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India got its first 4G service this week with the country’s largest mobile services provider Bharti Airtel launching services Tuesday based on the TD-LTE technology in the north-eastern city of Kolkata.

Airtel bid about 33 billion rupees (US$634 million) in a government auction in 2010 for the right to offer broadband wireless access (BWA) in four of India’s 22 service areas. Starting with Kolkata, the company plans to offer 4G services in the other three service areas including Bangalore shortly.

Bharti Airtel is India’s largest mobile operator, and the 3rd largest mobile operator in the world, behind China Mobile and China Unicom.

The 16-day Indian broadband auction in 2010 generated a total of 383 billion rupees ($8.2 billion). The Indian government raised $14.6 billion from a third-generation spectrum auction a month earlier. India uses the 2.3 GHz band and TD-LTE for broadband wireless.

Besides offering rich content, Airtel plans to give customers fast access to high-definition (HD) video streaming, multiple chatting, and instant uploading of photos, and also to bridge the country’s digital divide.

Airtel already offers a 3G mobile service, which could be affected by the new 4G service. Because of the lower fees that it paid for the BWA licenses and spectrum, and the overall spectral efficiency of TD-LTE, costs of its 4G service are likely to be competitive compared to its 3G service, Bhatia said.

India’s Bharti Airtel has also launched operations in its 17th African country — Rwanda.

Airtel’s other markets in Africa include Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Airtel has already said that it will invest over USD 100 million in its operations over the next three years and generate direct and indirect employment opportunities. Mobile penetration in the country was at 38.4 per cent as of July 2011. Airtel was awarded the license by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) last year to operate 2G and 3G GSM mobile services.

Bharti Airtel is leveraging Hybrid Battery Banks to collect the excess energy produced by diesel generators.

Unlike Africa’s 40,000 mostly diesel-powered base stations, Flexenclosure’s new E-sites promise cheaper installation and $120,000 to $150,000 in reduced operating costs over a five-year period. That amounts to an 80 percent decrease in diesel usage.

The battery bank powers the site once the generator in switched off. This has helped reduce the use of diesel by up to 14 hours a day.

Close to 60% of Bharti Airtel’s telecom sites in Africa are now powered using the Hybrid model.

India had 13.5 million broadband subscribers at the end of February, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The number of mobile subscribers were far higher at 911 million.

With Infotel (Reliance) and Qualcomm going with TD-LTE, and cellular operators Bharti and Aircel buying another 12 BWA slots, India is strongly committed to TD-LTE.

“We will launch the 4G LTE service in Bangalore this month, followed by Pune and Chandigarh,” said Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal. Airtel’s TD-LTE network was launched by telecom minister Kapil Sibal (right).

Only nine million of India’s 1 billion people have access to broadband. India’s Department of Telecoms hopes the country will have about 48 million broadband users by 2012, and 100 million by 2014.

Global Broadband Subscribers (including cable and DSL subscribers), are set to Rise by Nearly 60 Percent by 2015, says iSuppli, with about 350 million new consumers projected to come online from 2011 to 2015.

Clearly wired broadband is being out paced by wireless broadband (both HSPA and LTE) which may cumulatively total close to 4 billion users worldwide by 2016.

Related Dailywireless articles include; LTE-Advanced: Upsetting the Apple Cart?, China: 1 Billion Mobile Activations, India: HSPA King by 2016, India’s Broadband Auction: It’s Done, Qualcomm Gets Indian Partners, Vendors Scramble for Indian Backhaul, TD-LTE: It’s Alive!, China Mobile + Clearwire + Apple?, Sprint’s Network Vision Detailed, Vendors & Spectrum Fund Clearwire TD-LTE, World’s First TD-LTE Service Launched by Mobily, Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced, Yota: Planetary LTE Swap, Yota Dumps WiMAX, 4G: One Third of All Smartphones, LTE Situation Report, Mobile Backhaul Grows, Broadband Subs 5B by 2015, Data Subs: 5 Billion by 2016, 5 Billion Mobile Subscribers, Bluetooth: 5 Billion Served , Top Wireless Trends of 2011, 5 Billion!

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