MTNL is set to launch 3G services from tomorrow, when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh makes the first call on this service.
While MTNL and even BSNL have been given priority by the government in terms of 3G spectrum, private sector telecom service providers may get to initiate their own third-generation services only by summer, as the government has opted to reserve the first mover advantage for the public sector telcos.
However, despite this, most mobile subscribers may prefer to wait for the private sector companies to launch their 3G services, on account of the perceived service quality.
BSNL is offering EVDO services on a commercial basis, ''as a pilot'' in select cities. It has confirmed that it is offering 2Mbps via 'evolution-data optimised' or 'evolution-data only' (EVDO) at Rs750 per month, with the EVDO card being priced at Rs6500.
3G is the third generation of tele standards and technology for mobile networking, superseding 2.5G. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) family of standards under the IMT-2000.
3G networks enable network operators to provide users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectrum efficiency.
Such services include wide-area wireless voice telephony, video calls, and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment.
MTNL will be installing 15 lakh 3G lines in the first phase of its 3G roll-out in Mumbai and Delhi, which currently have 35 lakh existing mobile lines, and has tied up with content providers for the third-generation service, known for its video streaming quality and data surfing speeds.
According to sources, high speed data download up to 2 mbps, streaming services, Mobile TV etc. will be available immediately; video calling will be introduced subsequently.
However, MTNL's network is restricted to Delhi and Mumbai, and until the BSNL network becomes operational, facilitating interconnectivity between the two telcos, users will be confined to the network available within the city.
Apart from quality of service, 3G will have little or no impact on the price of voice services. The real difference will be in case of data access.
Most private operators are expected to roll out 3G services by the middle of next year if the auctions take place in December.
This could impact the sale of smartphones. The Apple 3G phone, which has ben launched in India has not made a murmer since 3G services are envisaged some time away.
In the wireless data market, currently, there are two key private sector service providers - Reliance Communications, which claims a 60-per cent marketshare, and Tata Communications. Airtel too has a low key wireless data card.
Both Reliance and Tata Communications are said to be losing ground, due to the MTNL early roll out of 3G services.