Bharti Airtel, country's largest mobile operator, is going to enter a challenging phase with Reliance Jio's upcoming & much-anticipated commercial launch of 4G services.
To make it short, Airtel's strategy regarding 4G is basically in limbo until Jio launches its services. They are watching Jio's footprints but thanks to Jio's super secret policy they can see only what Jio is showing to everybody.
Jio have understood that there is no ecosystem for 4G in India and they are creating one of their own - which puts them well ahead of all competitors and makes their future robust.
Airtel still can compete with Jio, considering the fact they have huge subscriber base which may work as a shield of protection.
Already my colleague, Sonali Dange pointed out that with few glimpses of upcoming services Jio proves its worth over Airtel. But in this article I would like discuss on two things which give an edge to Airtel.
Airtel's FDD-LTE Based 4G Network
Airtel acquired technology agonist spectrum on 1.8Ghz band in 15 circles - this spectrum is in addition to already available spectrum on the same band. Airtel will use this spectrum for LTE-FDD roll out; an addition to its LTE-TDD network on 2.3Ghz band.
Airtel has already kickstarted the process to establish LTE1800 network. They inked a deal with Ericsson for such gears in at least 2 circles in October, and with Huawei in Tamilnadu & Karnataka.
Advantages of LTE1800:
1. It offers wider coverage than LTE2300 - less BTS to be placed.
2. Airtel can choose LTE1800 for less populated areas and LTE aggression (LTE FDD 1800 + LTE TDD 2300) for densely populated areas.
3. LTE1800 is presently most popular 4G technology worldwide, around 1/3rd of LTE roll outs are on this band & this technology (LTE-FDD). This means Airtel will have a better ecosystem available for them.
4. Unlike Uninor, which has quite less spectrum and plans for narrow band LTE1800 roll out in future, Airtel has enough spectrum and can think of fully fledged LTE1800 network across India.
5. As Airtel's partners Vodafone & Idea for similar plans for LTE1800, it can easily go for pan India services via roaming agreements, this will also ensure that their customers will experience less patchy network.
6. Jio is right now more focused on LTE-TDD2300, so if Airtel can roll out LTE1800 in next 6-8 circles it can give them a boost.
Network Sharing Deal between Airtel-Jio:
Once Jio launches 4G services, Airtel (which owns 2300Mhz spectrum in 8 circles) can leverage the deal with Jio by expanding its reach to more regions.
As of now on 4G turf, Airtel is an insignificant name, but by analysing its power & weakness it can stay afloat even in the toughest days.