In what could be one of the largest launches in the telecom services space, Reliance Jio Infocomm is set to roll out its 4G LTE services in 800 Indian cities between April and June next year.
According to sources, the company will in the initial stage offer 4G dongles, as well as ‘mi-fi devices’. The ‘mi-fi’ devices will allow users to access 4G on any ‘wi-fi’-enabled phone – even the feature phones priced at around Rs 2,500 – thereby obliterating the need to buy expensive 4G handsets. Besides, each mi-fi device could connect up to 10 handsets simultaneously.
Apart from leasing out towers from various companies, the company has built over 30,000 towers of its own to fill in the gaps in the rollout.
Bharti Airtel, the only company offering 4G services at present, does so in around 15 cities, including Bengaluru, Pune and Mohali. The company, present in 5,121 census cities and towns and over 462,000 non-census towns and villages across India with services like 2G and 3G, covers about 86 per cent of the country’s total population.
When contacted on the mega plans, a spokesperson for Reliance Jio said: “We are currently in the process of conducting our service field trials across multiple towns and cities, as well as in-house. During this period, we are introducing our services to small groups of people who will offer us feedback, so that we develop a robust service platform and then scale up our services.”
Sources say Reliance Jio is looking to offer on its dongles average speeds of 16-18 mbps – about thrice as much as 3G dongles – though the technology could offer a speed of up to 50 mbps.
In the second phase of the launch, the company will also offer fibres to homes or offices which could offer a speed of up to 100 mbps and even run television programming. It is laying a pan-Indian inter-city fibre-optic network and putting up intra-city fibre optics in some key cities.
A late comer in the telecom business, Reliance Jio had bought pan-Indian spectrum in the 2,300-MHz band in August 2010. This year, it also decided to buy 1,800-MHz spectrum in 14 circles, as there were growing concerns over 2,300-MHz spectrum’s limitations in penetrating offices and homes, where the bulk of the bandwidth was expected to be used. This was done even as the company got over the problem by putting in more towers (its own or leased) across the country.
According to sources, the 4G services will be launched with 2,300-MHz spectrum, while the 1,800-MHz band will be used for both data (it is the preferred band in many countries), as well as voice.