Idea Cellular and Vodafone in India started sharing their some of their networks in October, and will soon increase their 4G coverage by about 5,000 villages due to this, the Aditya Birla Group company said.

Idea Q2 vs Q1

“In October 2017, Idea and Vodafone India have entered into Active Infrastructure sharing arrangement, to avoid duplication of spends and make best use of capex, and both operators have started to enjoy expanded coverage from such shared sites,” it said today.

“Similarly, additional 4G coverage in nearly 5,000 new towns and neighbouring villages for each operator is under discussion/ testing and the company expects to close the new 4G intracircle arrangements with Vodafone India at the earliest,” it added.

As of the end of June, Idea’s 4G signals were available in 42,000 villages.

At the end of September, the number is expected to have risen to about 60,000 villages. Vodafone’s numbers are not available.

3G-4G OVERTAKES 2G

Idea Cellular also saw the crossing of a crucial milestone during the September quarter, as the total number of 3G and 4G base stations overtook the total number of 2G cell sites.

Wireless broadband cell sites totaled 1.34 lakh at the end of September, compared to 1.17 lakh at the end of June.

Along with Vodafone, Idea is now likely to have about 2.7 lakh mobile broadband base stations — more than Bharti Airtel’s 2.26 lakh and an estimated 2.0-2.5 lakh for Reliance Jio.

However, give the possible overlap in location, about 50,000 of these mobile broadband base stations may be shut down, making the effective total comparable to those of Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.

Idea said people are buying more 4g handsets that it expected.

“4G adoption rate is ahead of initial company estimates primarily driven by affordable smartphones, expanding 4G coverage and world’s lowest ‘voice and mobile broadband tariffs’,” it said.

As such, said the company, almost all of Idea’s incremental network capital investments is allocated to 4G expansion (including fibre and capacity).

“The 4G population under coverage has nearly tripled from 14.8% (~170 mn) in Q2FY17 to 38.1% (~450 mn),” it said.

Though not officially confirmed, it is estimated that Idea Cellular overtook Vodafone in terms of data traffic sometime last year.

During the latest quarter, Idea continued to cut prices to compete with Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

Average mobile data pricing fell by half to about Rs 27 per GB, or half of what it was charging three months earlier.

Despite halving of data tariff on quarter, the consumption increased only by 74%, resulting in a net shrinkage of data revenue.

Total data traffic carried on the network doubled to 438.7 bln MB. This was, however, below the 784 bln for Bharti Airtel and a whopping 3,800 bln for Jio for the same period.

While Idea’s total mobile data users on Idea network remained flat at 38.2 million, the broadband (3G+4G) subscribers increased by 3.2 million to 29.6 million.

“Further, the planned deployment of 2300 MHz or 2500 MHz spectrum band in many of its leadership markets during the current financial year will further boost Idea’s 4G capacity in these key markets,” the company said.

Idea’s fiber network has now cross the 1.5 lakh km mark, with 150,500 km of fiber at the end of September. It said total investment into the business has crossed 1.22 lakh cr. In comparision, Reliance Jio is estimated to have invested about Rs 2.5 lakh cr.

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