Bharti Airtel has launched its 4G services in Bangalore. Airtel chose Bangalore as its second city to launch its 4G services after Kolkata. Beyond Kolkata and Bangalore Airtel will be short of cities, as it doesn’t have spectrum in all telecom circles of India. Bharti has spectrum in Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka.
Despite having spectrum, Reliance Industries hasn’t launched its services yet. Reliance Industries through the acquisition of Infotel has re-entered the Indian telecom space. It doesn’t have the infrastructure to go with the spectrum. Reliance is also unwilling to share the existing infrastructure and plans to build its own towers, 100,000 of them.
Airtel certainly has the first-mover advantage here but it will be ephemeral. Reliance has licenses in all the telecom circles in India, which Airtel doesn’t. Reliance can pump in a lot of cash to get things going. Shortly put, when Reliance enters Airtel will not be the only game in town. In fact, there will not be an Airtel game in a lot of towns.
In addition to buying the dongle (which is also expensive), Airtel’s pricing plans are little expensive. Since there is no competition around, calling Airtel’s plan expensive could probably is premature. I don’t mind it.
Airtel’s 4G Plan rentals start with Rs. 999 (US$ 18.80) per month and go up to Rs. 2999 (US$ 56.45) for a 30 GB download limit. Like all things Airtel, 4G has a “fair usage policy” with the Rs. 999 plan having a 6GB download limit. Once you cross it, your speed falls down to 128 kbps. 4G, which promises speeds into tens of megabytes per second, doesn’t really match with the 128 kbps and the fair usage policy.
Not to disappoint the Schumacher’s of the Broadband world, Airtel has introduced Smartbytes for its 4G plans. You can buy a 1 GB download limit package for a particular price and experience the same speed. The Smartbytes package already exist for Airtel’s Broadband users and I am a victim of it. I have a feeling that Airtel is eating my bandwidth before I did but that’s for another story.
Whether it is Airtel or Reliance, they still have one problem to solve: the devices. There aren’t any! The new iPad was released as an LTE enabled device, and by all means a 4G device elsewhere in the world. But not in India! The new iPad works on 2100 MHz and 700 MHz frequencies. India has auctioned support for the 2300 Mhz spectrum. There are plans to auction off the 700 MHz frequency but it would fall into the “I will believe it when I see it” category.
Airtel is selling MiFi devices along with the plan but we are already moving away from dongles. 3G dongles are already an extraneous appendage attached to our laptops and desktops. I’m not sure if I want to go back to using dongles.
4G in its current form is expensive and probably not user-friendly. Whoever takes care of both will rake in the 4G moolah.
Read more : India 4G update