Bharti launches 3G services in South India

Bharti Airtel has launched 3G services in Karnataka, one of the southern states of India of which Bangalore is the capital. Build-out of the infrastructure, which is based on HSPA technology, is being handled by NSN, Ericsson India and Huawei.

Having missed its projected 3G launch window of year-end 2010, Bharti is slightly behind its rival operators Tata Teleservices and Reliance; however, it is aiming to have launched 3G services across the remainder of the 13 3G ‘circles’ for which it holds licences by the end of Q1 2010.

Somewhat dismissive of its rivals’ 2010 rollouts, Bharti CEO Sanjay Kapoor heralded the launch as “the start of a new era” for the country, adding that the new network would allow fast, reliable mobile internet access and the accompanying benefits, such as video calling and live streaming.

Bharti looks set to structure its 3G pricing to suit user requirements, offering plans based on usage time for those that use less data, while heavier data users will be able to make sure that their usage (and therefore bill) caps out at a preset level.

Having paid INR123 billion (US$2.7 billion) last year to obtain its 3G licences, Bharti now enters a crowded arena - the two state-owned operators, MTNL and BSNL, received 3G spectrum without auction over a year before bidding opened.

While neither operator has made much of an impact with 3G services thus far, the increased competition appears to be stirring them into activity, with BSNL recently declaring its intention to bring a further 60 cities under the scope of its 3G coverage.

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