India discussing 4G mobile services even as 3G is delayed

India's telecom regulator has initiated discussions on the introduction of a fourth-generation (4G) mobile standard in the country, even as the auction for spectrum for 3G (third-generation) networks has been delayed by over a year.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said on Wednesday that it is preparing a consultation paper on mobile wireless broadband services based on the International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced (IMT-Advanced)standard proposed by the International Telecommunications Union.

The new 4G networks will allow users to stream mobile multimedia, such as TV broadcasts and online games, with speeds of up to 10 times that of 3G networks, TRAI said.

In order to facilitate introduction of 4G mobile broadband services, TRAI said it will consider related issues such as licensing and the allocation and pricing of spectrum for such services.

The objective at this stage is to prepare a consultation paper for wider deliberation, so as to result in recommendations enabling the government to take appropriate decision or for appropriate regulations by the regulator, TRAI said.

It has called for comments from "all the stakeholders" by March 15.

Originally scheduled for January last year, the auction of 3G spectrum to the private sector was postponed to January this year because of differences within the government on the pricing of the spectrum. The auction has been again delayed, reportedly because of delay by the country's Ministry of Defence in releasing the spectrum required for commercial use.

India had 525 million mobile subscribers at the end of last year.

Two large government-owned telecommunications services providers, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam and Bharat Sanchar Nigam are already offering 3G services through an out-of-turn allotment of spectrum.

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