Reliance Communications (RCom) and 4G upstart Reliance Jio Infocomm are the first operators in India to take advantage of new regulations allowing spectrum sharing, with plans to share the 800MHz band in 10 service areas.
The two operators have reportedly agreed to sign a sharing deal that will give Jio access to 10MHz of contiguous 4G spectrum, while RCom will gain access to Jio’s 4G network in the same 10 regions, which include Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh.
To prepare to share spectrum, the Economic Times said RCom has applied to the Department of Telecom to “liberalise” its spectrum holdings in the 800MHz band that were originally given without auctions at government-set prices.
The government’s new spectrum regulations, approved by the cabinet earlier in the week, do not allow the sharing of non-auctioned spectrum, so RCom will need to pay a market-linked price to the government for the spectrum.
RCom, the country’s fourth largest operator with 11 per cent market share and 109 million connections, will need to pay an estimated INR15 billion to INR18 billion ($231 million to $277 million) to liberalise the spectrum, the Times said.
It is important for Jio to have contiguous, or continuous, frequencies in the 800MHz band in order to offer high-quality 4G services. Jio spent INR78.7 billion to acquire 49MHz in the 800MHz band in the 10 regions in the March auctions. But it only has continuous frequencies in four of the 10 areas, while RCom has continuous bandwidth in all 10.