Stand by for the next wave of India's telecom revolution, which has quietly taken off in Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh. Roughly around this time next year, you will see at least three major service providers offer 4G or fourth generation services that will make the Internet five times faster on handsets.
At 100 Mbps, you could call it the information expressway on steroids, and Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries unit Reliance Jio is expected to initiate a price war that would make it more affordable, challenging Bharti Airtel's current four-city plan.
Imagine these: A movie downloaded in five minutes and a song in seconds. Crystal-clear videoconferencing in real-time. Multi-player multi-media games without jerks. Medical examination of x-rays and scans by remote doctors.
"Our vision for India is that broadband and digital services will no longer be a luxury item - a scarce commodity - to be rationed amongst the privileged few,” said Ambani at RIL's shareholders' meeting on June 6.
“We envision an India where these are basic necessities to be consumed in abundance by consumers and small businesses alike, as much in far-flung villages as in our largest cities,” he added.
Currently, less than 30 million of India’s 930 million mobile subscribers use 3G or 4G services, leaving the room wide open for high-speed data services.
“With the launch of pan India 4G services and competition between Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJI), the use of 4G services will grow manifold,” said B. K. Syngal, former chairman of the erstwhileof Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL).
On Monday, Airtel reduced its 4G tariffs by about 31 per cent and brought it at par with its 3G services. It now offers plans starting at R 450 per month with free downloads of up to 2GB. Subscribers will have to pay 50 paise/100kbps beyond the free download limit. (See chart)
Reliance Jio is in discussions with vendors to procure tablet PCs and mobile handsets at very low prices so that it can bundle them with its services.
With an expected price war and spread of 4G, India is on the cusp of a data revolution.