3G finally taking off in India

3G connectivity has improved across India, with Vodafone India's 50 percent jump in data-related revenues for its latest fiscal year an indicator of the improving network quality.

My work often takes me to smaller towns and villages of the country and I enjoy exploring these smaller cities. In fact, most of them are not so small anymore. They even remind me of the New Delhi I grew up in, which today stands as a megalopolis.

Like me, anyone who has been travelling to the smaller cities of India would have found 3G connectivity--which was first launched in late 2010--to have improved over the last year.

"It takes around three years for any technology to mature," Rishi Tejpal, principal research analyst, Gartner, told me in a phone interview. Going by Tejpal's statement, 3G appears to finally be taking off in India . In fact, today one can buy a 3G-enabled phone for around INR 4,000 (US$72).

The growing popularity of 3G in India can also be gauged from the financials of mobile operator Vodafone India. The company reported a three-fold increase in profit for the year ended March 31, 2013, and earned INR 20 billion (US$361 million) from data during the same period. This marks a 50 percent growth when compared with its data-related revenues during the previous financial year.

Now, the Indian arm of Vodafone wants to build a pan-India 3G network and is open to buying airwaves from other mobile operators, according to a news report published in The Economic Times. Vodafone has 3G airwaves in 11 circles and offers nationwide high-end data services through roaming pacts with Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular. 

However, it has been restrained from adding new data customers in circles where it does not own 3G bandwidth .

"The purchase price Vodafone will settle for (3G spectrum) will be based on a commercial negotiation and depends on how desperately they (other telecom companies) are willing to sell," Vodafone India's managing director, Marten Pieters, said in The Economic Times report.