Reliance Industries Ltd-controlled Infotel Broadband Ltd is working on a plan to launch long term evolution (LTE) — which offers high data speeds — in 700 cities in the first phase of its launch. LTE offers data speeds from 50 mbps to 100 mbps to customers.
To achieve this, it has called international companies to make a bid for what would be one of the largest equipment deals in the country. As part of the plan, which it has shared with potential vendors, Infotel will take on the companies offering third-generation telecom services (3G) by offering guaranteed minimum internet data speeds to their customers. It should start services from the end of this year.
Infotel has invited international telcos to demonstrate their LTE capability as a precursor to signing orders, expected to be over $2 billion (Rs 9,200 crore). Companies in the race include Huawei of China, Samsung from Korea, Ericcsson, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia Siemens Networks. Companies like Samsung have also been approached for discussion on bulk buying of their tablet PC devices like the Galaxy Tab. Vendors say the company is looking at large bulk deals for devices.
The companies have been asked to demonstrate their LTE capabilities from the second week of February -- a clear reflection that it has finally abandoned any plan to launch its services on the WIMAX platform.
A spokesperson of Reliance Industries Ltd declined to comment. “We are currently engaged with all BWA (broadband wireless spectrum) winners for offering TD-LTE technology. As the market leader in LTE, Nokia Siemens Networks is at the forefront of driving standardisation, interoperability and commercialisation of TD-LTE,” said Kanika Atri, head of marketing for Nokia Siemens Networks India.
"LTE and HSPA are emerging as the dominant standards for mobile broadband globally. Operators in India would benefit from the economies of scale and roaming by deploying these technologies,” said P Balaji, vice president, Ericcson India.
Infotel is also talking to leading tower companies to lease 60,000 towers across the country for its pan-India launch in the first phase. It has told vendors it would not like to build any tower. Tower vendors who have had discussions with the company say 70 to 80 per cent of the requirement for Infotel can be met by existing towers. “But considering that the company is looking at providing guarantees of minimum speeds to customers, 20 per cent of their requirement will come from new towers, which have to be constructed by operators for Infotel,” said one.
While no deadlines have been given, vendors say the company might start the roll out of its network in the next three to four months and could launch services in some parts of the country by the year end.
RIL had paid Rs 4,800 crore for acquiring a 95 per cent stake in Infotel, a company floated by the HFCL group under Mahendra Nahata. Infotel has also paid Rs 12,848 crore to the government towards spectrum fees, when it won pan-India spectrum in the auction of BWA auction held last year.