Jio eyes RCom’s unsold 850 MHz band, but Airtel may also join the line

Jio eyes RCom’s unsold 850 MHz band, but Airtel may also join the line
KOLKATA: Reliance Jio Infocomm may target Reliance Communications’ remaining unsold airwaves in the 850 MHz band — considered among the best for 4G services — with the government backing the sector regulator’s call for easing spectrum cap rules, three people aware of the development said, adding that Bharti Airtel could provide astiff challenge.

The Telecom Commission, the highest decision-making wing in the communications ministry, on Tuesday endorsed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) key suggestions such as removing the 50% limit put on telcos on holding airwaves within each band, post-mergers, and also increasing the overall spectrum holding limit for licenced telcos to 35% from 25%.

Both Mukesh Ambani-led Jio and Airtel are keen to bolster their holdings in this crucial sub-GHz band. RCom has some 70-odd units of liberalised 850 MHz spectrum spread across 22 circles valid till July-September 2021.

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A senior industry expert pegged the valuation of RCom’s unsold 850 MHz airwaves at roughly Rs 3,500-4,000 crore. Another person familiar with the developments said RCom may even choose to retain a small part of its 850 MHz spectrum holdings for its enterprise customers. Separately, Vodafone India and Airtel, it is learnt, are keen on RCom’s 60 units of unsold but unliberalised 1,800 MHz spectrum in some circles as this, upon liberalisation by paying the market price, can be used for 4G services in future. Analysts say this 60 MHz airwaves could be worth about Rs 1,500 crore. These residual airwaves are also valid till July/September 2021.

Acquisition of the unsold RCom airwaves is expected to help Jio establish its supremacy in the efficient 850 MHz band and help it fight Bharti Airtel and the future Idea-Vodafone combined entity in a fiercely competitive telecom market.

While Jio is believed to be a clear frontrunner to mop up RCom’s unsold 850 MHz airwaves, especially after its recent deal to buy RCom’s wireless assets, including spectrum, one of the persons cited above said Bharti Airtel may also bid aggressively as well, especially since the Sunil Mittal-led telco could easily combine such airwaves with the 850 MHz spectrum it is poised to acquire in some 18 circles through its ongoing buyout of Tata Teleservices’ consumer mobile business.

“Such additional spectrum would be very handy for Airtel to roll out top-grade fast broadband services on the efficient 850 MHz band,” he added.

Source by gadgetsnow..
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