As Idea launches commercial 3G services, is a spectrum sharing deal with Bharti and Vodafone Essar close?

28 Mar 2011

Indian mobile network operator Idea Cellular has launched commercial third-generation services in Himachal Pradesh, with coverage initially in the state capital Shimla and the industrial town of Baddi. According to My Himachal, Idea’s 3G services will be available via both mobile handset and ‘other devices’. Commenting on the launch Anish Roy, chief operating officer for Idea’s Himachal Pradesh unit, noted: ‘Idea subscribers in Shimla and Baddi can now avail high-end data services such as video conferencing, Idea mall application store, mobile TV, video on demand and high speed internet browsing with ease.’ With Idea also unveiling a new 3G logo that will be utilised for all of its third-generation services across the country, Mr Lakshminarayana, National Enterprise Business COO for Idea added: ‘Our 3G services will be available in 200 towns of India by mid April, progressively growing at the rate of ten towns per day to cover 750 towns by mid-2011 and 4,000 town by the end of next year.’

Meanwhile it is being reported that Idea, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar are close to inking a deal that will see the trio share their respective third-generation spectrum, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter. ‘It [the pact] is almost in the final stages; just the details need to be worked out,’ the unnamed source noted.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Bharti, Vodafone and Idea all successfully acquired 3G concessions in May 2010, with Bharti claiming the most licence areas of the three – 13 – while Idea and Vodafone bagged permission to offer UMTS services in eleven and nine circles respectively. Bharti also paid the most for its concessions, shelling out INR122.95 billion (USD2.66 billion), but while Vodafone won fewer licences than Idea it paid more for its regions, spending INR116.18 billion, more than double the INR57.69 billion that Idea paid.