Idea cellular the 3rd largest operator by subscriber base, which was in a 3G intra circle roaming agreement with Airtel and Vodafone to achieve a Pan India 3G footprint has now decided to end the agreement with Airtel effective from 15th November. Idea will continue the partnership with Vodafone going forward.
The above screenshot is from an SMS that Idea sent out to a subscriber in Mumbai circle. Interestingly Idea won 5 MHz of spectrum in 2100 MHz band in Mumbai circle in the recent spectrum auction, which indicates that Idea may be planning on using the spectrum to launch Band 1 FD-LTE in Mumbai while continuing to offer 3G services using Vodafone’s network.
Idea currently lacks own 3G in Mumbai, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, North East and Odisha circles where it depends on the ICRA with Airtel and Vodafone. Airtel now has Pan India footprint of own 3G network using 2100 MHz and 900 MHz spectrum, which is why it now doesn’t feel the need for continuing the ICRA.
Idea in combination with Vodafone will continue to offer Pan India 3G to its subscribers. Going forward the two operators may ink similar roaming agreement for 4G as well, since both possess liberalised spectrum in 2500 MHz band which they bought in the recently concluded spectrum auction. Both networks share good synergy and such agreements can reduce the capex and opex of both companies.
New 4G entrant Reliance Jio has spectrum sharing agreement with Reliance communications for the 850 MHz band since the spectrum cap rules prevent it from individually holding 10 MHz in the band. Additionally Rcom subscribers also have access to Jio’s 1800 and 2300 MHz spectrum through similar ICRA arrangement between the two operators. This is in addition to all the passive infrastructure sharing agreements between them.
Image courtesy: Aaditya Kelkar