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Airtel has the best mid-band spectrum, no intention of buying 700MHz yet

Country’s second largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel (Airtel) has said that it will not bid for the 700MHz spectrum band in the upcoming auctions next year, as it can ride its 5G network on existing bands such as 800MHz and 900MHz.

The company also said that it will invest around ₹27,000 crore (same as every year) on capacity expansions — largely on radio, fibre and data centres — as it sees an opportunity for massive growth in people moving from prepaid to postpaid, home broadband and enterprise business. The company’s capex ranges between ₹24,000-25,000 crore every year.

On non-standalone mode
“We have no intentions of buying the 700MHz band because we are on the non-standalone (NSA) mode… but at some stage we will have to move to standalone (SA) because in the future even 4G networks will get shut, just like 3G. May be 2G will get shut first and a decade from now, may be, 4G may also get shut… so at some stage, all the traffic will move to 5G and at that stage the 850MHz and 900MHz bands spectrum that we have will also refarm to 5G and they will move to SA,” a top official at Airtel told businessline.

The official said the company can refarm its 4G spectrum to provide the 5G services and as per its field tests also, least spectrum can be utilised on NSA mode.

He said Airtel has the best mid-band spectrum from any competitor (anywhere between 20 and 30 MHz in 1800 and 2100 MHz across the country) and therefore has the advantage of utilising them for 5G services without the 700MHz band.

In this year’s spectrum auction that took place in July-August, Airtel did not bid for 700MHz and bought 19,867 MHz of spectrum across 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands, worth ₹43,084 crore.

Reliance Jio also the strongest bidder and bought 24,740 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands, worth ₹88,078 crore.

Government has said that the spectrum auction will take place every year. It fetched ₹1,50,173 crore from the seven-day long biddings this year.

Hike in Tariff
Meanwhile, the Airtel official said that the mobile tariffs would go up, but depending on market dynamics. The company has increased the price of its minimum recharge plan for 28 days by around 57 per cent to ₹155 in Haryana and Odisha recently. It has stopped its minimum recharge plan of ₹99 and gives unlimited calling, 1 GB data and 300 SMSes in the ₹155 pack. The officer said that the response of the pilot run of the new tariff has been good and churn has been much lower than expected and would take a call on rolling out the same in other circles by February 2023.

On asked whether Airtel will look at charging a premium for 5G services, the official said that the premium price for 5G has not worked anywhere in the world and the company is also not interested in charging higher for the 5G services.

On other businesses, the official added that Airtel is also looking at increasing revenue from new business verticals around cloud services, cyber security, and communications platform-as-a-service which is estimated to be a Rs.50,000 crore market. The Hindu BusinessLine

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