In an unexpected turn of events, Idea Cellular is actually letting staunch rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India, ride its air waves up to January 15 next year. Accordingly, the two competing network operators will be able to use spectrum in the 900MHz band which is set to be claimed by the former soon enough.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) is of course in on the plan which won’t see money changing hands. Idea paints its decision to allow Vodafone and Airtel to borrow its air waves as a generous move to ensure that customers are not inconvenienced when its two rivals’ licenses expire on November 29.
In February 2014, Idea made a successful bid for a 5MHz block of spectrum which will be handed over to it on November 30. Airtel and Vodafone who did not manage to win back the 8MHz air waves each of them holds in the 900MHz band in the Delhi telecom circle, will have to shift to their newly obtained 6MHz and 5MHz blocks, respectively.
During the time-frame required by Vodafone and Airtel to deploy their networks in the frequencies freshly allotted to them, they will depend on Idea’s air waves in order to continue providing uninterrupted services to subscribers. The agreement between the companies is for a 45-day period only, ending on January 15, as we mentioned above.
To compensate for the spectrum lost, Idea’s two biggest rivals in India have purchased some in the 1800MHz band. In the PTI report NDTV Gadgets refers to, there’s no hint about DoT coercing any of the involved parties into making the deal. But the telecom body failed to assign the air waves won by operators on time in order to prevent network disruptions.
This happened in spite of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) noting that companies who made winning bids be allotted their spectrum at least 18 months before their licenses expire. For now, it’s not clear if DoT had anything to do with the agreement made by Idea with Airtel and Vodafone.