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Airtel, Vodafone Idea are prepping to challenge Jio

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PW Bureau 

With Airtel Ltd shifting its 2G and 4G networks users in 10 circles to 4G, Vodafone Idea decided to redeploy its legacy airwaves in Mumbai for 4G services

New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea are both hoping to chase quality mobile broadband customers to compete with the fast-growing Reliance Jio Infocomm. With Airtel Ltd shifting its second-generation and third-generation networks users in 10 circles to 4G, Vodafone Idea decided to redeploy its legacy airwaves in Mumbai for 4G services. Airtel, the country’s second largest telecom operator, holds 900 Mhz airwaves in West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh-east and Jammu and Kashmir.

These airwaves were all allocated at government-determined prices.

Airtel would be required to pay the market price for the redistribution of these airwaves as these were not allocated through auctions, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The company plans to deploy its 2100 Mhz band for 4G, having received this 3G spectrum via auctions.

Vodafone Idea’s spectrum refarming outside Mumbai delayed

As Vodafone Idea’s old legacy network equipment does not support 4G LTE services on the 900 Mhz band, the progress on the company’s spectrum refarming outside Mumbai is late, said a person aware of the issue. The country’s telecom market leader recently gave contracts to replace the equipment. The company has consolidated a quarter of its dual radio networks so far, allowing it to offer 2G, 3G and 4G services on the same network.

Chief technology officer, Randeep Sekhon, said Airtel “has deployed 4G in the 900 Mhz band in 10 circles,” which would help it “significantly step up user experience with improved indoor coverage and also complement its massive 4G capacity in the 2300 Mhz and 1800 Mhz bands.”

Airtel, which reported a nearly 72 percent fall in quarterly profit last month, imagines such refarming of airwaves to enhance its 4G network capacity at virtually zero incremental costs. The fast deployment of 900 Mhz spectrum for 4G has resulted in the addition of over 11 million 4G customers in the quarter through December, more than the previous quarter, where around 7 million were added.

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