Forget 2G, India has 3G Plans

Indian operators are aiming to roll out 3G even before earlier generation services like GPRS take off. The country’s telecom regulator is already beavering away on issues like the price of 3G licenses, the allocation of spectrum and how much companies can charge for value-added services, and now it has allowed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., Bharti Airtel and Hutchison Essar Ltd. to use 3G spectrum to test equipment in anticipation of a launch later this year, says Reuters .

Optimists say India can leapfrog slower-bandwidth tech with a speedy launch of 3G. But there are some questions whether India is really jumping ahead of the curve or blindly following in the footsteps of operators in more developed markets—where 3G’s fancy gizmos proved hard to sell to consumers. We know, high-end data and video downloads and Bollywood movies on your mobile, yada, yada, yada. But here’s a frank assessment: “3G as a revenue booster [in India] is far-fetched at this time,” Shubham Majumder of Macquarie Research told GigaOM.

On the upside, freeing up the 3G band may alleviate a spectrum shortage that makes a mobile call in a place like Bangalore a crapshoot on a good day—plagued by dropped calls and that infuriating “network busy” signal. But don’t get too excited yet. “A sudden, massive overnight migration to 3G may be unrealistic to expect,” Tonse Telecom’s Sridhar Pai told GigaOM. “It will also come with a fee, and some won’t adopt it immediately. In the intermediate time, it may make things worse.”

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