Reliance communications the 4th largest operator by subscriber base has shut down its own 2G network in 5 out of the 22 telecom circles. Reliance which used to be a Pan India 2G operator had 900MHz spectrum in 7 circles which came up for renewal this month. In the auctions conducted in March this year Reliance was only able to retain its spectrum in 2 out of the 7 circles and has now on 12th December discontinued its own 2G services in the remaining 5 circles and has tied up with Vodafone for 2G ICRA in these circles.
Rcom's 900MHz 2G spectrum in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Odisha and North East circles came up for renewal this year and Rcom was only able to retain its spectrum in Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh where it continues to offer uninterrupted service and bought 1800MHz spectrum in Odisha and North East. Initially Rcom's plan was to use the newly bought 1800MHz spectrum to continue its own 2G services in Odisha and North East but since 1800MHz has lower coverage and inside building penetration than 900MHz airwaves, Rcom would have to invest a great amount in adding towers to match the existing coverage, which is why a 2G ICRA with Vodafone instead was a more financially sound alternative and Rcom kept aside its new 1800MHz spectrum in these 2 circles for own 4G FD-LTE deployment in the future.
Reliance has 3G spectrum in all of these 5 circles and had informed its 2G subscribers to recharge with minimum Rs.11 3G voucher before 12th December to be shifted to Reliance 3G network and once the subscriber is upgraded to 3G network he can fall back on to Vodafone 2G network where Reliance 3G is lacking. Vodafone has 900MHz 2G spectrum in West Bengal circle and 1800MHz spectrum in Bihar, Assam and North East and Odisha circles which can now be used as fallback spectrum for reliance 3G subscribers in these circles. Vodafone also bought fresh 900MHz spectrum in Odisha in the auction in march this year which is liberalised and Vodafone may choose to use it for own 3G.
Rcom no longer offers 2G data packs in these 5 circles and subscriber who wish to use data will have to recharge with 3G vouchers which will also work with Edge on the Vodafone network in 2G only areas. Sources have revealed that Rcom plans to extend the 2G ICRA with Vodafone on a Pan India scale. Rcom currently has 2G Intra circle roaming agreement with Aircel and Tata Docomo in most circles, it also has 3G Inter circle roaming agreement with Aircel in 5 circles. A source who did not wish to be named has also revealed to TT that Rcom is already offering Pan India 2G and 3G roaming for Jio employees who have the test 4G LTE sim and are using it in non VoLTE phones which rely on 3G and 2G networks for voice through circuit switched fallback. Also Rcom subscribers will be able to latch on to Jio LTE network after commercial launch.
Inputs: Soumya Ranjan Pati (Odisha circle)