Monday, November 22, 2010

Aircel to launch 3G in early 2011

Mobile phone service provider Aircel on Friday said it would launch 3G services in 140 cities across 13 circles in January-February 2011, with an investment of $500 million and would invest another $500 million to expand its 2G network across the country.

"Over a period of one year we will cover at least 50% of the 2G footprint under 3G network," said Aircel chief operating officer Gurdeep Singh while launching a value added service. Aircel would launch 4G or BWA services in a year's time and was evaluating Wimax and TD-LTE platforms for the same, he added.

The company won 3G licences for Delhi (Metro), Mumbai (Metro), Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh , Maharashtra & Goa, Rajasthan , Punjab, UP (West) and UP (East) in an auction earlier this year.

The company would clock 50 million customers by end of this year and was expecting 10% of its customer base to move to 3G in the first year of 3G launch. The company foresees an additional 25% of its customers to shift to 3G by end of 2012. On pricing, Aircel officials said that 3G services would be more expensive compared to 2G tariffs and would be priced so as to commensurate the investments it was making. It may adopt a strategy where consumers will pay more for faster speeds and vice-versa .

The company added that it had not received any notification from Trai with regard to cancellation of 2G licences. Aircel is one of the six companies mentioned by Trai in its recommendations to the Indian government saying that 69 licences to companies including Etisalat DB, Uninor (Unitech), Videocon (Datacom), Loop Telecom and Aircel should be cancelled since they have not complied with their rollout obligations as mentioned in the licence conditions.

"I can only say that we haven't received any notification as yet. till such time we receive (the notification) I can say 'no comments' ," said Mr Singh. Trai has also suggested penal action to be taken against the mobile operators, as they were required to cover at least 10% of each district headquarters in each circle within 12 months of the date of award of the licence.