Telecommunication service providers are preparing to roll out third-generation technology (3G) services in the lower frequency 900 MHz band they’d bought in intense bidding in March this year.
Airtel, which provides a 3G network on 900 MHz branded as Platinum 3G in Mumbai and Kolkata, has plans to launch the service in other areas where it holds licences for the band in one or two quarters, sectoral sources said.Vodafone has said it plans to launch 3G on various spectrum bands, including 900 MHz.
Idea Cellular, which this month upgraded its 3G network in Delhi on 900 MHz, said it would soon launch 3G in the Maharashtra circle in this band. “We had a better experience of running 3G in 900 MHhz. We have won 9 MHz spectrum in the 900 MHz band for the Maharashtra circle in the March auction, which will enable us to deploy 3G services (in addition to the existing 2100 MHz band), very soon. Currently, 3G is being offered on 2100 MHz only in Maharashtra,” said a spokesperson for Idea.
In this lower frequency band, operators expect to get better results in terms of network connectivity, as transmission is better even inside concrete walls here than in a higher frequency. Beside, it takes less capital expenditure for a high-speed network in this band, as it requires lesser amount of towers to transmit the network in a lower frequency. Due to better coverage, operators are branding it a jam-free network, to lure customers.
“Technically, 900 MHz is one of the best bands, since it has good geographical coverage. So, operators are most likely to use it in metros, where the usage is high but they cannot provide better coverage with a high frequency band,” said Amresh Nanda, telecom analyst with Gartner.
Apart from the metropolises, operators bid heavily for a 900 MHhz licence elsewhere. Experts said in rural areas, as data usage is low, they can roll out 3G on this band for limited capital expenditure to get better coverage.
In the March auction, companies had fiercely bid to bag the 900 MHz licence in as many circles as possible. Airtel had bid Rs 22,255 crore to win it in 10 of the country’s 22 circles. Vodafone had to pay Rs 21,234 crore to bag 900 MHz in eight circles and Idea Cellular paid Rs 27,640 crore for nine circles. Reliance Communications, which has a pan-India licence for the 800-850 MHz band, paid Rs 1,835 crore to win a 900 MHz licence in two circles.
Of the Rs 109,874 crore of bids received by the Union government for spectrum auction of the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands, a little more than 70 per cent of the money was for 900 MHz. There was a premium exceeding 30 per cent of the base price, as operators fought for a licence.