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Indian operators battle for 3G share

09 июня 2009

India’s auction of third-generation mobile spectrum is still at least six months away but several operators have stolen a march on competitors by offering high-speed wireless broadband data services based on 3G technology.

Reliance Communications, the industry number two, and smaller rival Tata Indicom have launched data cards for laptops that use “evolution data optimised” technology that offers mobile internet with 3G speeds on their existing networks.

Kunal Bajaj, managing director at BDA India, a te-lecoms and media consultancy said: “Reliance has an order of potentially 1m 3G data cards to be sold in the first year of launch and they’re looking for an additional 1m-2m in the second year”.

India’s government has been planning for years to auction additional spectrum to mobile operators to provide 3G wireless services, but the process has suffered from continuous bureaucratic delays.

The telecoms department had intended to auction the spectrum in January but a dispute with the finance ministry over its pricing has stalled the pro-cess until at least the end of the year, say analysts.

A study commissioned by a mobile industry lobby group has claimed that a two-year delay in launching 3G has cost India about $16bn.

This “opportunity cost” stems from the forgone investment that India might have earned from selling the spectrum, developing the infrastructure and from increased productivity.

Jaikishan Rajaram, senior director of services at the GSM Association said: “India is way behind the rest of the world even on fixed-line broadband connections”.

The government has quietly allowed 3G mobile services to begin. Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam, the two state-run operators launched services this year but have suffered from low service quality and high fees, say analysts.

Reliance’s data card offering is more likely to succeed. The company is India’s second-largest mobile operator by subscribers, with almost 75m users at the end of April. Its “Netconnect” service already offers data services to about 1.5m users based on earlier wireless CDMA1x technology.

Reliance said that about 100,000 users had taken up its broadband card.


Источник: Financial Times

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