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Airtel, Idea, Reliance Jio and Vodafone race to launch 4G in Kerala

airtel-4g-keralaBharti Airtel is trying to address a key weakness in the lucrative market of Kerala — the lack of a 3G network — by going aggressively with its 4G roll-out.

The biggest cities, Kochi and Calicut, have already got LTE services from the company, while most of the cities in the state will be covered by the end of this year.

Many Airtel customers in the state have already got calls and intimations — especially in bigger cities such as Kochi and Thrissur — saying that they can now replace their SIMs with 4G-enabled ones.

It should also be noted that December is also when Reliance Jio is likely to launch its 4G services in the state on a large scale.

Kerala will be a big market of contention in 4G as all operators will be present here in this space.

Vodafone has two chunks of unused spectrum in the state — one block of 1800 MHz for 4G and one block of 2100 MHz for 3G.

UPDATE: Vodafone will start launches in Kerala before the end of 2015, the company said.

Idea has an operational 3G network and two blocks of 1800 MHz 4G spectrum waiting to be deployed.

Reliance Jio has one block of 4G spectrum in 1800 band and another mega block in 2300 band.

Bharti Airtel, as mentioned, makes the fourth 4G operator in Kerala with its large block of 2300 MHz spectrum.

And finally, Reliance Communications and MTS are expected to launch a 4G network on 800 MHz spectrum after their merger — making it the fifth 4G operator in Kerala.

In all, there would be two blocks of 2300 MHz spectrum (total 40 MHz), four blocks of 1800 MHz spectrum (total 40 MHz) and one block of 800 MHz (total 10 MHz) being prepped for 4G launch in Kerala over the next one year.

In addition, there is a small chance that Vodafone could choose to launch 4G services with its 3G spectrum as well.

In contrast, there are only two data-oriented networks in Kerala right now – that of Idea Cellular and BSNL, supplemented by MTS and RComm with their EVDO networks.

The Kerala market is dominated by Idea Cellular, which is estimated to account for over half of the total profits generated from telecom services in this urbanized state. Kerala is also reported to be among the first states where Idea 4G will be launched in early 2016. Vodafone is likely to be last operator to launch 4G in Kerala — by around April-June in 2016.

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