Vodafone India, the country’s second largest operator, reportedly said it will launch 4G services in five cities, including Mumbai and Delhi, by the end of the year.

The announcement, first reported by the Economic Times of India, comes as the country’s leading operators race to roll out faster networks to capture consumers’ growing appetite for data services.

Market leader Bharti Airtel has been aggressively pushing 4G across the country and recently said it plans to expand its 4G service, currently offered in 45 cities and towns, to 296 urban areas over the next few weeks.

The push is aimed at gaining an edge on new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm, which has delayed its pan-India 4G launch from June to the end of the year.

Vodafone, with a 19 per cent market share, said the five-city launch would be the first phase of its 4G rollout. The operator acquired 4G spectrum in five regions — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Kerala and Karnataka — in auctions last year. The company said nearly half of its revenue comes from these five areas.

It also plans to expand its 3G service from nine service areas to 16, the Times said. In the last fiscal year, it added 23,000 base stations, giving it a total of about 131,000.

Airtel is leading its major rivals – Vodafone and Idea Cellular – in the race to 4G. But only just over 400,000 of Airtel’s 230 million mobile connections are 4G, according to GSMA Intelligence.