India’s state-owned BSNL, after a soft launch of 4G service in one region, aims to offer LTE in 14 of the country’s 22 regions, but didn’t announce a timeframe.
The operator has 20MHz of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band in 14 service areas. During its soft launch in Chandigarh earlier in the year, it demonstrated download speeds of 35Mb/s, the Economic Times reported.
It is adding 4G base stations to its existing telecoms towers and is considering funding the rollout by partnering with a vendor in a revenue sharing model. If it opts to fund the capex itself, the operator said it will roll out LTE service only in selected cities in each region.
BSNL, with nearly 84 million mobile connections and an 8 per cent market share, is a latecomer to the country’s 4G race, with the top-three players aggressively launching service over the past nine months.
Market leader Bharti Airtel has the widest 4G coverage, claiming service in nearly 400 towns and villages, and last month announced a spectrum trading deal that will expand its 4G footprint to 19 of the country’s 22 regions. Vodafone India, the country’s second largest operator, rolled out its first 4G service in January in Kochi, Kerela state and planned to follow up with launches in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
India’s third largest operator Idea Cellular has rolled out 4G service in ten service areas and offers 4G service in more than 300 towns. It is targeting 550 towns by 31 March (the end of its fiscal year) and 750 towns by the end of June.
After multiple delays, Indian upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm is reportedly readying a soft launch for its 4G network in early April, ahead of its planned commercial availability later this year.