rcom-4gNearly three weeks after it started promising customers a 4G-upgrade along with new SIMs, Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Communications has finally managed to get its 4G service up and running in many circles such as Mumbai and Delhi.

This marks the end of an agonizing wait for many customers who were promised easy and quick upgrade to 4G from CDMA technology, only to be kept waiting for days and weeks with no certain date for their upgrade.

UPDATE: It looks like the upgrade has only happened to 2G/3G, and not to 4G for most users, going by reader feedback.

Though the 4G upgrade has started, as expected, many hiccups and niggles remain.

Many users, for example, are unable to access data services, while some have trouble with voice services as well. These are, of course, to be expected when new users are brought on to any network.

RCom users have been migrated to Reliance Jio’s HD voice-enabled 4G network on 1800 and 2300 MHz.

After a while, they will also have access to the third — and the most powerful — spectrum band in the form of 850 MHz. The 850 MHz band is being co-created by Jio and Communications using spectrum pooled by the two together and will provide 4G signal inside buildings and in hard-to-reach areas.

Once all three bands are working smoothly, Reliance Jio — RCom’s network partner — will also launch its services commericially. Right now, it is still in beta phase with select customers being onboarded using a special invite-only process.

Reliance Communications, meanwhile, has moved lakhs, if not millions of its CDMA users to its 4G-GSM network. These users will be able to access both RCom’s 2G network, its 3G network where available and Jio’s 4G network.

Some CDMA users, however, are justifiably sad to see the end of an era.

RCom’s CDMA service was the first network in India to deliver speeds of over 1 Mbps using any wireless technology. The EVDO service, which was started around 2008, instantly won over lakhs of users at a time when 3G was not even on the roll-out stage.

3G spectrum was released in late 2010 and was commercialized only two years later, by which time most of data-hungry customers had moved to EVDO services of BSNL, RCom and Tata Indicom.

The end of CDMA services could also make ultra-cheap wireless plans a thing of the past.

RCom and MTS have been offering 40 GB of high-speed data for around Rs 1,125 per month. BSNL’s EVDO service — though available only in select cities — also offers unlimited data for Rs 750 per month.

EVDO services were a victim of their own success. As more and more customers moved to them, the average speeds available to an individual started dipping.

While early adopters were able to get 2 Mbps or more, of late, most users had to be content with 200 Kbps to 1 Mbps. RCom and MTS also introduced Revision B of their EVDO service last year, which not only increased the throughput per channel from 3.1 Mbps to 4.9 Mbps, but also offered three-channel aggregation, taking the total upper limit bandwidth to 14.7 Mbps.

Many users bought these ‘Pro 3’ dongles over the last one year. In most circles, they will have to exchange the dongle for new 4G ones. RCom is offering discounts of 50%-70% — depending on the circle and type of customer — on price of new 4G dongle.
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