Second-largest Indian operator launches 3G services

India’s second-biggest mobile operator, Reliance Communications, has begun operating its 3G networks. Operating under R-Com, it has switched on 3G services in Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh and Kolkata.

Of India’s 22 telecoms ‘circles’, R-Com holds licences to operate in 13, but will wait until next year before it launches 3G services in the remaining nine. With company profits in decline for five consecutive quarters, the operator is looking to 3G as a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

R-Com may be entering the 3G market early, but it already faces competition from Tata Teleservices, which became India’s first privately-owned operator to offer 3G services when it launched its networks in November. Meanwhile, the country’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel is on track to switch on its 3G network by the end of 2010.

R-Com has sought to disassociate itself with the 2G licensing scandal that is currently embroiling the country’s telecoms sector, rebutting claims from the country’s chief auditor that it held shares in one of the licensees – Swan Telecom – when the licences were issued in 2008.

R-Com has refuted this assertion, stating “R-Com does not hold any of the 85 licences issued in January 2008 which the CAG in its report has considered lacking in basic eligibility. R-Com, through its 100 percent subsidiary Reliance Telecom, was a 9.9 percent equity shareholder in Swan Telecom only till 5 December 2007, while Swan was granted the Letter of Intent [to acquire the spectrum] on 10 January 2008."

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