With the commercial launch of services by Reliance Jio drawing closer day by day, the company has taken every measure possible to ensure a large scale smooth roll out of services on a Pan India level. Rjio has signed tower sharing deals with Tower vision, ACT India, Viom networks, Bharti AirTel and also with younger brother Anil Ambani’s company Reliance communications. Rjio has signed multiple deals with Rcom which includes sharing of 1,20,000 KM of inter city optic fiber, 5,00,000 KM of intra city optic fiber and 45,000 telecom towers.
Now Rjio is taking this affiliation with Rcom one step further, the two companies will soon tie up with each other for maintenance and servicing of infrastructure, common network operating centres, data centres, content and retail outlets, apart from intra-circle roaming agreements involving RCOM's CDMA (800 MHz) 3G (2100 MHz) 2G(1800MHz)bandwidth and Jio's 4G (1800,2300 MHz) spectrum reports ET .
The Plan of action:
Reliance Jio had acquired 20MHz of spectrum in the 2300MHz band in all 22 telecom circles by its acquisition of Infotel Broadband in 2010. In Feb 2014 it bagged more than 5MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band in 14 telecom circles. The device eco system capable of supporting TD-LTE on 2300MHz is very limited which makes it unsuitable for use deployment for retail customers. The number of towers required for providing FD-LTE on 1800MHz is large and it would have limited indoor coverage, besides Rjio does not have 1800MHz spectrum in all telecom circles. To overcome these limitations Rjio has decided to enter into spectrum sharing deal with Rcom which has Pan India spectrum in 800 and 1800MHz bands and 5MHz of spectrum in 2100MHz band in 13 telecom circles.
In the 800MHz band Rcom has 5MHz of spectrum in 12 circles, 3.75MHz of spectrum in 6 circles and 2.5MHz of spectrum in 4 circles. For CDMA operations Rcom is using one carrier of 1.25MHz for voice and 1x data and one carrier of 1.25MHz for EVDO rev.A data (Equivalent of 3G in GSM). So in 12 circles it has 2.5MHz of spectrum and in 6 circles it has 1.25MHz of spectrum lying vacant and unused, this spectrum will be used for deploying FD-LTE on 800MHz once the new government liberalises the spectrum awarded before the new telecom policy came into force. Both companies plan to deploy LTE advanced by carrier aggregation offering FD-LTE on Rcom’s 800MHz and Rjio’s 1800MHz band simultaneously to provide seamless outdoor and indoor coverage. In areas where there is no LTE coverage the network will fall back to Rcom’s 3G on 2100MHz so that there isn’t a drastic fall in data speeds from LTE to 2G for Rjio customers. As for voice the network will fall back to Rcom’s Pan India 2G network on 1800MHz band through CSFB technology. As a result of this, both Rjio and Rcom will be able to provide seamless 2G, 3G and 4G services on a Pan India level.
As for the 2300MHz spectrum held by Rjio, it will be used to provide home broadband to retail customers through additional customer premise equipment (CPE) installed at the customer’s house. It will also be used to cater to Enterprise and corporate sector users as a supplementation in areas where its fiber optic network is not present. Consequently, the enterprise customers of RCOM can be migrated to a 4G (of Jio) offering as required. At the moment, around 850 of India's top 1,000 companies are RCOM's clients, with some subscribing only to Internet dongles while others use a wider set of integrated services.
RCOM will also have access to Jio's content bank. The companies are also exploring teaming up on the retail front, for an increased footprint at no incremental cost. The Anil Ambani company has already added around 100 stores over the last fortnight and is looking to up the total by 800 over the next four months.
How this will affect the current telecom market:
- The tower and infrastructure sharing deals signed by Rjio will drastically cut down on its capital expenditure (capex) in setting up new infrastructure and will ensure earlier launch of services commercially.
- The spectrum sharing deals with Rcom will ensure the best in class network experience on the go for customers of both telecom companies with wider coverage footprint and lesser operating expenditure (opex).
- Since Rcom has a large number of retail outlets (Reliance world) and is setting up new ones at a rapid rate, these will be shared by Rjio to cater to the needs of the end user, thus becoming a win win situation for both the operators and the users.
- This will give the incumbent operators a run for their money, since the drastic cut in capex and opex will translate to lower tariffs being offered by Rjio and Rcom.
The possible future game plan of this tie up:
- With the uncertainty of the availability of the 700MHz band for LTE offering in India and the shift of focus towards the 800MHz band for FD-LTE, Rcom could look to acquire more spectrum in the 800MHz band, either through auctions depending on DOT’s take on auction of EGSM band or by acquisition of Tata Docomo. NTT Docomo has already declared that it will be quitting its Indian venture in the near future and Tata has surrendered all 800MHz CDMA spectrum in excess of 2.5MHz in 15 circles and holds 3.75MHz in the remaining 4 circles, which was a move made so that the acquiring company would not have to pay market price for spectrum in excess of the startup spectrum awarded with the licence.
- Rcom will look to bid for 3G spectrum in 9 circles in the upcoming 2100MHz auctions so as to become a Pan India 3G operator. It could still continue with its 3G ICRA with Tata Docomo and Aircel for wider coverage.
- Rjio will look to bid for spectrum in 1800MHz band in the auction to be held in 2015 in 8 circles where it currently does not hold spectrum.
- Rjio may continue to slowly set up more of its own towers and reduce dependence on Viom and Bharti Airtel after reaching its break even point, thus saving on rent being paid to these companies for infrastructure use.
- As the device eco system for LTE matures, the companies can look forward to shifting from CSFB to VoLTE which provides HD voice calling.
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