Indian PM launches nation's first 3G service

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has launched the nation's first 3G service, operated by state-owned telecom giant MTNL.

MTNL is currently only offering its 3G service in parts of Central Delhi, and has described yesterday's event as a "soft launch." The network will go live by the end of January.  MTNL intends to initially invest 4 billion rupees ($83 million) rolling out 3G services in Delhi and Mumbai.

The operator's Delhi customers will not be charged for using the 3G network during this trial phase. In fact, MTNL yet to set its 3G tariffs.

According to the Economic Times, fellow state-owned operator BSNL will conduct its own soft 3G launch by the end of the month.

Private operators will have to wait longer before they can launch 3G services - licenses and spectrum have yet to be allocated, and won't be until early next year.

Bharti Airtel CEO Manoj Kohli told the ET the private operator will be ready to launch around six months after the spectrum allocation process.