Vodafone India is said to be in early talks with Tikona Digital Networks for buying its 4G spectrum as the country’s no. 2 mobile phone operator tries to expand its high-speed broadband footprint ahead of Reliance Jio Infocomm’s commercial launch, and to take on rivals Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular.
A person familiar with the matter told ET that Vodafone India has discussed “purchase of all” of Tikona’s airwaves in the 2300 MHz band, which would help double the geographical 4G presence of the local unit of UK’s Vodafone Group Plc from its current five circles. Tikona had bought 2300 MHz (4G) spectrum in the 2010 auctions in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, UP (East), UP (West) and Rajasthan for over Rs 1,058 crore.
Vodafone, which doesn’t have 4G airwaves in that band, will deploy its high-speed broadband services over the 1800 MHz band across five circles of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Karnataka and Kerala. So far, it has launched 4G services across 10 towns in Kerala only. While Vodafone India declined to comment to ET’s emailed queries, Tikona Digital Networks didn’t respond.
Another person said that Tikona has previously discussed the sale of all of its 20 MHz of 4G airwaves across the five circles with Bharti Airtel, but the talks didn’t progress much as Tikona was looking for a “higher premium” than the around Rs 1,200 crore that India’s no. 1 telco was offering.
Mumbai-based internet service provider Tikona had earlier told ET that it plans to launch 4G-LTE based broadband services in 30 cities across five telecom circles during the first half of 2016.
“Vodafone must expand its 4G presence. And with the handset ecosystem around 4G on the 2300 MHz improving and expanding, the telco is looking at all options to add to its bandwidth pool,” the first person said, explaining the rationale for the telco considering buying a new 4G band.
Currently, only Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel among the major telcos own airwaves in the 2300 MHz band, the ecosystem around which has been fast developing, thanks to the expansion the services by China Mobile, the world’s largest telco by subscribers which uses the same technology.