Airtel, Vodafone left waiting on spectrum handover period

28 Oct 2014

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has belatedly allotted the majority of the 1800MHz spectrum awarded via auction in February this year, the Economic Times writes. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL) and Uninor have reportedly all received their 1800MHz frequencies, whilst Airtel and Idea are yet to receive their 900MHz spectrum.

The DoT has yet to comment on whether Vodafone or Airtel will be granted additional time to reconfigure their existing 900MHz networks in the metro circles (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata). The duo’s concessions are due to expire next month, but both operators estimate that the handover to the 1800MHz band will take six months to complete at the very least and will most likely take longer. The Times of India writes that lobby group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) is pressing the Prime Minister’s Office to speed up the allocations and to give the cellcos a grace period for reconfiguration. ‘We will urge the PMO to ensure operators whose licences expire next month be given at least six months from the grant of spectrum to switch over to an altered spectrum mix to avoid disruption to customers,’ COAI director general Rajan Matthews explained.

More than 35 million customers stand to have their mobile services disrupted should the DoT and the PMO refuse the COAI’s request. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) most recent report, at the end of August this year Vodafone’s metro user base stood at 21.79 million (Dehli 9.26 million, Kolkata 4.73 million and Mumbai 7.81 million), whilst Airtel accounted for a further 14.60 million subscribers in the metro circles (Dehli 10.64 million and Kolkata 3.96 million)