Vodafone 4G LTE services to target metros initially: Sunil Sood

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Vodafone India, the country’s second largest telecom operator, will primarily look at tapping metros with its 4G LTE services in the country, targeting high-end data subscribers, the company’s CEO Sunil Sood told Hindu Business Line.

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Taking a cautious approach, Vodafone will be launching 4G LTE services in select towns, given that the overall 4G phones on its network was below 2 percent, whereas 3G phones were 26-27 percent, Sood said, adding that there are a couple of barriers for entry of 4G.

“It’s going to be a metro play…The probability of users upgrading is higher in the metros as they have been already using data. That’s why we are launching it selectively and not nationally,” Sood told the publication.

Vodafone India is planning to roll out its 4G services starting end-December 2015 in Mumbai, Kerala, Karnataka, Kolkata and Delhi-NCR telecom circles. The telco had successfully acquired 4G (LTE) spectrum in 5 circles– Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka in February 2014 auctions.
Vodafone had already roped in Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei for supply of base stations and other equipment for 4G networks in Karnataka and Kerala circles. It is currently in talks with Swedish gear maker Ericsson and Finnish Nokia Networks for equipment supply deals in the other three circles, where it has 4G bandwidth, according to media reports.

Indian telecom operators are bracing for even more competition in an already cutthroat market as Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm is getting ready to launch 4G broadband services by December.

In the country, Bharti Airtel, the leading telecom carrier, has already taken a lead in the 4G space by launched services across over 300 towns, while Aircel plans to offer mass market 4G services in circles where it has licenses. Idea Cellular too plans to start 4G LTE services starting January next year.

According to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Reliance Jio will be the market leader in the Indian 4G space with 40 percent market share by 2019-2020, while the share of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular will reach 60 percent by 2019-20, up from 53 percent in 2016-17.

The brokerage firm however said that Jio may find it difficult to poach high-end subscribers from Airtel, Idea and Vodafone if it further delays the launch of 4G services in the country.

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