Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited will launch its third generation mobile telephone services (3G) in Chennai by mid-October.

Major headquarters towns in the State, beginning with Coimbatore, will be covered by end-November (not October as reported earlier), said D.Varadharajan, Chief General Manager of BSNL (Tamilnadu Circle).

BSNL had done a nation-wide commercial launch of the 3G services on February 27 this year.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr.Varadharajan said that the State had most of the facilities in place. Additional towers required were in the process of being installed and the training of personnel was almost complete. BSNL will learn from its Chennai experience and will incorporate the lessons learnt in the subsequent roll out. "We will take about two-three months to extend the facility to all district headquarter towns," he said in response to a question. "The coverage will be limited to city area alone for now," he added.

Private mobile operators will take as long as another year before they launch the services. This is because the Union Minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology, A.Raja, ensured that the public sector companies get spectrum allotted ahead of the 3G auction process. Since the allocation of spectrum, it has taken the BSNL about a year to launch the services. Mr.Raja said that the aim was to provide the premium service in as many locations as possible at an early date.

Tariff for 3G

The first requirement for gaining access to the high quality voice services along with high speed data and video services is to buy a 3G-enabled handset and a 3G SIM card. When the services were rolled out in 11 cities earlier this year, the BSNL had fixed the SIM fee at Rs 300. This rate structure will continue, according to officials. As of now, in the 11 cities, BSNL has voice-based pre-paid plans ranging between Rs 350 and Rs 1,350 while subscribers who opt for the post-paid model will pay between Rs 500 and Rs 2,500 per month. For data services BSNL will charge additionally. Across the country this costs between Rs 250 and Rs 3,001, according to the BSNL website.

Mr.Raja said that he expected the data speed to be over 2 Mbps and that users will have broadband in its truest sense.