India’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, Bharti Airtel, has announced the launch of commercial 3G services in Karnataka, its largest circle by revenue market share. Confirming the company’s launch plans, Bharti CEO Sanjay Kapoor said: ‘It is indeed the start of a new era when 3G services in India roll out on Airtel’s network … 3G is much more than a technology migration – it is a transformational shift – and Airtel’s focus would be to bring to its customers an enriched user experience on the back of a world class delivery network.’ The operator has said it plans to keep ‘the focus on the user experience and relevant services’, claiming that its 3G plans are ‘personalised and simple to understand’, and it unveiled an internet usage calculator which it claims will allow customers to select the most appropriate tariff.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Bharti bagged 3G concessions for 13 of India’s calling circles in May 2010, and with licence prices decided on a circle-by-circle basis it cost the operator INR122.95 billion (USD2.66 billion), the most paid by any of the seven 3G auction winners. Bharti has inked agreements with three vendors – Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Huawei Technologies – for the construction of infrastructure supporting 3G services, with the trio contracted to plan, design, deploy and maintain HSPA networks for the cellco. While the initial launch is restricted to just Karnataka, Bharti has said it expects to reach all 13 of its licensed regions with 3G services by the end of March 2011.