Vodafone Idea, the biggest telecom operator in Kerala, has started rolling out its faster, integrated 4G service in the state, beginning with Kochi.
Back in July, the company had put up posters in recharge outlets in the state promising that a faster, more powerful 4G service will be launched in August.
However, the company has only managed to start the rollout this week, with parts of Kochi being the first to getting the integrated experience.
The capacity of the 4G network will double or even treble after the integration and roll-out of Turbo Net due to the addition of extra spectrum and use of multiple blocks of spectrum at the same time.
Officials did not give any date for completing the rollout in the rest of the state, but said more and more towns will be covered by the integrated network in coming days. The whole exercise is likely to be over by March of next year.
A network search conducted in nearby town of Thrissur showed that both Vodafone and Idea networks are listed separately, indicating that Turbonet 4G is yet to be launched here.
Other cities where Turbonet 4G has been launched include Coimbatore, where it was launched four days ago, and “select cities” in Uttar Pradesh West, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
The extremely congested 4G network of the company, particularly in states like Kerala where it accounts for over 40% of total mobile subscribers, has been partly blamed for a tremendous outflow of subscribers from the network in recent months.
The company has lost almost a third of its subscribers over the last one year or so.
The situation was made worse by an ill-timed decision to stop incoming calls to customers who had been relying on other SIM cards to cope with the congestion. This forced users to migrate their phone numbers to relatively uncongested networks, including that of Reliance Jio.
A few days ago, the company also replaced Balesh Sharma, who has been with Vodafone/Hutch for around 15 years, as its CEO.
Even though the company has not offered any reasons for replacing Sharma, it is believed that the current situation that the company finds itself in had something to do with his exit.
Idea Cellular’s shares, which used to trade in the 100-120 rupee band at one time, is currently trading at around the 5-rupee mark.
The company has considerable amount of spectrum still lying unused, partly because of a year-long delay by the Department of Telecom in giving necessary approvals to carry out the merger of Idea and Vodafone.
The delay cost the company precious time in terms of integrating the networks and assets of the two brands at a time when rivals Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel were investing heavily into their own networks and attracting users.