India’s second-biggest operator, Bharti Airtel, has started deploying 4G technology in bandwidth formerly used for 2G.
According to Indian news reports the operator had been using the 900MHz band for 2G services in a number of areas. This is now being replaced with 4G across some regions with the aim of improving indoor coverage.
This refarming of 900MHz spectrum is underway in six circles (or administrative sub-districts): Delhi, Kolkata, Andhra Pradesh, North East, Karnataka and Rajasthan. The use of 900MHz 4G technology will apparently be extended to a total of 10 circles in a process expected to be completed in the next three-to-four months.
A spokesperson quoted in India’s Economic Times pointed out that smartphone penetration is growing in small towns and villages, allowing the company to use 900MHz for 4G and scale up network capacity without having to wait for spectrum auctions.
Something similar has already happened with Airtel’s 3G spectrum which, with the end of 3G services, has also now been refarmed for 4G.
The focus on indoor services is perhaps not too surprising. The 900MHz band with its higher propagation is likely to be a better support for indoor coverage than the 2300MHz and 1800MHz bands.
Where this leaves 2G – still widely used in many parts of India – is unclear, though Airtel apparently plans to continue to provide 2G services.