Reliance Communications to launch 4G on May 4; Jio could be earlier

rcomReliance Communications Ltd, promoted by Anil Ambani, will start its 4G LTE services on May 4, the PTI reported, quoting a government official. This suggests its partner Reliance Jio could roll out 4G earlier.

The operator has told the government that it will roll out its 4G services on May 4, a senior official told PTI.

“We will be upgrading our network from CDMA to LTE (a 4G standard) technology,” company said in a letter to the DoT. “We would be rolling out LTE services progressively in these service areas from May 4 and necessary intimation will be provided to our existing CDMA subscribers.”

It is customary for companies to inform the government when they change the technology that they are using.

In circles where it doesn’t have excess spectrum to continue its CDMA circles — such as Kerala — RCom is likely to shift them to MTS’ network.

According to our sources, Reliance Communications is in the last stage of getting its 4G services ready.

Among the first circles to see a roll out will be Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha.

RCom’s partner Jio has 800 MHz spectrum in ten circles and MTS has the same in nine circles.

In certain states like Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, neither of RCom’s partners have any 800 MHz spectrum, which raises the question of whether or not there will be a CDMA network after RCom migrates its services to 4G.

The roll out will be a progressive one and the company is likely to provide 4G handsets as well. Payment for the handsets and dongles will be made by the customer either in lump sum or in installments.

Reliance Communications is owned by Anil Ambani, while his brother Mukesh is the promoter of Reliance Jio — India’s largest 4G operator by network size.

Both firms entered into a trading, sharing and roaming agreement recently, under which Reliance Communications will sell some of its 4G-suitable spectrum to Reliance Jio, and the two will then combine their holdings to launch a 4G network across the country.

Yesterday, the government gave the companies permission to trade airwaves in four circles where there was no auction-determined price, with the condition that they have to pay the auction determined price when that becomes available in the future.

The support of Reliance Communications is crucial for Reliance Jio to make its offering a success.

RCom owns 800 MHz spectrum, which will be required by Jio if it wants to ensure seamless voice coverage.

Without the 800 MHz spectrum that the two combines have put together, coverage could suffer — especially indoors and out in remote areas.

It is expected that RCom will be leveraging Reliance Jio’s 4G network in 1800 and 2300 MHz bands to service its customers using an intra-circle roaming agreement, while Jio will make liberal use of the shared 800 MHz network to provide voice services to its customers.

Jio has set a target of signing on 100 mln customers by the end of the first year.

According to our sources, the company will start commercially selling its connections in the next 10-15 days — most probably during the tenure of the IPL — but will restrict it to those who purchase LYF-branded handsets from Reliance Retail.

Jio is reported to have run up against technical issues in getting its voice service on track. As a result, it will reportedly not offer voice services in the initial phase starting from the launch of bundled SIM sales later this month.

Both RCom and Jio will reportedly have the same 4G tariff.
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