Tata DoCoMo is all set to make 3G launch in Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles, say the sources. According to executives, who wish to remain unnamed, Tata DoCoMo will launch their 3G services on 15 July 2016. The telecom operator was naturally facing struggle to withstand the race from GSM operators, who offer 4G services. The lack of 3G services in the circle resulted in continuous subscriber decline for DoCoMo, which once had good number of CDMA data customers in that circle.
To offer the 3G services, Tata DoCoMo has partnered with Vodafone India under Intra Circle Roaming Agreement (ICRA). Other operators, who offer the 3G services in the circle include Airtel, Vodafone, Aircel, and BSNL. Among these, Airtel offers better speed than the rivals, thanks to their 10 MHz of spectrum holding in 2100 MHz band.
In those circles where TATA DoCoMo has 3G spectrums, it offers cheap 3G packs to their customers. This may not be possible in this circle especially because the ICRA with Vodafone India will make it costly. Although the company hasn’t revealed anything about this 3G services in this circle, it will offer 1GB 3G at Rs. 200 to Rs. 250, similar to other players. Few TATA DoCoMo executives shared TelecomTalk that the special customers would get special data rates, once they launches 3G.
With this 3G launch, TATA DoCoMo would be the second operator providing 3G through ICRA with Vodafone, the third largest operator in the circle. Idea Cellular is already offering 3G through Vodafone’s network from August 2011. TATA DoCoMo currently has more than 46 lakh customers, out of which nearly 80% are using GSM services. Aircel tops in the subscription chart with having more than 2.16 crore subscribers.
Why TATA DoCoMo launching 3G in Tamil Nadu & Chennai circles now?
The 3G launch could protect its CDMA data & GSM customers, who are continuously opting MNP to switch on better data service providers. Another reason to launch 3G in the circle would be its plan to shut down CDMA networks in phases, and currently evaluating this plans which isn’t much concreted now.
Screenshot shared by kinston (Tamil Nadu)
Why TATA DoCoMo hasn’t partnered with Aircel for ICRA, and instead entered a deal with Vodafone?
In last few years, Aircel was an ally of TATA DoCoMo in many circles, especially in the regions where TATA DoCoMo scaled down networks to reduce the costs. In fact, Aircel is still offering roaming facilities to several Tata DoCoMo customers. Also, Aircel holds number one positions in basis of subscriber figure in Tamil Nadu. Under these scenario, it was possible for DoCoMo to partner with Aircel instead of Vodafone.
However, Aircel is offering Reliance mobile customers to access their 3G network and is in advanced talks to merge Aircel's cellular business with RCom’s wireless network. This would have prevented DoCoMo from entering into ICRA with Aircel.
Also, Aircel's 3G network isn’t better than Vodafone. In rural areas, Aircel lacks 3G, which might be another key reason of TATA DoCoMo chooses Vodafone over their old partner.
Would launching 3G would really help the struggling TATA DoCoMo in the market, which is almost saturated?
As like as other metros of the country, Chennai is now almost saturated, where customers are switching to other operators for better data networks or offers. In such a market, only a customized voice and data combo plans can help DoCoMo retain its subscribers.
Vodafone’s 3G in the market is also facing competition from rival 4G networks. The customers are shifting to newer technologies, so it wouldn’t be so easy for Tata DoCoMo to sustain in this competition. There are bigger operators like Airtel, which is already offering both high speed 3G and 4G services.
To add to it, Vodafone 3G lags behind Airtel 3G in the market. If Tata DoCoMo’s data customers begin sharing their network, the network would be even slower, which can result poor user experience.
Hence, the success of Tata DoCoMo’s 3G services largely depends on its data plans’ tariff and combo offers. However, this 3G launch could save their own turf before Jio launch, which has already covered 87% percent area of the circle with high-speed 4G networks.
Does Vodafone – Tata Docomo partnership hints Vodafone’s future intentions to buy out TATA DoCoMo?
Vodafone was keen to buy out TATA DoCoMo for their country wide strong fibre connectivity. Later, when Government approved spectrum sharing and trading for telecom operators, Vodafone shifted their focus, as TATA DoCoMo was in huge debt and Vodafone was looking for acquire airwaves.
However, over the course of last one year, Vodafone lagged behind Airtel which has almost secured a pan India 3G/4G presence. Idea Cellular's faster 4G roll outs in 10 circles have also put pressures on the British telecom giant as currently it has 4G presence in only 5 circles. The lack of contagious airwaves and short amount of spectrum is a key hurdle for Vodafone, so it might be looking for TATA DoCoMo's airwaves again, which can be converted into technology neutral contagious spectrum with a fee paying to sector regulator.
As TATA Sons have clearly stated their intention to leave the telecom business, the partnership might be a sweet spot for both companies even for some other future deals too.
Note: The calls to their helpline and brand stores have already confirmed such developments & dates for their 3G launch.
If you’re a Tata DoCoMo customer from Tamil Nadu and Chennai, share your views on its upcoming 3G launch through comments.
The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author.