Indian mobile network operator Aircel has announced the launch of its third-generation services, with upgraded speeds initially available in Chennai, the Hindu Business Line reports. The operator has revealed that it expects to extend 3G coverage to eleven of the 13 circles that it bagged spectrum for within the next week, with only Punjab and West Bengal not included in the first stage of its rollout; the remaining two regions are expected to be brought online by the end of March. Aircel also announced that it expects to spend around INR230 billion (USD5 billion) over the next three to five years on its 2G and 3G operations, spending that is expected to take the company’s total investment in India to over INR45 billion since it first launched commercially. Gurdeep Singh, Aircel’s CEO, said that he expected around 35% of the cellco’s customer base to be signed up to 3G services within the next five years.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Aircel was among the winners in the government’s much-delayed 3G auction which was finally concluded in May 2010. It was one of three companies to bag concessions for 13 of the country’s telecoms circles but due to the manner of the bidding – prices were decided on a circle-by-circle basis – it paid INR64.99 billion for its licences, less than both Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications (RCOM), which paid INR122.95 billion and INR85.85 billion for their respective concessions. The 13 regions where Aircel is licensed to offer 3G services are: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Calcutta, Kerala, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (E), West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, North East and Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).