The states which are not getting a 4G upgrade immediately — including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — are among the most lucrative data markets in India.
It is not clear why subscribers in these four states are not being upgraded, but part of the reason could be the presence of MTS — which is being acquired by RCom — in these areas.
(As Mr Ravichandran points out in the comments, these are also circles where RCom has not completed the regulatory formalities for converting their CDMA service into a liberalized 4G service as market-prices for the spectrum was not available. However, recently, the government allowed RCom to pay TRAI-mandated prices for converting its ‘free’ spectrum into 4G spectrum, and the company is expected to complete the formalities soon.)
MTS is present in eight circles including the above four, as well as Delhi, Kolkata, West Bengal and UP West.
Since MTS is already present here, RCom has shifted its CDMA subscribers to the network of MTS, thus freeing up its spectrum. This spectrum will be joined with Reliance Jio’s 4G spectrum to create a combined network.
In states where RCom does not have a back-up partner in the form of MTS, the Anil Ambani company has to first shift its subscribers outside the network before switching off its CDMA service and diverting its spectrum to Jio’s 4G network.
Subscribers in the four remaining circles where the upgrade is not happening immediately are likely to be given an option to upgrade in the second phase of RCom’s 4G roll out.
The three southern states especially are lucrative data markets, and by launching 4G services before, or at the same time as, RCom, Jio will enjoy the first-mover advantage in these areas. Of course, incumbents like Idea Cellular and Bharti Airtel have also launched their 4G services in these states, but their networks cover only a fraction of the area that the combined RCom and Jio network currently covers.
While Jio has a total of around 1.5 lakh 4G base stations in India, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have only around 15,000-17,000 each.
Meanwhile, Jio has started widening its pilot services by including members of the public, who are being given unlimited data and voice under a special 90-day preview offer. Many Reliance employees have got entitlements to invite 10 members of the public to be part of the preview offer.
RCom subscribers, meanwhile, continue to report delays in getting their new 4G SIMs activated.