Idea Cellular, the country’s third largest telecom operator by users, said that it will spend Rs 1000 crore more on network capital expenditure to maximize the spectrum and to capatalise on 4G opportunity in the market.
“Our priority is to maximize the spectrum we have just bought and what we bought in 2015…this year we had said we will spend Rs 7,000 crore but we will now be increasing it by Rs 1,000 crore.” Idea Cellular’s Managing Director Himanshu Kapania, told ET in an interaction. “After this the capex will taper off unless there is a big demand for data,” he added.
Idea Cellular bought 349.2 MHz of spectrum at a bid value of Rs 12,798 crore in a 5-day spectrum sale conducted by the government. The telco acquired additional 2x74.6 MHz spectrum in FDD technology on 1800 and 2100 bands, and 200 MHz of capacity spectrum in TDD technology on 2300 and 2500 bands, the telco said in a statement.
The new airwaves acquisition helped Idea to reach its mobile broadband footprint across all 22 telecom circles.
Idea has now increased its spectrum holding by 64%. It now has 650 MHz for broadband service of which 170MHz will be used for 3G and 380MHz for 4G services.
Kapania admitted that Idea is six months behind in the 4G space, which has already wider availability of 4G services by telcos like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio. “…but, the market will grow gradually. Every operator will soon start offering bundled plans, like Jio, to take on the market,” he added.
With 4G spectrum acquired in 2014 and 2015, the company has already rolled out services in 11 circles with around 35000 sites. It now has additional nine circles where 4G will be rolled out.
Kapania, in a separate interview to ETNow, said that Idea will start its rollout in newly acquired circles by December-January of this year. “Our expectation is that 50% of our existing 2G sites will be upgraded in the next six to nine months across all these 20 circles,” he added.