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Reliance Communications’ CDMA dongles will be upgraded to 4G Wi-Pods at nominal rates, CEO (consumer business) Gurdeep Singh said during the company’s Q4 FY16 earnings call. He also mentioned that CDMA migration is being carried out in phases, circle by circle and that they hope to conclude the process – free up the spectrum, and upgrade customers to 4G – in the next two months, i.e., end-July.

Post the upgrade users will obviously get access to 4G data services, considering all the regulatory approvals have been received, while voice services will be provide on RCOM’s own network.

Earlier this month, it was reported that RCOM will shut down its CDMA services in all of its telecom circles except 4 circles – Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka – in a bid to migrate CDMA customers to its 4G network.

Notice to CDMA customers before upgrade drive

It’s worth noting that RCOM’s Punit Garg, president of corporate strategy and regulatory affairs, said that as per the Unified Access Service License (UASL) they’re currently operating under, RCOM needs “to give 30 days notice to customers about closing down of the service or moving on to another service. We have given notice to all our customers for more than 30 days, in fact for nearly 60 days notifying all our customers in April first week itself that we would be moving on to 4G.”

Earlier, several users on RCOM discussion forums had noted that RCOM had communicated about the shutdown as early as March but the given notice period was not 30 days, as mandated.

What if the customer doesn’t want an upgrade?

“Those who do not want to upgrade to 4G or stay with Reliance, there is mobile number portability (MNP) option available. However, MNP is more applicable for voice customers. Data customers can get a new Reliance GSM dongle and move on. Those who do not want to move, once we stop radiating from the CDMA equipment, they would get switched off. So, they are being notified to move on to 4G or apply for MNP, because on a specific date the network will be switched off. Some got switched off on May 31. And progressively, by June end or so most of it would be switched off,” Garg added.

Spectrum Liberalization

Reliance is carrying out the liberalization process in two phases:

In phase I, 68.75 MHz of spectrum was liberalized across 16 circles for a total sum of Rs 5384 crore. The letter was issued by DoT confirming this on April 7, 2016. The liberalization is effective from January 20, 2016.

In phase II, 18.75 MHz of spectrum will be liberalized across 4 circles for a total sum of Rs 1243 crore.

Reliance is waiting for DoT’s liberalization order for these four circles. When “the liberalization is done, we have already submitted the application for trading and sharing in these four circles and as per the guidelines, it will take 45 days,” Garg mentioned.

RCOM and Jio spectrum sharing deal

RCOM and Reliance Jio had signed a deal in January 2016, to share 4G bandwidth in 17 circles using the 800MHz band. Additionally, Reliance Jio wanted to buy spectrum from RCOM in 9 circles for its impending 4G LTE roll out. The DoT had approved deal in April.

RCOM-Aircel wireless business merger

Last month, RCOM extended the discussion period to merge its wireless business with Aircel by 30 days till June 22, 2016. In March, RCOM had extended the exclusivity period of discussions with Aircel by 60 days until May 22, 2016. Both companies had originally entered into talks in December last year. RCOM said that the extension period was announced “based on the substantial further progress made” with Malaysia’s Maxis Communications Berhad and Sindya Securities and Investments Private Limited, the shareholders of Aircel Limited.

Sistema deal awaiting court and DoT approvals

Shareholders of Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), which owns the MTS brand in India, approved the merger of the company with RCOM, in April this year. They’re currently awaiting further approval from the Rajasthan and Bombay High Court, after which RCOM is expected to approach the DoT with further filings.

Note that earlier in January, the BSE and NSE had both approved the merger deal following which in February, the Competition Commission of India too approved the merger deal.

Reliance Ultraband

RCOM rolled out its fiber line Internet service Reliance Ultraband in April this year, providing speeds of up to 1Gbps. Currently, the service is only available in the Navi Mumbai and Tardeo areas of Mumbai.

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