Telecom major Bharti Airtel on Wednesday said that it will invest Rs 25,000 crore this fiscal year to expand 4G network in the country. The company has increased its spending by Rs 5,000 crore from its earlier budget. Airtel's latest push on 4G expansion has come in the backdrop of recent data explosion triggered by Reliance Jio.
Bharti Airtel MD and CEO for India and South Asia Gopal Vittal believes that in next 3-4 years the company is likely to see 3G network actually shut down faster than 2G network because there are still 50 per cent of phones being shipped out in India that are feature phones. He further suggested that the company may shut down 3G network in 3-4 years and refarm the spectrum linked with it for 4G services. Airtel is investing in 4G technology to build more data capacity in the network.
Airtel Chief Financial Officer Nilanjan Roy on Wednesday said: "To accelerate our 4G roll out in terms of coverage and also build additional capacities in existing geographies, our (Airtel) capex forecast for the year is being upped from initial guidance of Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 25,000 crore."
Airtel's move has come a month after TRAI report revealed telecom companies' upload and download speed. Earlier this month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India put out a report on 4G download speeds across the country in which Airtel figured at fourth position with 8.550 mbps. Reliance Jio topped with 18.433 mbps, followed by Vodafone at a distant second with 8.999 mpbs. On 3G network, Airtel was at second position with 3.158 mbps. The situation for Airtel is no different when it comes to 4G upload speeds. The TRAI report ranked Airtel fourth here as well.
Bharti Airtel MD and CEO Vittal on Wednesday said that in some telecom circles the company has installed modern 3G equipment which can support 4G services but the initially deployed equipments for 3G services will need to be replaced. "Where we have the second career of 3G or third career then through flip of software you get incremental capacity on 3G. Most of that spectrum will finally go towards 4G for which we will need to have radio units," Vittal said.
Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio had offered free internet services for over six months that led to massive data consumption, forcing other telecom operators to step up the game. According to the latest financial report, Reliance Jio saw total wireless data traffic during the FY18 Q2 at 378 crore GB.
While speaking at the India Mobile Congress in September, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said that his company will invest up to Rs 20,000 crore to build digital infrastructure. Airtel chairman sought government's support in fast tracking the pace of growth and achieving India's vision. Mittal urged states as well as municipalities to recognise the power of digital India and enable easy on-ground implementation of policies like the right-of-way. "Airtel will invest Rs18,000-Rs20,000 crore this year to build digital infrastructure," he had said.