compatibility and offers more economical data services.
Indian Govt auctioned for BWA spectrum and license in 2010, in which Reliance Infotel came out as a pan India BWA winner, while second block of 2.3GHz band was divided into Aircel, Airtel, Tikona, Qualcomm and Augere.
BSNL & MTNL
State-run operators BSNL and MTNL were given BWA spectrum back in 2009 under 2.6 Ghz band which was non-standardized. BSNL’s commercial plan with WiMAX rollout hit a roadblock when its franchise route went controversial. Now loss making BSNL proposed to surrender the spectrum which is not compatible with LTE in most of the circles and asked for a refund. BSNL keeps BWA spectrum in 4 circles – Maharastra, Haryana, Gujarat and Andra Pradesh and will continue offering rural connectivity with WiMAX. More details!
MTNL which owns BWA spectrum in most lucrative Delhi and Mumbai circles, hired global consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for framing the expression of interest (EoI) for renting out BWA-LTE spectrum to a franchisee.
Augere Holdings, who owns license for Madhya Pradesh & Chattisgarh has chosen Ericsson as its technology partner. Augere will offer LTE based data services under brand name of ‘Zoosh’ and commercial availability is end of Q1 of 2012. Read more here .
Infotel Broadband bagged pan India spectrum for BWA, later it is owned by Mukhesh Ambani led Reliance Industries (RIL). ‘It was a classic Ambani move – swift, stealthy and massive in scale.’
Reliance Infotel has kept many secrets including trials, vendors and others. But it has been known that December 28, birthday of Dhirubhai may not be the date of Reliance Infotel’s LTE launch. It is expected that Reliance Industries will come up with something very affordable like they did with Monsoon Hungama in CDMA business. Many speculate that LTE tablet worth Rs 3K may come with Infotel offerings. They already ink deal with Disney for contents. It is expected Reliance will come with a developed, if not matured eco-system behind the LTE.
As we can see Reliance Communications is also giving silence, is it silence before the storm? If RCom joins hands with Infotel, it would be a winning horse.
Airtel is also tight-lipped with its 4G plan, though it is confirmed they will go LTE way. Airtel is believed too offer contracts to four different vendors for each of the circle. Kolkata circle goes to ZTE Corp, Karnataka circle to Huawei Technologies. Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks are likely to get the Punjab and Maharashtra circles respectively, as reported by Economics Times.
According to LightReading, Airtel plans for soft launch of LTE-TDD services in 4 major cities – Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Pune and Kolkata, each in 4 circles they have spectrum.
Qualcomm joined the auction to ensure LTE roll out in India. They planned to sell out the spectrum to operators with a clause to use the spectrum for LTE only. Qualcomm won the spectrum in Delhi, Mumbai, Haryana and Kerala. Last year Qualcomm sold of 26% stake in its India broadband venture to Global Holdings and Tulip Telecom to comply with Indian rules.
Qualcomm floats four different companies for four circles and applied for ISP license. But the application for ISP licenses was rejected by the DoT on the grounds that the department wasn’t introduced to the four different entities within the stipulated time-frame of 90 days after the auction and Qualcomm dragged DoT to TDSAT. After some hassle DoT is ready to give one ISP license to Wireless Business Services Pvt. Ltd, which paid for the auction on Qualcomm’s behalf.
It keeps Qualcomm confused to take the offer. According to a senior Qualcomm executive, “We are in a confused state as of now. If we accept Government’s proposal to go for one license, the restructuring or merger of our four companies will take another three-to-four months. We are not 100 per cent sure as to what will happen since there is always a chance of the Government intervening in the process of restructuring or merger (of the four companies)”
From the beginning of 2011, there was a rumor that Airtel and Aircel will buy Qualcomm’s BWA assests. But nothing went positive, but it is almost sure that Airtel is running behind Qualcomm’s circles. But if the ISP license issue is not solved Airtel can not ink the deal, which will give a head start for Reliance Infotel as currently they hold 4G spectrum in most lucrative Mumbai and Delhi circle.
Recently Augere Holdings also expressed their plan to buy out spectrum from Qualcomm to expand in India.
Tikona Digital Networks
Tikona Digital Networks (TDN) won spectrum in 5 circles – Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (east and west), Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. TDN is already offering wireless broadband using WiBro and MIMO technology on free airwave. Till date there is no news of appointing a technology partner. But Tikona roped in consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to define its go-to-market strategy, channel strategy and related executions for the enterprise segment.
Aircel owns spectrum in 8 circles. Aircel also offers WiFi in selected cities to offload wireless data. With many category C circles in hand Aircel has not declared any vendor deal or specific launch date except target launch in 2012. Aircel conducted LTE trials with Huawei Technologies but no vendor is selected for LTE rollout from Aircel.