Indian market-leader Bharti Airtel is on track to become the country’s first 4G operator with plans to switch on a TD-LTE network later this month.
Bharti CEO Sanjay Kapoor said this week that the operator’s first 4G network will go live in Kolkata – with launches to follow soon after in Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka, reports The Hindu Business Line.
The operator acquired 20MHz of the so-called Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum in the four circles during auctions in 2010, paying INR33.14 billion (US$650 million) for the licences.
It is working with various vendors on the rollout. It is thought that ZTE will handle build-out in the Kolkata circle, though Huawei, Ericsson and NSN are understood to have been signed up in the other three circles.
Although Bharti looks set to be the first to launch, there are a number of other players which also acquired the BWA spectrum suitable for TD-LTE.
Chief among these is Reliance Industries, which is planning a pan-Indian TD-LTE rollout after having secured spectrum across the country, spending over US$2.5 billion at auction two years ago. Other TD-LTE players due to launch soon include Tikona Digital Networks, Augere and Qualcomm.
However, take-up of 4G services in India is currently hamstrung by the high cost of compatible devices.
According to Wireless Intelligence, with an average retail price of US$500, the cost of an LTE smartphone is four times the average monthly GDP per capita in India, and at an average of US$200, the retail price of an LTE USB dongle is twice an Indian's monthly income on average.