Tuesday, July 05, 2016

India's Telecom Map - 2G/3G/4G [2016]

Back at Telecomtalk I had made a series of Telecom Maps. I had shared 2G, 3G and 4G maps earlier. But with the change of time those maps need to be updated. However this year i.e. 2016 will be the year of LTE in India. Apart from Airtel who started 4G services back in 2012 this year will see several players to jump into 4G space. Idea and Vodafone already launched their 4G services in selected markets. Jio, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries will launch its commercial launch anytime soon. 

Let's start with Idea Cellular. We will discuss both 3G and 4G spectrum of Idea Cellular. 

Idea Cellular - 3G and 4G Maps

Idea won 2.1GHz spectrum in 11 circles in 2010, those airwaves are used for 3G services. In 2015 auction, Idea grabbed a chunk of 5MHz on 2.1GHz band in Kolkata and 900MHz spectrum in Delhi. In Delhi Idea launched UMTS900, i.e. 3G services over 900MHz band (similar to Airtel's Platinum 3G). 

It should be noted that Idea has almost pan India 3G presence via ICRA route over Airtel and Vodafone's 3G networks.

In last 2 years Idea kept saying that India is not ready for 4G/LTE. However sensing the threat from Reliance Jio's entry in 4G turf, Idea started rolling out 4G services in selected circles using it's technology neutral 1.8GHz band. 

In November 2015 Idea acquired spectrum in two more circles (Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh West) from Videocon. Right now Idea is capable of roll out LTE-FDD on 1800MHz band in total of 12 circles. The deal with Videocon was cancelled and eventually Airtel acquires 6 circles from Videocon.

It should be noted that in 2010 Idea did not win any of 2.3GiHz band. 

In three circles in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh East and Mumbai Idea has less than 5MHz spectrum which can be used for Narrow Band LTE deployment, however in Mumbai NB-LTE doesn't make a sense as Mumbai has huge population to serve.

From the above chart it's clear that Idea has some circles with more than 5 MHz spectrum which are won in 2012. But there are some lack of transparency that this spectrum is tech neutral or not. Hence Idea stays away to roll out 4G in these circles (Kolkata, WB, Jammu Kashmir and Assam), otherwise Idea can have 16 circles with LTE-FDD. 

World wide narrow band LTE is getting importance as it can be deployed even with just 200MHz chunk. Experts believe this NB LTE can be a game changer for IoT (Internet of Things). 

Vodafone India - 3G and 4G Maps

Vodafone India is always cautious about its money being spent on useless stuffs and they invest money in a very serious way. In 2010 Vodafone invested only in 9 circles for 3G spectrum and opt for Intra Circle Roaming Agreement (ICRA) to go pan India via Idea and Airtel's network. 

In 2015, Vodafone invested in bagging 2100MHz band in 6 circles and 5MHz liberalized 900MHz band in Orissa. With new 7 circles, Vodafone's 3G hunt stops at total of 16 circles. 

Vodafone did not bag any spectrum on 2300MHz band in 2010. However they won technology neutral spectrum in 1800MHz band which LTE-FDD supported. With this Vodafone is to engage into the war against Jio. 

Vodafone seems to be seeing 4G as a business case in India, and hence they are in talks with Tikona to buy later's 20MHz of spectrum in 5 circles over 2.3GHz band. 

Vodafone is also in talks with You Broadband as Vodafone is eyeing for later's fiber optic network. 


India's largest mobile operator, Airtel has huge spectrum bank across many bands except 800MHz band. 

Reliance Jio

Jio, as Reliance Industries is promoting its telecom brand is robustly shaped with its spectrum bank. The company yet to launch its commercial services, but invested some thousand crore rupees to make everything right before the launch. 

Here is Jio's spectrum ownership details:

Jio's 1800MHz and 800MHz Map:


Aircel, the JV of India's Apollo Hospitals and Malaysian tele giant Maxis had invested huge in 2010's 3G and BWA auctions. However grabbing these much spectrum did not make the company profitable, rather the spectrum prices dragged them into the debts. After 2010, Aircel was never a major participate in the auctions followed. 

Aircel grabbed 2100MHz spectrum in 13 circles in 2010. In 2015 they did not win any 2100MHz spectrum. 

Aircel grabbed 2300MHz spectrum in 8 circles in 2010. In 2014 Aircel bagged fraction of spectrum in some circles as top up. In 2015 auction Aircel won 10MHz 1.8GHz spectrum only in Tamilnadu circle, which is company's strongest circle. As Aircel has 20MHz 2300MHz spectrum in Tamilnadu circle, we don't expect that Aircel is going to use 1800MHz spectrum for LTE-FDD roll out in this circle.

