Reliance Jio’s 4G broadband services are likely to be rolled out by March 2014.

According to Tarun Jhunjhunwala, Business Head and State Mentor – East, Kolkata is likely to be amongst the first few cities where the services will be rolled out in its initial phase.

“Initially, the 4G roll out plans included Mumbai, Delhi and Jamnagar. But we now want to include Kolkata too. Roll out in some of the cities in the eastern region is likely by end of this year or by March next year,” said Jhunjhunwala.

4G offers speed faster than many home broadband connections. Users will be able to download and stream music and videos faster — a movie (of around 2-hour duration) will take just 10-15 minutes to download — compared to 2G or 3G networks. Reliance Jio, backed by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd, has 4G licences in 22 telecom circles.

According to Jhunjhunwala, the company will also invest close to Rs 7,000 crore in the eastern region — with nearly Rs 3,000 core in West Bengal — over a three-year period to roll out the services.

The eastern region includes West Bengal, Odhisa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam and the other North-Eastern States.

Reliance intends to set up 3,500 towers across 56 towns. A network of around 5,500 km of optical fibre cables will be laid.

Nearly, half of the optical fibre network will be in Kolkata and areas adjoining the city. Reliance will create employment for around 5,000 people.

Around 25 to 30 per cent of the infrastructure requirements for 4G services will be leased from the Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Communication (R-Com).

Affordable Devices

Meanwhile, market sources point out that 4G has so far been a costly proposition in India. Non-availability of devices is another issue.

At present, 4G services are restricted to data with Airtel offering dongles priced between Rs 2,499 and Rs 4,999.

“We have plans to provide 4G services at affordable rates. Talks are on with device manufacturers for dongles, tablets and smartphones,” Jhunjhunwala said.

He, however, did not disclose the price of offerings or whether voice-on-net (like Skype) will be possible once the services are launched.

(This article was published on May 22, 2013)
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