Reliance Jio continues to hold a substantial spectrum advantage over nearest rival Bharti Airtel, even after the latter’s recently announced deal to purchase airwaves from Aircel Cellular.
According to the data collected from various sources including company reports, Jio holds spectrum in 62 of the 66 4G slots in the country, while Bharti Airtel holds spectrum in only 35 slots out of the total 66.
How did we reach the number 66?
India has a total of 22 licensing zones or circles. Each of these circles has three 4G bands, excluding the 2100 MHz band which can be used for both 4G and 3G and the upcoming 700 band.
As a result, you get a total of 66 4G spectrum slots across the country (at the rate of 3 slots per circle.)
Out of these, Reliance Jio will have access to 4G spectrum in all 22 circles in two of the three operational 4G bands — 800 and 2300.
It is only in the 1800 band that Jio has some gaps. In this band, Jio does not have 4G spectrum in four circles — J&K, Punjab, UP West and Bihar.
AIRTEL’S 4G SPECTRUM
As far as Airtel is concerned, it has slots in the 2300 and 1800 bands, but not in the 800 band.
Out of the total 22 slots in 2300, Airtel has spectrum in 17. Similarly, out of the 22 slots in the 1800 band, Airtel has 4G-suitable spectrum in 18 circles, though in some cases it may fall short of the required 5 MHz by a tiny bit, which can be purchased from the open market or the upcoming auction.
The situation can be seen via the chart given on top.
The boxes with ticks indicate the ones where Reliance Jio has LTE spectrum, while those with red backgrounds indicate the circles where Airtel has such airwaves.
The boxes with yellow background indicate the places where Reliance Jio has only partial spectrum, and the remaining bit comes from its alliance partner Reliance Communications.
It should be noted that Airtel does not have any airwaves in the sub-GHz bands. Sub-GHz frequencies are crucial for achieving in-building coverage.
It remains to be seen if Bharti will try to make good this shortcoming by buying 700 MHz airwaves in the upcoming auction next month. Bharti also has dual-use (3G and 4G) spectrum in the 2100 band across the country, and can switch the network from 3G to 4G at the cost of leaving its 3G-only users in the lurch.
In conclusion, it can be seen that though the Aircel deal makes Bharti a potential pan-India 4G operator, when it comes to raw spectrum power at present, Reliance Jio is far ahead of the Sunil Mittal company.