Vodafone Essar has become the latest Indian mobile operator to launch 3G, switching on a commercial service in East Uttar Pradesh – one of the country’s largest service areas. According to a Business Standard report, the service will launch in the cities of Lucknow and Kanpur in the first phase, extending to Allahabad and Varanasi next month and later to all remaining towns and centres in the region. Although regional rivals BSNL and Aircel have already launched 3G in Uttar Pradesh, Vodafone is reportedly the largest player in the region with around 13 million subscribers. “We have the largest EDGE enabled cell sites in the circle numbering 8,200 and we only need to put 3G antennae and some additional gadgets for 3G,” Vodafone’s circle COO Ravi Santhanam told reporters. Vodafone’s existing customers in East Uttar Pradesh will be able to access the new network for no additional cost.
Alongside compatible handsets, Vodafone will also offer HSPA dongles and a ‘Mifi’ device, a Wi-Fi device providing access to 5-10 nodes for small businesses. “We are targeting first time Internet users on mobile phones,” said Santhanam. Mobile penetration in East Uttar Pradesh is just 40 percent, compared to an overall country average of 55-60 percent. Vodafone has already launched limited 3G services in Chennai and Delhi, but this week’s announcement counts as its first fully commercial launch. The launch also meets the operator’s earlier commitment to make 3G commercially available by the current quarter. Major rivals such as Bharti, Reliance and Tata Teleservices have already launched 3G in other parts of the country.