Last months several websites said Airtel planned to launch 4G in India as early as March. The reports said Kolkata was the city chosen for bringing India up to date with the latest in mobile Internet. Well, that did not happen. There's a new round of reports that Kolkata will be seeing 4G by Airtel as soon as tomorrow. According to the story by the Press Trust of India, India's Minister of Communications and Information Technology will be unveiling Airtel's 4G services.
LTE or Long Term Evolution is the current industry standard for 4G services. While there is some debate about what is 4G since the ITU has not clearly defined the specs, what carriers put forth as 4G, is 4G. For example, in the US, T-Mobile calls their HSPA+ (42Mbps) implementation as 4G; AT&T and Apple call HSPA+ 4G too. It technically is not. In case of Airtel, the company is opting for LTE instead of WiMAX as the 4G standard of choice. To roll out 4G in Kolkata, Airtel has tied up with China-based ZTE for design and implementation. The company also has 4G spectrum in Maharashtra and Nokia Siemens Network is working on implementation.
Back in January last year, Reliance and Qualcomm had tested 4G in certain parts of India and the TRAI Chairman said India will be seeing 4G by 2012. India was late to the 3G party, the telecomm networks seem to be well-positioned to empower India with 4G as the US gets it too.
It will be interesting to see how 4G is priced. Compared to the US, 3G in India is pretty cheap. ($4 for 500MB a month.)
PS: They say LTE gives downlink speeds up to 100Mbps, but that's far from the truth.