There are some talks in the market that Aircel may be acquired by Reliance Communications and Aircel may sell its 4G spectrum in 8 circles to Airtel. 

Updated on April 2016, Airtel bought off Aircel's entire 4G assets (of 2300MHz band) in 8 circles for Rs 3500 cr. 


Videocon Telecom has acquired 1800MHz spectrum in 6 circles in 2012. With Punjab they have spectrum in 7 circles. Since then they did not participate in any of the auctions. 

In 2015 they sold their spectrum in Gujarat and UP West to Idea Cellular. In 2016 Videocon planned to sell its telecom business in phased manner. 

However in March end of 2016 Idea Cellular walked out from the deal and Airtel acquired the spectrum assets (5MHz on 1800MHz band) in all 6 circles of Videocon Telecom except Punjab. Airtel will spend Rs 4428 crore in this transaction. 

They did not confirm anything about their profitable Punjab circle where they have a strong presence on both GSM and CDMA (Ping Mobile). With Videocon Group's strategy it is sure that Videocon is not going to launch 4G in coming future, may be in Punjab circle only. 

Telenor India

Telenor has a long and troubled history in the Indian telecom. In 2009, it invested in Unitech’s mobile unit Unitech Wireless, and later commercially launched mobile services under the Uninor brand. In 2012, it lost all its licenses after Supreme Court’s verdict.

However, they retained license in 6 circles and Unitech left the joint venture. The new entity of Telenor’s Indian venture was named as Telewings when Indian partner was Lakhsadeep Investments & Finance. In October 2014, Telenor acquired full stake of Telewings, and Uninor was rebranded as Telenor India.

In Varanasi (UP West) Telenor has launched 4G using LTE-FDD technology on 1800MHz. As Telenor has limited spectrum, they has deployed Huawei's Lean-GSM technology and roll out LTE-NB (Narrow Band) over just 1.4MHz channels. 

Telenor 4G Cities: Varanasi (UPW), Agra, Anand (Gujarat), Vishakhapatnam (AP) and Amravati (MH). 

Tata Docomo

Tata Docomo, the telecom brand of Tata Teleservices is under debt and under pressure to perform. Tata Tele has lost its foreign partner NTT Docomo last year. Now Tata Tele is looking for partner. 

There are strong chances that Telenor India, the wholly owned subsidiary of Norway's telecommunications giant Telenor may acquire it while Tata Sons will be a minor shareholder in the merged entity. 

Presently Tata Docomo is present in 19 circles of the country and offers both GSM and CDMA services. Tata Docomo 3G is present in 9 circles only. In earlier auctions, Tata Teleservices merely participated and bagged a fraction of the spectrum as a top-up in fewer circles.

Reliance Communications

Reliance Communications has its 2G GSM presence (900/1800MHz) and CDMA presence (800MHz) across all the 22 circles. However, in the recent auctions, the company did not spend much to bad the tech-neutral spectrum. As per DoT’s calculation, Reliance Communications can make its 800MHz spectrum liberalised in sixteen circles.

The telco is in advanced stages to merge with Sistema Shyam’s telecom venture MTS India. MTS is currently present in nine circles with at least 3.75MHz spectrum on 800MHz band. The company has its 3G presence in thirteen circles since 2010. There are no new 3G circles that were added to the company’s portfolio in 2015.

MTS India (SSTL)

Sistema Shyam Teleservices, which operates under the MTS India brand, is the country’s sole operator which operates only on CDMA technology. At present, it is present in nine circles. Except Rajasthan, all other eight circles have liberalised 800MHz spectrum, which can be used for LTE-FDD deployment. Sistema wants to sell out its business and Reliance Communications seems to clear the roadblocks one by one to get MTS India under its hood.
Reliance Jio and RCom are already in talks to swap 800Mhz spectrum considering the spectrum coming from acquisition of SSTL. 

In this discussion, I intentionally keep BSNL and MTNL away. Firstly, BSNL and MTNL as a whole is present across the country with their 3G services, and their 4G plans are yet to be concrete enough. They hold the 2500MHz spectrum, which will increase their CAPEX to roll out 4G/LTE services and they are already offering WiMAX services on commercial basis in some circles like Kerala. So BSNL/MTNL’s 4G is a long way to come.
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