Vodafone India the second largest operator with a subscriber base of over 200 Million users may launch what may be India's first LTE network on band 1 (2100 MHz) in Tamil Nadu circle before the end of this year.
Vodafone has secured 10 MHz of liberalised spectrum in the 2100 MHz band in the October auction which ended over a month back. Vodafone already has one block of 5 MHz in the band which it is currently using for HSPA+ services in the circle, this indicates that the operator will in all likelihood use the newly acquired spectrum for 4G.
Vodafone has in Tamil nadu reportedly started sending SMS and displaying message in USSD post call summary about the availability of free 4G sim upgrade for existing customers at their nearest Vodafone store. Vodafone has also set up stalls in cafeterias of IT companies in Chennai and the stall managers have confirmed that the 4G launch may happen before year end.
Vodafone was the operator who acquired the largest quantity of spectrum in the October auction where it bought a total of 365.2 MHz of airwaves at a whopping cost of Rs. 20,280 crore. Vodafone was forced to invest this much since larger rivals Airtel and Jio both have pan India 4G network coverage and Vodafone would lose out on the 4G surge if it had chosen to not invest in the spectrum.
Since most of the network towers set up by Vodafone in the last two years are single RAN, they support instant network upgrade through a software level tweaking, which implies that as soon as DoT allocates the spectrum to Vodafone (they probably already have it, since DoT had promised to allot it in 30 days after auction end) it could potentially set up the 4G network on 2100 MHz with the flick of a switch. 2100 MHz will give Vodafone users slightly better coverage than the 2300 MHz band used by Airtel and Jio.
Inputs: Ajay Prashanth