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4G penetration in India on the rise

4G penetration in India on the rise
Bharti Airtel has 3,180 TD-LTE subscribers through its 4G network in Kolkata and Bangalore. The state-run BSNL has provided 50,077 connections through 4G/WiMAX, the minister of state for communications and information technology Milind Deora informed the Lok Sabha. Airtel launched 4G TD-LTE services in Kolkata in April 2012 and Bangalore in May 2012.

Airtel has BWA licenses in four circles - Kolkata, Karnataka, Punjab and Maharashtra - and 3G licenses in 13 circles in India. Its recent deal to buy BWA license from Qualcomm will enable Airtel to secure a nation-wide broadband leadership through a combination of 4G and 3G, with its own networks in 18 circles.

In August, Airtel said 3G users of the mobile major Airtel increased to 37,13,000 in Q1 2012-13 from 27,11,000 in Q4 2011-12. The mobile service provider has increased its 3G sites to 18,012 in first quarter of FY 2013 from 10,669 in Q1 FY 2012.

The 3,180 TD-LTE subscriber mark is against the expectations of the market.

Recently, analysts predicted that TD-LTE subscribers will reach 5 million by 2013 in Indian telecom market. 2012-13 will be the year of mobile broadband. Reliance Industries is planning to launch 4G services in 2013 and their entry will strengthen 4G segment.

Indian LTE market will pick up after 2 years as there will be more LTE smartphone launches in 2012-13 from OEMs such as Nokia, Samsung, and Apple, as well as significant surge in data consumption.

In August, Bharti said its ARPU from mobile services and data services in India reduced by 3 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in the first quarter of fiscal 2012-13.

Mobile services ARPU decreased 3 percent to Rs 185 in first quarter ended June 30 2012 from Rs 190 in the same quarter previous fiscal. Mobile data ARPU declined 10 percent to Rs 40 from Rs 44. Total number of data customers of Airtel stands at 38,660,000 in Q1 2012-13 against 35,780,000 in Q4 2011-12.

4G is expected to bring in additional non-voice revenues. Percentage of consolidated non-voice revenue to total revenue in Q1 2012-13 was 26.6 percent against 26 percent in Q1 2011-12. Percentage of non-voice revenue to total revenue in India grew to 16 percent from 15.6 percent during the period.

Lead analyst Baburajan K at TelecomLead said "Indian telecom operators should offer cost effective 4G services in order to increase the subscriber base. Currently, 4G dongles are costly. If they need to offer cost effective services, 4G penetration should enhance across the world so that equipment prices will come down. 4G prices are also reflecting the BWA spectrum price in India."

"When Airtel and other telecom operators slashed 3G tariffs, it resulted in significant increase in 3G uptake. If India need to increase mobile broadband penetration companies like Reliance industries-owned Infotel Broadband should start 4G services and Airtel should launch 4G in more circles,'' said Baburajan.

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