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Airtel seeks West Bengal govt permission for Wi-Fi hotspots in Kolkata

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KOLKATA: War for internet data market seems to intensify in Kolkata as telecom operator Bharti Airtel is in the process of seeking permission from the West Bengal government to create Wi-Fi hotspots across the city to push data usage.

“We have sought permission from the state government to create hotspots across the city as we are also looking at Wi-Fi service to consumers,” Airtel CEO (Bengal & Odhisa) R S Negi said, on the sidelines of launching company’s 3G service in the Kolkata circle on its recently acquired The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) 900 Mhz spectrum.

In February, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the company owned by Mukesh Ambani’s flagship Reliance Industries, rolled out a free 4G Wi-Fi service at Park Street, enabling Kolkata as the first metro city with a 4G-enabled high-speed internet service. The company last week said that four more areas of Kolkata will turn into Wi-Fi enabled zones by next month. The company, which is investing around Rs 3,300 crore to roll out 4G in Bengal, plans to offer the free service as part of a sampling experiment. The official commercial launch will take place later.

Data is turning out to be major focus for the telecom companies, experts said.

While Negi declined to give financial numbers, he said that half of the incremental revenue for Bharti Airtel comes from data services.

He also informed that the company may use 3G or 4G network to fire the Wi-Fi service or in a combination of both depending on the situation.

Airtel is already offering free Wi-Fi on two bus routes, as trial to this mode of service, since late last year.

According to Negi, the new 3G service branded as Platinum 3G will offer better speed for consumers and better outdoor and indoor coverage, while adding that the company is not tweaking with the existing 3G tariff for consumers.

However, the new 3G is only for Kolkata and not Rest of West Bengal (RoWB) circle. Kolkata is the second circle for 3G service based on UMTS 900 after Mumbai for Airtel.

“With the launch of Platinum 3G, Airtel customers of Kolkata can browse the internet 122 per cent faster than any other 3G network, get 36 per cent better indoor coverage and enjoy extended battery life. Additionally, users can stream videos 144  per cent faster than the existing speed. Customers need not to pay extra to avail this superior connectivity and can enjoy Platinum 3G at the existing 3G tariffs,” he said.

This 3G services in Kolkata on the 900 Mhz spectrum will offer better speed than when these services are offered on another bandwidth.

The 3G network in Kolkata is likely to be managed by Nokia Networks, which already has the operations & maintenance mandate for its 2G and 4G networks in the city.

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