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Help 3G won't have many takers initially

Only professionals, net-savvy youth and high-end customers to subscribe BY Shilpa Shree Mumbai In an interesting twist to the 3G tale, a recent study has noted that 3G adoption in India will be slow. This goes contrary to the high awareness campaigns currently being doled out by service providers for their 3G offerings, and the technology's famed capabilities to deliver broadband content. Only one in five urban mobile subscribers would opt for 3G services in the short term, a new study by the Nielsen Company has found. It further noted that it may take as long as 8-10 years before a majority of mobile users move onto a 3G plan. The study was released by the Nielsen Company in New Delhi on Wednesday at the 'Consumer 360' conference. However, "The response from consumers has been encouraging, though it is too early to comment on the numbers since we have launched early November," Deepak Gulati, executive president, mobility of Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) said.

Tata DoCoMo, the GSM service arm of TTSL, provides 3G services in nine of out of 22 telecom circles. On early adopters of 3G, he said, "Obviously the high end customers go for it initially.'' The study found that nearly 70 per cent of urban mobile subscribers are aware of 3G services and 63 per cent were familiar with it as a concept. "While service providers have succeeded in popularising the concept and articulating its promises, consumers seem tentative about their disposition to embrace the technology" said Arjun Urs, director - Client Solutions India of Nielsen. The study also found that the most eager group ready to adopt 3G was "Power users largely made up of working professionals and internet-savvy youth. They told Nielsen they were eager to embrace higher speeds to access the internet and download large attachments," Urs added. The survey noted that 36 per cent of those polled indicated a strong disposition towards 3G adoption. Not surprisingly, less tech reliant groups, showed little enthusiasm about the next wave of mobile services. While government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Nigam Ltd have already launched their 3G services, the response to it has been rather poor, stated market observers. TTSL was the first private telecom provider to launch 3G services.

Market leader Bharti Airtel is expected to launch its 3G services in December, and Vodafone Essar is gearing up to launch its offering in January 2011, to be followed by the Aditya Birla Group-owned Idea Cellular Ltd. Aircel, the joint venture between Malaysia's Maxis Communication Berhad and Apollo Hospital Group is launching its 3G services in January. "We are already rolling out our network and will be launching it in 2011. We have launched 3G experience centres in some of the circles where we will launch our 3G services, to let our customers experience 3G before the launch," said Gurdeep Singh COO of Aircel. The company will be spending around $500 million in 2011 for its 3G network roll out. The telecom industry as a whole is estimated to be spending around $2.5 billion to $3 billion, to ensure a smooth rollout. However, driving migration to 3G devices is expected to be a challenge. The Nielsen study found that bundling 3G services with new handsets would be the most effective course of action for telecom carriers.

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