Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio Infocomm is eyeing the cost-efficient spectrum in the 700 MHz band to create best spectrum combination for its 4G LTE services in the country. It has already offered to acquire as much as 20 MHz in this band if auctions take place early next year, ET reported.
Jio’s push to the government to sell the spectrum may bring it at loggerheads with rivals Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. Jio has assured the department of telecom (DoT) that it will buy any surplus airwaves in case others don’t bid, the ET report said, citing a source.
Interestingly, incumbent telecom operators in the country have so far opposed the auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz band. They now want a lead time of around two years for the ecosystem to develop before buying it. If the auction happens soon, it would drain incumbents of further capital, according to industry watchers.
Reliance Jio holds the highest amount of liberalised spectrum among telecom operators which can be used for deploying any technology for mobile services. It has a total of 751.1 MHz spectrum across 850 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands, and plans to provide seamless 4G services using LTE in all three bands through an integrated ecosystem.
The development is likely to ease the telecom department’s fears about auctioning a band which won’t find many takers. DoT has already sought a starting price for the band, the report added.
The cost-efficient low-frequency 700 MHz band allows the airwaves to cover two times 1800 MHz and four times 2300 MHz for a similarly powered emitter, thus reducing capital expenditure. The 700 MHz can also easily penetrate a concrete wall than higher bands, further improving the indoor coverage.
Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, told ET that the telecom department shouldn’t be in a hurry to auction 700 Mhz airwaves, and identify and harmonise 700MHz band with a global standard, which will give the equipment and handset makers a leg up to start also.
Jio and the top GSM telcos have already locked horns over the move by the latter to raise the cost of liberalising CDMA airwaves and reducing the permissible 10 MHz cap of such spectrum. Evidently, the launch of Jio services will start a fight for subscribers in the country.