Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

RCom, RJio in advance talks for spectrum sharing, says Anil Ambani

A deal to share RCom's spectrum will help RJio expand the reach of its 4G telecom service, which is likely to be launched by December

Mumbai: Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) is in advanced talks with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJio) to share and trade spectrum in the 800 megahertz (MHz) band, said RCom chairman Anil Ambani at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday.

Currently, RJio has a pact with RCom to share its intra-city fibre-optic and telecom towers across the country.

A deal to share RCom’s spectrum will help Mukesh Ambani’s RJio expand the reach of its fourth generation (4G) telecom service, which is likely to be launched by December.

RJio is currently limited by its access to only one frequency band—low-reach 2,300 MHz band—across all the 22 telecom circles in India for the roll-out of its 4G service.

The 2,300 MHz frequency band has not seen many international 4G launches using the so-called long-term evolution (LTE) technology standard. This is mainly because the higher the frequency, the lower the signal strength, although it offers higher data delivery speed.

This increases the risk of its customers not getting a high-speed seamless connectivity across India. This has been perhaps the biggest concern of analysts as they are apprehensive that the coverage of RIL’s 4G experience will be limited in its reach and customers might see a regular drop in data speeds.

A deal with RCom will help RJio overcome this hurdle. “RCom is the only operator in India to hold 5MHz or more of the most valuable 800-850 band spectrum, across the country," said Anil Ambani at the AGM and added that this will give RJio customers a fall back on to RCom’s 2G and 3G networks.

He said the arrangements between the two companies will also help facilitate RCom customers’ access to RJio’s “world class 4G/LTE networks on an asset-light and minimal capex model", and will help in reciprocal agreements for roaming by respective customers on each other’s networks.

RJio currently has licences of 800 MHz in 10 circles and 1,800 MHz in 14 circles. RCom has 800 MHz band across all 22 circles.

The company is planning to integrate its spectrum in lower bands—800 MHz and 1,800 MHz—with its pan-India 2,300 MHz band to ensure that the 4G coverage stays seamless, said Anshuman Thakur, head-business development, RJio, in July after the company’s first quarter earnings announcement.

Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in the Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.

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