With Idea spectrum, Vodafone 4G gets a speed boost in Kerala

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Spectrum holdings of Vodafone Idea in India

Consumers of Vodafone 4G, one of the two 4G networks operated by Vodafone Idea, have seen a multi-fold increase its speed in recent days, thanks to the deployment of fresh spectrum won by Idea Cellular in 2016.

In recent days, Vodafone and Idea users in the state have started getting access to ultra-fast 4G on band 40, which was hitherto only used by Airtel and Reliance Jio.

Unlike the usual band 3 LTE that gives speeds of around 6-7 Mbps on the ground, band 40 supports speeds of 15 to 35 Mbps on the ground, depending on the quantum of spectrum used.

Idea had won band 40 spectrum in an auction three years ago, but its deployment had been delayed due to the merger between Idea and Vodafone.

The merger was finally completed in September last year, and the company said it would soon deploy its unused spectrum aggressively to support better speeds for 4G customers of Vodafone and Idea.

Besides Kerala, the company has band 40 spectrum in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Vodafone had not won band 40 spectrum in any circle. Thus, the combined entity has band 40 spectrum only in the three circles.

However, the total quantum of band 40 spectrum that Vodafone Idea has in these circles is only 10 MHz, while Airtel and Jio typically have 30 MHz of band 40 spectrum in most circles in India.

Vodafone and Idea could not buy more spectrum in the band in 2016 as there was a total of only 60 MHz of spectrum, and Jio and Airtel were aggressively bidding for 30 MHz each.

BAND 41

To remedy the situation, Vodafone and Idea have purchased spectrum in the adjacent band of 41, also known as the 2500 MHz band, where it now has 20 MHz in most circles.

However, band 41 was not supported by 4G handsets and devices in India till about last year.

Starting from last year, most handsets come with support for band 41 as well.

Speaking in January, Vodafone India CEO Balesh Sharma said the company had already started deploying 4G on band 41 in congested areas like Mumbai.

He also said he was not worried about support for band 41 in metros, where customers typically switch to the latest models faster.

“In metros, penetration of band 41 is 45-50%,” he had said in January.

“This is enough for me to offload a big chunk of my traffic to 2500 and therefore decongest my base layer. It will create an improvement for both — those who have band 41 and those who don’t.”

Company officials also claimed that the traffic on band 41 had overtaken the traffic on main band 3 in the regions where it had deployed it.

The introduction of faster 4G services should help the company step the tide of heavy subscriber outflows from its network.

Vodafone Idea has been seeing millions of customers leave its network every month in recent times, partly due to network related issues and partly due to pricing issues.

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