- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—NEW DELHI — Chances are you paid at least Rs.50,000 to get what is considered one of the coolest, most technologically advanced and aspired-for mobile devices in the world—the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Unfortunately, if you’re an Airtel user in the national capital region of Delhi, then you’re perhaps better off with Micromax Yuphoria, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G, Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen) 4G or Nokia Lumia 638, all of which cost less than Rs.8,000. This is because as technologically advanced as the Apple devices are said to be, users of the latest iPhone still can’t access the now month-old 4G services in the national capital provided by Bharti Airtel Ltd.

“The devices are optimized for American spectrum standards and cannot access the particular sub-band on which we have to provide the 4G services in India,” an industry official, requesting anonymity. “We are working on fixing the problem. It is working for all other 4G devices from Samsung, Micromax and others,” he added.

Globally, 4G-based communications services are available in two forms: TD or time duplex and FD or frequency duplex. These variants of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology, better known as 4G, allow telcos to offer far higher speeds and capacity of wireless data on mobile devices (above 20MBps). While the FD variant works mainly on the 1800Mhz and 800Mhz bands, the TD variant works on the 2300MHz band.

Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd are the only two companies in the city with 2300Mhz spectrum, which they won as a consequence of the 2010 spectrum auction. Other telcos, like Idea and Vodafone, are expected to roll out the FD variant using 1800Mhz spectrum acquired in the last two auctions. But that is expected to take some time as they have only now started testing the services in some parts of the country.

Bharti Airtel has so far rolled out its 4G services in more than 20 cities using the FD-LTE on 1800Mhz spectrum band and is now rolling out the TD-LTE variant of 4G technology on a beta-testing model in many other cities. The telco is expected to deploy 4G services in around 50 cities by the end of this year.

In Delhi, 4G services are in the beta testing phase and available to anyone with a 4G-enabled phone and 4G-enabled SIM card. Airtel is charging the same as its 3G services for the new offering.

Interestingly, the telco faced the same problem when it first launched 4G services in Bengaluru in December 2013. Apple issued a carrier update for two of its iPhone 5S and 5C models (A1529 and A1530), which are meant for the India market, that allowed the phones to avail 4G services. There is no word as yet on whether there will be any such update for the latest iPhone currently available in the market.

On 22 July, Apple posted a 93% jump in iPhone sales in India, for the quarter, faster than the 87% reported in China. However, this is on a lower base compared with the northern neighbour. India is estimated to have less than a 0.5 million iPhone 6 devices compared with China’s more than 12 million, an industry analyst estimated.

This story has been modified to reflect a change in attribution in the second paragraph.

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(c)2015 the Mint (New Delhi)

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