Although the two public sector telecom operators BSNL and MTNL already offer 3G services, they have so far clearly failed to generate interest among their as well as other mobile subscribers. The scenario is expected to change for good when private players enter the 3G arena.
In the 3G auction held this year in May, seven of the nine bidders won spectrum. Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Aircel each won in 13 of the 22 circles, while other operators such as Vodafone Essar, Idea Cellular and Tata won licences for nine, eleven and nine circles, respectively. A fairly new entrant, Haryana-based S Tel, won the license for three circles while two bidders, Videocon Mobile Services and UAE-based Etisalat went empty handed.
Early launch of 3G services will give service providers an edge over their competitors amidst falling tariffs and the introduction of mobile number portability which might be a reality soon.
TTSL, with its announcement of launching 3G services this Diwali, has yet again taken the lead and will be the first private telecom operator to roll out 3G services on a commercial basis.
The company announced that it will launch next generation mobile services (3G) on the day of Diwali next month in all the nine circles that it has won spectrum in, and will provide the new service to subscribers of Tata Docomo, its GSM network.
Next in line will be Airtel, the largest telecom operator in the country, based on subscriber numbers. The operator had earlier said it would launch the services by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, two of the seven operators, Vodafone and Aircel, will commercially launch their 3G services in the first quarter of 2011.
In fact, Vodafone on Thursday demonstrated its 3G services for customers in India. Marten Pieters, managing director, Vodafone Essar, recently made the company's first 3G video call from Mumbai to Delhi.
Before Vodafone, Reliance Communications showed the world its 3G network at the company's annual general meeting with a private news channel being streamed live to a mobile phone.
Although Reliance has not divulged an exact date, the company has made it clear that it wants to be amongst the early launchers of the service. "We are not going to wait for other operators' launch and then position ourselves.... ours will be among the early launches and it will be very soon," the company's chief executive Akshay Kumar had told reporters earlier.
As far as Idea Cellular is concerned, the company refused to comment on the date of launch. In May, however, media reports suggested that it plans to launch its 3G service in the third quarter of the ongoing fiscal.
The youngest telecom operator to have bagged 3G licenses S Tel too has remained tight lipped about the launch of its service. However, the company has revealed that it plans to invest approximately Rs 360 crores in capital expenditure over the next five years to roll out 3G services in the three circles it has spectrum in, namely Bihar and Jharkhand, Orissa, and Himachal Pradesh.