Airtel to move 900MHz to LTE, mulls 3G shutdown

29 Oct 2018

Bharti Airtel is planning to migrate its 900MHz band spectrum from 2G voice services to 4G technology, the Economic Times cites CEO Gopal Vittal as saying in an earnings call. ‘We are seeing dramatic growth in 4G demand, and over a period of time, the 900MHz band will purely serve our 4G customers, while 2G services will be continue to be available on the 1800MHz band,’ the official said, adding that the pace of the transition would vary from circle to circle, based on the 2G revenue of the region. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Airtel reported a 132% year-on-year increase in 4G data subscribers in September 2018, counting 65.7 million users, compared to 28.3 million twelve months earlier. To help smooth the transition from 2G to 4G, Airtel is working with Chinese handset manufacturer Xiaomi to import devices that can support LTE on the 900MHz band. The operator dismissed the possibility of it competing with rival Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) in the VoLTE feature phone market, saying that it would instead look for feature phone users to upgrade directly to a smartphone.

Meanwhile, the company is also considering shuttering its 3G network, which is rapidly being made obsolete by its 4G platform and is now generating very little revenue. Airtel has also said that it will introduce minimum recharge plans to reduce the number of marginal users on its network and boost effective ARPU levels. The packs have been trialled in Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh West and Punjab and are expected to be rolled out nationwide shortly. ‘Introduction of these minimum ARPU plans has triggered some reduction in our customer base in these markets, but we expect a positive impact on ARPU going forward,’ Mr Vittal noted.

India, Bharti Airtel