Norwegian telecom firm Telenor on Tuesday said it will launch 4G services in 5-8 cities in India within 6 months and is in talks with other operators to increase its spectrum holding through trading. “We already have 4G technology in our network. Last week in Varanasi, we launched 4G on very very narrow band,” Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke said at the Mobile World Congress 2016. The launch in Varanasi is on pilot basis and depending on the outcome of the project, it will be extended to other cities, he said. Also Read - Trai imposes Rs 56 lakh penalty on telcos for call drop in first half of 2018Also Read - Bharti Airtel India reports loss of Rs 940 crore in first quarter
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Brekke added that in the coming six months, the commercial launch will take place in 5-8 cities across all the service areas it operates in. Telenor has operations in 6 telecom circles and has over 4.7 crore customers.
“We not only have liberalized spectrum, we have also just upgraded entire network technology and that’s why we are able to launch 4G in Varanasi on only 1.4 MHz. The problem is not technology, the problem is not liberalized spectrum, the problem is that we need more spectrum. So, if we didn’t have any voice customers, we could have launched 4G aggressively,” Brekke said.
Leading telecom operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have already launched 4G services. Besides, Reliance Jio Infocomm has also announced plans to launch the high speed data service later this year.
Brekke said the company needs more spectrum to be able to push data growth and there are two ways of doing that, either buy spectrum through trading or participate in auction. He added that Telenor is in talks with other operators regarding spectrum trading but did not share further details.
Asked if Telenor will participate in the next round of auction, he said it depends on the rules like what would be the reserve price and roll out obligations. Brekke said however that the spectrum prices are still way too high and with entry of Reliance Jio, the competition will increase further.
“The thing of the Indian market is extreme competition and we had hoped that it should be a rational market that is yet to be seen… even the big ones are struggling with their profitability… with Jio entry the competition will intensify further,” he said.
Asked how big a threat Reliance Jio is to the existing operators, he said it’s very difficult to answer because “we really don’t know what their go to market strategy would be.” He added however that Jio may go to metros first and then spread out to the mass market.