If you are an Airtel or Vodafone subscriber in Delhi or Kolkata, you’re about to experience temporary coverage disruptions in the coming months. According to an ET report, the disruptions will occur because the telecom department has rejected the request of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India for more time beyond their November deadline to re-configure their networks to the new airwaves that were allotted in February. Also Read - Fake WhatsApp message claims free internet for three months, don't fall for it
Citing a top official source, the report states that the reason for rejection of additional time to re-configure airwaves, was that any extension of airwaves meant an automatic increase in the time frame of the allotment, which is typically for 20 years. “These operators are seeking an extension of six months. However, if we do so, they will then effectively get an extension of a total of one year for the spectrum that they won in February. There could be some disruptions but the telcos would need to manage it,” he told the paper. Also Read - Vi (Vodafone Idea) is now focusing on growing broadband business with You Broadband
For Airtel alone, this means temporary disruptions of close to 15 million subscribers in Delhi and Kolkata, circles where Vodafone India has a combined 14 million users, as per the August-end data. Also Read - DoT permits telecom service providers to go ahead with 5G trials
The telecom operators are not happy about this decision and blame the eight-month delay in the allocation of bandwidth, which they had won in the February auctions, that has now left them with very little time to re-configure their networks in the cities before the expiry next month.
The operators that won airwaves in the 900 MHz band in the February auctions were issued the earmarking last week. The earmarking letter gives permission to begin using the airwaves from November 30, coinciding with the date of expiry of the current licence holders to use the airwaves.
Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India told the paper that telecom operators had been asking the authorities to expedite the allotment of airwaves so they could begin reconfiguring their networks to the new spectrum, but the telecom department issued the earmarking letter to the operators only last week. The regulatory heads of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular are scheduled to meet telecom secretary Rakesh Garg on Friday to discuss the matter.