Jan 15, 2013

Reliance starts 4G trials in India

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries (RIL) has completed fourth successful 4G trial at its township in Jamnagar, Gujarat, which could eventually lead to pan-India rollout of its Wimax broadband services.

According to some reports, RIL broadband will be based ontime division-long term evolution (TD-LTE) technology.In Jamnagar, RIL’s township houses around 25,000 people, including staff, their families and other residents. Sources said RIL may have used dongles for the 4G trials. Others said RIL used both dongles and SIM cards. Other companies use dongles for 3G services. 

An RIL spokesperson said, “The company was still in the process of experimenting, and would not go in for an only-dongle route like Bharti Airtel. When it (4G) is launched, the company may look at providing it through both dongle and SIM cards. It is the only net (data) service as of now.”

RIL ‘s first 4G trial was conducted in March last year (which DNA Money reported first). Two other trials were held in August and October. RIL had tested in Mumbai as well in August, sparking speculation that a pan-India rollout is likely in April this year.

But some reports had said RIL would start services only in Delhi, Mumbai and Jamnagar initially.A company official said RIL has started setting up telecom towers and supporting infrastructure in and around Mumbai. There is still no clarity when operations would start.
“There may still be a long way to go before the pan-India rollout. 4G may take another year to develop as a technology. However, RIL may look at a soft launch sometime later this year as time is running out for them to meet their rollout obligations,” said an industry source.

The said obligations are related to RIL’s June 2010 acquisition of 95% stake in Infotel for around `4,800 crore. Prior, Infotel had won spectrum in 22 circles for `12,850 crore.
Reports last week spoke of RIL’s $10-billion plan for its 4G network, and how it was working with the government and several private companies to launch voice over LTE, along with low-cost data packs.

An unconfirmed theory doing telecom rounds is that RIL will likely tie up with cable companies for a mix of infotainment on 4G.

But rolling out a brand new network with no subscriber base could prove a challenge to even RIL, sources said.

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