Idea Cellular, the telecom company controlled by the Aditya Birla group, said it will spend Rs 6,000 cr to expand its 3G and 4G services in the current financial year.
The planned investment of Rs 6,000 cr has been “earmarked for expanding broadband coverage (and to) increase wireless data capacity” and for the launch of VoLTE service, the company said.
Idea, though a little late in waking up the reality of 4G services, has made up for lost time by expanding its services very fast. Its pace of 4G addition has been far higher than that of Vodafone, and even surpassed market leader Bharti Airtel in some months.
In the one year from April last year to March this year, Idea added 19,142 3G sites and 26,209 4G sites, taking its total to 69,202 for 3G and 40,852 for 4G.
In comparison, Bharti Airtel added 72,663 broadband towers in the year, out of which around 40,000 are estimated to be 4G.
The total 3G+4G towers with Airtel is at 191,000, while Idea has 90,000 such base stations.
Including 2G, the total base stations with Idea is 241,540, while that with Airtel is estimated at around 3 lakh.
Idea said it will launch VoLTE or voice over 4G services this year. The service is likely to carry lower calling rates than traditional voice calls and allow the company to challenge Reliance Jio on its own ground.
Bharti Airtel could, however, beat Idea in VoLTE launch, and is seen coming out with the service over the next few weeks.
Idea also said that it will launch 4G services in Mumbai by the end of this month.
Between April last year to March this year, Idea launched 4G services in eight areas —
Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (east and west), Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Jammu & Kashmir — expanding its 4G broadband services to 19 telecom circles.
However, these services have been launched on the lower-capacity FDD spectrum unlike its main rivals like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.
Idea said it will launch services on TDD high-capacity spectrum in the 2300 MHz band this year, while the launch of such services on 2500 MHz band — which has to be co-ordinated with Vodafone — will take place after March 2018.
Idea has 10 MHz of 2300 MHz spectrum in three circles — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala.
In other places, Idea and Vodafone purchased 2500 MHz spectrum for launching high-capacity 4G services.
BSNL too has its 4G spectrum in the 2500 band, and will launch its services by around December this year.
However, most phones in India do not support 2500 band (also called band 41), and these players will have to rely heavily on data dongles to increase consumption.