Airtel on Thursday rolled out 3G mobile services in Tamil Nadu beginning with Chennai and Coimbatore.

Promising a versatile mobile Internet experience across live TV, movies, music, gaming and social networking, Airtel was confident that its High Speed Packet Access HSPA+ network was capable of delivering download speeds of up to 21 Mbps, against the average access speeds of 50-60 Kbps.

“The voice experience will also be enhanced in this journey into a world of data services,” Airtel president-Mobile Services Atul Bindal told a press conference.

Airtel, which saw over one lakh of its 2G users switch to the 3G experience within three days of launching in Bangalore, expects similar success in ringing in the next wave of mobile telephony in Tamil Nadu, which it regards as a key market in leading the telecom revolution.

Airtel has a customer base of 1.2 crore in Tamil Nadu and delivers its mobile services through a network of 11,000 cell sites, a good number of which will have co-located 3G equipment.

Mr. Bindal hinted at a rapid expansion of the 3G footprint, adding new locations “every fortnight and every month” with a target of at least 40 cities across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by March and 1,500 cities in India by March 2012.

Film actor and Airtel's brand ambassador Karthi, who was put on video call, feigned to be held up at a distant location before walking into the thick of the launch, where a demo package on the 3G experience played out to the background score of Aerosmith's “Dream On.”

Karthi, who took Airtel's first 3G connection in the State, said he was really excited about the possibilities that his phone opened up for him now.

The actor who is playing a double role – a cop and a thief – in “Siruthai” said the cool thing (about 3G) would be being able to catch up with the news on live TV, video-calling home and indulging in video blogging. “The only downside is that I can no longer lie about where I am,” he joked.

Vineet Taneja, Airtel's Operations Director (South) said the “Airtel Live,” the WAP portal for applications had been completely redesigned to accommodate a 3G zone.

Airtel has also put together tariff plans to suit every category of 3G customer, from the “sachets” for occasional users to the “flexi-shield” plan for subscribers with heavy data consumption.

Mr. Bindal later told The Hindu that the network had been customised to provide 3G services on the same SIM cards that 2G users were having.