Aircel on Tuesday joined the 3G bandwagon with the launch of commercial services of data-driven next generation mobile telephony in Chennai.
The telecom operator, which launched voice services on the 2G platform from Coimbatore in 1999 and evolved into a pan-Indian player in the telecom space, aims to roll out 3G networks in 11 of the 13 circles over the next few weeks.
The remaining two circles — West Bengal and Punjab — will be covered by the middle of March.
Addressing a press conference, Gurdeep Singh, Aircel's Chief Operating Officer, said as the largest spectrum holder for next generation mobile telephony—2G in 23 telecom circles, 3G in 13 circles and BWA in 8 circles — Aircel hoped to “democratise” the mobile Internet with a combination of products and tariff plans.
With a user base of 50 million that is adding 1.6 million new connections every month, Aircel will continue its youth-focused growth strategy for 3G services, Mr. Singh said.
The operator, which is a joint venture between Malaysia-based Maxis Communications Berhad and Apollo Hospitals Group, will offer a menu of services that range across video-calls, m-health, mobile TV, and “snacky” customised pocket videos on Interactive Voice Response. Aircel will also open an exclusive 3G call centre based in Bangalore.
Having invested an estimated Rs. 23,000 crore on its network, Aircel expects to pump in a similar sum over the next three years to consolidate its revenue market share that grew incrementally by 19 per cent in 2010 while its revenue went up by 44 per cent. Aircel expects a scale-up of non-voice revenues in a data-driven 3G environment and central to this are the tie-ups with Infosys for developing indigenous mobile applications store, Facebook and Microsoft.
Though Aircel maintains that value-added services and customer experience more than price-points become relevant in a market where mobile tariffs are inelastic, its 3G data plans reflect virtually rock bottom pricing. Ranging from the trial packs (Rs. 7 for 8MB), there is the student pack (Rs. 92 for 100 MB), the executive pack (Rs. 202 for 250 MB) and professional pack (Rs. 602 for 1024 MB) apart from various bundled offers that embed voice and SMS.
However, the operator is yet to formulate 3G roaming rates. K.V.P. Baskaran, Aircel Operations Director-South, was also present.