RJIL running out of time for 4G launch; Airtel to double 4G network

9 Mar 2015

Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) is racing to launch 4G services ahead of the government-mandated deadline after recent trials unearthed technical problems, the Economic Times writes, citing unnamed sources close to the development. RJIL must launch services before H2 2015, five years from its original allotment of 2300MHz spectrum, or face punitive action from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

One source was quoted as saying: ‘The network backhaul isn’t ready. Even the billing system is not in place. It would take nearly a month to set up and try out that system. Moreover, it cannot really be put in place until the company has an operational network.’ A spokesperson for the cellco dismissed reports of problems in testing, describing them as ‘mere rumours,’ but declined to comment on a prospective launch date.

In a related development, India’s largest cellco by subscribers Bharti Airtel is planning to double the size of its 4G network over the next fiscal year. Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mitttal was quoted as saying: ‘We have 20,000 [4G] base stations now, in March, and we will be doing another 20,000 next year.’ The official noted that that the company currently spends around USD3 billion a year on networks, and is looking to make more use of its ‘life saving’ 4G spectrum now that 3G networks in the metro circles and large cities are becoming ‘choked up’ due to the shortage of spectrum available to the nation’s cellcos. Mr Mittal also commented that, following Airtel’s recent tie-up with China Mobile, the company was aiming to make multi-band smartphones available for less than INR6,000 (USD95.6).