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Idea, Vodafone neck-and-neck with Airtel, Jio in 4G tussle

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Idea and Vodafone have spent astronomical sums in spectrum auctions to acquire 2500 MHz airwaves so as to give a tough fight to Airtel and Jio which already have pan-India 4G holdings. Two of three telecom majors in India are betting on lower price of 2500 MHz. Idea Cellular and Vodafone India seem to have bet on 4G airwaves in that band.

Global telecom expert Sanjay Kapoor however says, India would need further towers for 4G and investments. The former chairman of Micromax said that the telecom industry was moving towards consolidation.

In the recent spectrum auction, nearly 60 per cent of airwaves, including premium 4G bands, remained unsold. Meanwhile, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea secured adequate 4G spectrum during the recently-concluded auction to counter Jio, making them more competitive, FE reported.

Airtel acquired 173.8 MHz spectrum in bands of 1800MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 Mhz for Rs 14,244 crore in circles including Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, Delhi, Mumbai and the North-East. Idea acquired 349.20 MHz of spectrum for Rs 12,798 crore in 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands and will be able to offer 4G services on its own spectrum across 20 circles, including nine new service areas of Uttar Pradesh (West), UP (East), Gujarat and Mumbai.

Vodafone India, which has emerged as the most aggressive bidder, has acquired spectrum in 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2500 MHz bands for a total cost of Rs 20,280 crore. It has 17 circles with 4G capability.

Experts said Vodafone and Idea have taken the plunge amid a rapidly-evolving devices ecosystem in 2500 MHz band in China besides the lower price of these airwaves, ET stated.

Idea’s management recently guided for a rollout on this 4G band over the next two to five years as the ecosystem matures. Brokerages expect the 2500 MHz band devices ecosystem to evolve quickly in India thanks to Vodafone and Idea investing in them. Nearly, half the Rs 20,280 crore that second-largest carrier Vodafone spent at the auction went to 4G airwaves in the 2500 MHz band in 15 circles, while No. 3 Idea spent Rs 2,520.8 crore on the same in 16 circles.

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