The simmering 4G battle

With names like Sprint, Qualcomm, Bharti and Reliance making their moves for the next generation telecom tech, mergers and joint ventures with international companies are driving the investments and momentum for 4G.

Given the number of delays in 3G there was growing belief that Indian operators might skip 3G and move to 4G. Well, that didn't happen, slowly but steadily telecom operators are rolling out 3G across the country. The exponentially growing broadband numbers in India and mobile Internet has given telecom companies another round to compete.

Qualcomm in a joint venture with Tulip Telecom and Global Holdings won Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala and Haryana during the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum auctions. Bill Davidson, a senior VP at Qualcomm later said that they are looking to exit. This was followed by news of Bharti Airtel being interested in acquiring Qualcomm's stake.

Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries is testing 4G in India. The Infotel acquisition has given Reliance a pan-India license for 4G. According to reports, Reliance Industries plans to utilize their 4G networks for national security and disaster management. To lead these efforts, Reliance is expected to rope in Vivek Lall (formerly VP for Boeing's defense, space and security businesses.)

The next big name in the race is Sprint. In a press release (PDF) issued earlier this month, Sprint announced a joint venture with Pune based Persistent Systems. As one of the leading telecom operator in the US with 4G services already launched, Sprint's move in the Indian telecom market is expected to make things interesting.

While all the companies are making plans, telecom regulatory body (TRAI) has promised a consultation paper (Pre-Consultation paper PDF) to guide the companies on policies. With the momentum growing in the private sector and the lessons learnt from the 3G launch, 4G might see a comparatively smoother launch.

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