Vodafone Idea meets minimum requirements for 5G rollout

Vodafone Idea meets minimum requirements for 5G rollout

Indian telco Vodafone Idea has reportedly completed the minimum rollout requirements outlined in its spectrum licences for its 5G network, although the timeline for a proper service launch remains fuzzy.

According to ETTelecom, Vodafone Idea issued a statement on Friday saying that it has completed its minimum rollout obligation for the two 5G frequency bands that it bought in the government’s spectrum auction in August 2022 –  3300 MHz in 17 priority circles and 26 GHz in 16 circles.

The licences for both bands require the owner to commercially launch service anywhere in each of India’s three metros – and at least one city in each of the telecom circles covered under the licence – by the end of the first year or “phase 1”, the report said.

However, Vodafone Idea’s target for a full-fledged commercial launch of 5G has been shifting. The company said in January that it planned to launch 5G services in July or August this year. But just prior to its US$2.2 billion follow-on public offer (FPO) in April, the telco said it intended to launch 5G “six to nine months” after the FPO, suggesting a year-end launch is more likely.

Vodafone Idea, which has been beset by financial problems, has been on a fundraising blitz this year. Apart from the FPO, it has also offered around US$645.5 million in shares to anchor investors, and proposed a preferential issue of up to US$293.2 million in equity shares to the local units of telecoms equipment suppliers Nokia and Ericsson.

Most of the new money raised is expected to fund the capex for the telco’s 4G expansion and 5G rollout, but Vodafone Idea is also saddled with Rs250 billion (almost US$3 billion) in debt, and also needs enough cash to pay its spectrum and AGR payments when they become due in the 2026 financial year and beyond, the report said.

Meanwhile, India’s next 5G spectrum auction – which has been postponed twice from its original date of May 20 – is slated for tomorrow. Vodafone Idea has submitted its application to participate, but earlier media reports suggested the telco may focus on bands whose licences it needs to renew rather than fork out for new spectrum.


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