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Indian 3G competition set to rise as Bharti schedules launch

Competition in India’s 3G market is set to increase, as the major Indian operator Bharti Airtel has declared its aim to launch 3G services by the end of 2010. If it begins 3G operations by this deadline, Bharti will become the second privately-owned operator in India to do so.

Currently under construction, the new network is being enabled by Ericsson, NSN and Huawei, and is based on HSPA technology. Bharti won bids for 3G spectrum in 13 of India’s telecom ‘circles’ earlier in the year, and the new network will be deployed in all of these areas.

The 13 circles make up 68% of the operator’s total revenue, and encompass large urban centres such as Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Delhi. However, Bharti’s reach could extend beyond these areas, with the operator hinting that it could take its 3G services nationwide; to do so, Bharti would need to arrange roaming contracts with 3G operators that hold spectrum licences for circles in which it does not.

Bharti has not released details of its 3G offering, providing only the vague comment that it will "introduce a suite of products in areas such as mobile commerce and mobile health."

A key rival of Bharti’s, Tata Docomo, is set to launch 3G services across nine circles within the first week of November. Currently, India’s only available 3G services are offered by the state-owned operators, MTNL and BSNL.

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