Speaking during a recent analyst call, Idea’s MD Himanshu Kapania said that at least 20.2 million Idea users upgraded their 2G phones to a higher 3G or 4G device. Out of this, 14.3 million customers had upgraded their phones to 4G enabled smartphones. The company now has over 75.7 million 3G and 4G devices on its network, which represents 41% of Idea’s overall subscriber base of 185.2 million.
“Out of this 75.7 million, 20.4 million smartphone owners have 4G capable devices, a penetration of 11% of the overall Idea subscriber base…in calendar year 2016, 5.8 million existing smartphone owners started to use Idea mobile broadband on 3G or 4G technologies,” Kapania added.
On 4G feature phones
Expanding on how low-cost 4G enabled feature phones impacts the marker, Kapania said that “we have an underutilized 4G network and any form which will allow us to adopt 4G services is a welcome sign from our side.“…in countries where maximum manufacturing is happening of 4G handsets…VoLTE based handsets are not available at anything lower than $40 to $50 even though if you were to strip down its priced version. So let’s assume it is available between $35 to $40 price points. However, if it is at lower than this price point, it competes with the 2G handset which is available now in a price bracket of INR800 to INR1,000; then the operator is going to subsidize a significant portion of this handset to attract customers.”
On the other hand, Reliance Jio has over 100 million 4G subscribers and also sells its own 4G-eabled smartphones under the LYF brand. Jio also has 4G spectrum in 22 circles and is reportedly planning to launch a VoLTE enabled feature phone. Comparatively, Idea currently has 4G in 11 circles and plans to expand 4G/3G in all 17 circles it operates in by March 2017.
On Idea’s infrastructure
Kapania said that Idea now has 132,362 4G GSM sites on it network with a presence in 400,000 towns and villages. Idea’s fiber coverage was expanded to 28,200 kms during 2016 reaching an overall fiber presence to 133,800 kms, he added. The company also claims to have 8,820 Point of Presence (PoPs) or access points across its Fiber line as of Q3 FY17; Idea utilizes fiber PoPs to as backbone for its mobile broadband services.