India has 4G connectivity available in only a selection of few cities. Fast networking options in the others is still limited to 3G connectivity. For a population of 120 crore, there are 300 internet users amongst which 180 million are smartphone users, with around 90 million subscribing to 3G plans.
At around 8 percent, India has very low penetration of 3G usage, though the technology has been here for six years now.
This is expected to further go down with the recent availability of 4G networks as predicted growth for 4G networks in India is much faster than that of 3G. With 4G available on the market, it is highly likely that the high end customers will switch to the latest technology, where competitors like Reliance Jio are already trying to build up a forte with a spectrum base comparable to top telcos like Airtel.
Though the spectrum investment in India is expensive, 3G spectrum that operators acquired in 2010 will be valid till 2030 and can also be used as LTE. This will aid the operators to keep their economies floating.
Also, the telcos are trying to cure the issue of call drops with commitments of more than a total of Rs 12,000 crore being announced in order to install more than 60,000 mobile towers in the coming quarter.
Indian telecom company net revenue for data usage is expected to rise to Rs 95,500 crore in the coming five to six years with a growth rate compounded at 21 per cent annually as per ratings agency ICRABSE.
Telecom operators providing 3G services can be listed as Idea Cellular, Vodafone, BSNL, Airtel, Reliance Communications, and Aircel. Enlisted below is a brief comparison on the 3G services provided by these telcos for a prepaid connection user, in the Delhi-NCR Circle.
Bharti Airtel, with planned investment of Rs 60,000 crore for the upcoming three years intended towards the implementation of its nationwide network transformation programme called Project Leap, has 3G data plans ranging from Rs 11 for 35 MB 3G data for a day, Rs 91 for 275 MB 3G usage for a week to Rs 259 for 1 GB 3G data available for a month. It has also recently launched its Platinum 3G offerings powered by dual spectrum bands of 900 MHz along with 2100 MHz. With monthly 3G data packs of Rs 659 on air for 3 GB of data, there is also a 20GB plan offered for a high end user at Rs 3346, with a validity of 28 days.
Idea Cellular, the third ranked telco in the country, had slashed its 3G prices last month, in an effort to keep up with its adversaries. The 3G plans of this group vary from 30 MB for Rs 11 for a day, 160 MB for Rs 53 for 6 days to a 1 GB plan for a month at Rs 249. It has also announced 1GB of night data for Rs 125 a month with a 2.3 GB regular 3G plan available at Rs 499 for 28 days. The top slot plan gives 15 GB for Rs 1849 with 28 days of validity.
Vodafone, as part of its 50 towns expansion plan on its own 3G network roll-out, has added to its network and cell sites in 2016. Beginning with Rs 14 a day for 40 MB of data, Vodafone also provides 225 MB at Rs 78 for a week and provides a 1 GB pack for 28 day validity at Rs 297. The high end packs include the 3 GB Unlimited plan which comes with 64KBps speed after usage limit, at Rs 697 for 28 days and a Rs 1847plan for the same amount of time providing 10 GB data capacity.
State-run telecom BSNL has started Free to Home service which will allow its mobile customers to transfer call on their BSNL landline phone without any extra cost. This feature provides multiple calls forwarding option that are always divert, call diversion when busy, call diversion in case the handset is turned off or has not coverage and call diversion for not responding. 110 MB data costs Rs 17 for BSNL subscribers for a day, 1 GB data for 5 days at Rs 78, 1 GB at Rs 198 for 28 days, Rs 444 for 2 months gives 3 GB of data. For 21 GB data the charge is Rs 1949 for 28 days.
Reliance Communications, a company promoted by Anil Ambani, with continuous attempts to migrate customers to its 3G network from 2G, after the latter was discontinued by the network, is on the move to enter into a merger with related to wireless operations by the end of this month. The telco with its 3G facility provision at 11 markets has a customer base of around 24.2 million 3G customers as per Q4 2015. R-Com is providing the customers with 350 MB data for 5 days at Rs 74, with 500 MB available for Rs 95 with one week validity and 1.25 GB data services for Rs 246 at 28 day validity.
Aircel with 3G services available in 13 circles, has announced unlimited mobile data offers last month, trailing after the announcement from Idea, alongside continuous expansion to its towers and networks on the go. The 3G packs provided by the telco include the 40 MB pack for a day at Rs 9, a 200 MB pack with 7 day validity at Rs 44, a 1 GB pack at Rs 147 for 1 month validity and a 3 GB pack at Rs 599 for a month. The top notch pack is the one costing Rs 1849 for 10 GB data, valid for a month.
The above data clearly sums up that the services provided by both Aircel and BSNL are a cheaper bargain for the consumers. The quality and speed of 3G factors is another parameter. When both quality and price are taken into account, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone add up to claim around 35 percent of the 3G revenue, with both companies claiming to offer higher 3G speeds than their rivals.
Also, the spectrum auctions are likely to take place in the upcoming two months. The auction is expected to be the biggest till date, with bands of 700MHz and 2500MHz, being auctioned for the first time, with other old ones like 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz also on the list and bidding and revenue of around Rs 5.36 lakh crore is predicted.
Hence, how and by what amount will the networks are varied after the auction still remains to be seen. It is definitely clear that 2016 is going to be a year of many more developments and variations for the Indian telecom industry.