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RIL poised for big bang cellphone debut

Mukesh Ambani-run RIL's telecom arm, Reliance Jio Infocomm has asked the Department of Telecommunications to release four crore new series of phone numbers for all 22 telecom circles as it plans for an aggressive pan-India launch of mobile phone services on 4G spectrum sometime soon.

Sanjay Singh | November 11, 2013 | Updated 11:38 IST
Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani-run RIL's telecom arm, Reliance Jio Infocomm, plans for an aggressive pan-India launch of mobile phone services on 4G spectrum soon Photo: Reuters

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-run RIL's telecom arm, Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJI) has asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to release four crore new series of phone numbers for all 22 telecom circles as it plans for an aggressive pan-India launch of mobile phone services on 4G (Fourth-Generation) spectrum sometime soon.

The ambitious move is expected to generate fierce competition in the telecom sector and comes at a time when the debt- ridden telcos had started firming up call rates to shore up their bottomlines.

4G FACTFILE

-4G spectrum, also called Long- Term Evolution (LTE) or Broadband Wireless Access spectrum (BWA), is the mostefficient band of spectrum. It is considered to be the future of the telecom industry. It offers data transmission almost four times the speed of 3G and 16 times the speed of 2G.

-A 4G system, which operates on 2,300 MHz band frequency, provides advanced mobile communication services, ranging from mobile web access to high- definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D TV and cloud computing.

-In 2010, six private players - RJI, Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Qualcomm, Tikona Digital and Augere-had won BWA spectrum. RJI had won 20 Mhz of pan- India BWA spectrum for providing 4G services for Rs  12,847.77 crore and emerged as the sole winner of pan-India BWA licence.
RJI has submitted an application to the telecommunication ministry stating that the company immediately needs 40 lakh phone numbers for each metro city, 20 lakh for A and B telecom circles and 10 lakh for category C circles, which comprises small towns and rural areas of the country.

DoT secretary M. F. Farooqui told Mail Today on Friday that the department has received a letter from RJI for the new series of phone numbers as they plan to launch their telecom services. "I don't recall the quantum of phone numbers they have asked for but we have received their application in this regard," said Farooqui.

"RJI has asked for the same series of numbers for its nationwide operations like the ones given to BSNL. We have to work it out if it is feasible or not. As the quantum of numbers to be released is very high, it could take about 2- 3 weeks for us to clear it. Our team will soon start working on it," said another DoT official.

RJI has already completed trial runs for Voice over LTE (Long Term Evolution also called VoLTE) technology that would enable it to provide voice call services on its wireless broadband network. RIL plans to offer 4G broadband data services with voice.

It is the only telecom operator to have a pan-India license for 4G broadband services and has ambitious plans that could erode the market share of large players like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.

Cash-rich RIL also plans to sell tablets at a much cheaper price of less than Rs  3,000 with much- much cheaper voice rates which could spell trouble for its competitors.

Although Bharti Airtel is already providing 4G data services in Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata and Chandigarh, it has not been able to attract many subscribers ow- ing to the high tariffs.

Some other 4G operators like Tikona are also planning to launch highspeed Internet services at much lower rates which would make the data market much more competitive.

Videocon Mobile Services has also expressed its interest to launch 4G services at rates that are less than the present 2G and 3G data tariffs, indicating that the 4G race will heat up in the coming months.

RJI has aggressively been pursuing its pre-launch strategy. It has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to fix the reserve price of the 4G spectrum at 7 to 8 times higher than that for 3G radio waves, which has rattled its rivals. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone want the reserve price at a much lower level. While Bharti Airtel has 4G spectrum in 8 circles, Vodafone does not have 4G airwaves. A senior official with a leading telecom company said RJI has excess of 4G airwaves, which offers data transmission almost four times the speed of 3G and 16 times the speed of 2G.

As appeared inMail Today  dated Nov 9, 2013

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