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Idea Cellular Launches 4G Ahead Of Reliance Roll-out

Idea Cellular Ltd , India's third-biggest mobile phone operator, launched high speed fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone services across South India on Wednesday, beating the long-awaited debut of rival Reliance Jio

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Idea Cellular launched high-speed fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone services across the five states of South India -- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana -- on Wednesday (23 December), beating rival Reliance Jio.

By June 2016, Idea estimated it should be able to reach 750 cities, in telecom "circles" - or districts - which cover over 50 per cent of the telecom market but over 60 per cent of its gross revenue

“Worldwide, 4G technology is gaining widespread acceptance with global 4G subscriptions crossing 1 billion. The launch of Idea 4G LTE services will further expand Idea’s Wireless Broadband network and propel the brand to an even higher growth trajectory, consolidating its market position,” said Himanshu Kapania, managing director of Idea Cellular.

Idea is also gearing to launch 4G services by March 2016 in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Goa, Punjab, Haryana, North East and Orissa, in a phased manner.

Recently, Idea signed an agreement with Videocon Telecommunications for acquiring ‘Right to Use’ 1800 MHz spectrum under ‘Spectrum Trading Agreement’ in two of its key telecom leadership markets of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh (West).

With about 980 million wireless users, India's mobile market is second only to China's. Carriers have spent billions of dollars buying airwaves to meet growing demand for higher quality and faster data connection, as more and more Indians access the Internet through their smartphones.

But the country's already crowded telecoms industry is bracing for the arrival of RJio, the telecoms arm of Reliance Industries Ltd, which had been due to launch the country's biggest 4G broadband network "around" this month.

Analysts and industry executives now expect the launch of the telecoms business run by India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, to be delayed until at least spring 2016.

It will launch the service for employees this weekend.

That delay has given some of RJio's rivals more time to try to get ahead with their own 4G services and bulk up.

Heavily indebted Reliance Communications, owned by the younger Ambani brother, Anil Ambani, is in talks with Aircel to create India's second-largest mobile operator.

It had already agreed the acquisition of Russian conglomerate Sistema's mobile phone business in November - the first major Indian telecoms deal in seven years, and expected to pave the way for others.

Idea said it was offering plans on a par with 3G and trial packs for just Rs 29, anticipating steep discounts that RJio is expected to offer.

And the prospect of a large scale 4G roll-out has also fuelled a race for cheap content to lure consumers to take up more lucrative data packages. Idea said it would offer a library of films for a monthly price of Rs 49 - Rs 29 for initial subscribers.

(Reuters also contributed to this story)

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