Last month Airtel surprised many by becoming the first operator in India to roll out a commercial LTE network in Kolkata, followed by Bangalore. The choice of Kolkata was important, as Airtel doesn’t have a 3G license for Kolkata even though it has it for the West Bengal telecom circle.
Similarly, Airtel also has a BWA license for the Maharashtra circle and a 3G license for the Mumbai circle.
It would be interesting to see if in such instances, operators would be able to complement a 3G offering by BWA or vice versa.
It is significant to note that Aircel is the only private telecom operator other than Airtel that has got licenses (not pan-India though) for providing both 3G and BWA services.
It’s already nearly certain that all private operators that bagged BWA licenses would be opting for LTE as the underlying technology. This could make interoperability among operators simpler to achieve.
There has been stalemate between the industry and the licensor on inter-operator roaming agreements for 3G. That has affected the growth and development of 3G in the country. Hopefully, LTE will not be faced with similar situations going forward.
Both 3G and BWA hold enormous potential to help accelerate broadband adoption and growth in the country. It is therefore important for policy makers to promote measures that would be conducive to rapid deployment and build-up of these networks. Let 2012 not only be the year of BWA but also mark the ramp-up of wireless broadband in India.
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