Sector watchers believe telcos won’t face any significant supply constraint, with equipment providers more than eager to jump to even 5G technology. An individual in the know of a top equipment provider said: “Equipment deployment for 4G rollout has been in top gear so far, with all manufacturing units firing in full swing. There is no latency.”
Prashant Singhal, TMT (telecom, media, technology) leader for emerging markets at EY, said: “As far as 4G rollout is concerned, equipment providers are already showcasing 5G equipment. So, on the supply side, there is no constraint. Operators have done a fair bit to roll out 4G themselves. Apart from these factors, 4G roll-out depends purely on how the operators themselves are releasing the necessary resources.”
CRISIL Research estimates telcos have invested a little over Rs 3 trillion for 4G network roll-out in the past three years. “All the leading telcos are providing 4G services across all 22 circles in the country. However, there are certain pockets, especially in metros and Circle-A, where users are facing issues such as call drops and lower speeds,” said Hetal Gandhi, director.
Last November, after their merger announcement, Vodafone Idea disclosed the firm had selected Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE to supply new equipment, with the non-Chinese entities having the lion’s share of the deals, worth up to $1.4 billion (nearly Rs 10,000 crore). The firm had given equipment orders for technology such as ultra broadband radios, dynamic spectrum sharing , m-MIMOs and HetNets architecture. All key to the integration exercise in driving synergies of an estimated Rs 14,000 crore.
In February, Ericsson announced its deal with Vodafone Idea to deploy 5G-ready equipment across select markets in India. Ericsson India has already begun radio access and microwave network consolidation and modernisation. In March, Vodafone Idea announced a similar deal with Nokia for LTE coverage.
A recent report from BNP Paribas says Airtel and Vodafone Idea, respectively, added 1.8 million and 0.4 million mobile broadband subscribers in February. Deceleration, compared to recent quarters, for both operators. The past six months’ average addition was 2.3 million and 2.5 million (monthly) for Airtel and Vodafone Idea, respectively.