India set for first 4G services with Reliance Industries in pole

21 September 2011 | Guy Matthews


Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries may be first to launch LTE services in the country, a source close to the company has revealed.

The director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, Rajan Mathews, has said he believes Reliance could be ready to launch next generation mobile broadband as soon as December of this year. If it achieves this, the company will almost certainly beat other players in India’s cellular sector, like Bharti Airtel, by several weeks. Reliance Industries has yet to officially confirm that it has a firm date in mind for a 4G launch.

Reliance’s choice of LTE as the basis for its 4G offer is significant, ending the hopes of backers of mobile WiMax that their standard could become the basis for services in one of the world’s largest mobile services markets. Reliance has reportedly been trialling TD-LTE with Nordic vendor Ericsson since the early part of 2011.

In India’s 4G spectrum auction in June of this year, Infotel Broadband Services, owned by Reliance Industries, won licenses for 22 regions or ‘circles’, while rival MNO Aircel won eight. Bharti Airtel and US vendor Qualcomm secured four circles each, Tikona five and Augere only one.

Meanwhile private equity firms Blackstone Group and Carlyle Group are expected to make a joint bid for the cellular tower unit of Reliance Communications, owned by Anil Ambani, brother of Mukesh Ambani, the owner of Reliance Industries. A pact between the two companies not to interfere in each other’s markets was ended earlier in the year.