Bharti Airtel is looking at Platinum 3G, a service which combines 900 MHz and 2100 MHz spectrum, as a fall back option to its 4G network. The telco’s trials involves the 4G network being seamlessly able to fall back to platinum 3G network in areas where network coverage is low, says the company’s hub-CEO (Mumbai, Maharashtra, Goa & Gujrat) Ashok Ganapathy to FE’s Rhik Kundu and Pranav Nambiar. Excerpts from an interview.
How is Bharti Airtel’s 4G roll out looking like?
We are currently on a trial phase in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, among the other cities, where we are taking feed back from customers and fine tuning our network.
How are you fine tuning your network?
We have launched platinum 3G services earlier in the year. Previously, we were offering our 3G services on 2100 MHz spectrum. Since January, we have launched 3G services on a second carrier – 900 MHZ – which has a better building penetration. We call the resultant combination of both these network as platinum 3G.
How will platinum 3G strengthen your 4G services?
All Airtel customers now gets a platinum 3G by default when they activate their 3G services. 4G services, which is really about taking the data experience on a higher level, is not ubiquitous as there are challenges on various fronts like in-building penentration. Our approach is to get both 3G and 4G network to work in conjunction. The testing process is a lot about the 4G network being seamlessly able to fall back to platinum 3G network in areas where network coverage is low.
From a customers standpoint, what is required to access 4G network?
Customers need 4G/LTE-enabled handsets. Apart from the network, customers will also need an upgraded sim. Most of the older sims are of 32 kb and 64 kb variants, but to avail 4G services one needs to have a 128 kb sim (ultra sim).
Is there a worry that Over The Top (OTT) players will benefit at your expense with the launch of 4G network?
The OTT don’t affect us since they are consuming data on our network. Every challenge throws up opportunity – more people are using whatsapp today than three years ago, and hence consuming more data.