Older telcos back consumer choice on moving users to 4G from 2G

"While operators would love to go to a single network, it saves them money as well, but we can't force people to do things that they don't want to do, we must let the market decide and let the customer decide,” said Rajan Mathews, director general...

India's older telcos Airtel and Vodafone Idea believe that consumers should be free to decide whether they want to use 2G or 4G, even if it may be more economically beneficial to have all customers on 4G.

Executives at incumbent carriers added that having a mix of technologies allows them to address voice and data demands separately, especially for feature phone users who may be willingly chosing to remain on 2G due to the affordability factor.

"While operators would love to go to a single network, it saves them money as well, but we can't force people to do things that they don't want to do, we must let the market decide and let the customer decide,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), that represents all three carriers - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio.


Of them, Jio, which is the only one to operate a full 4G network, has called upon the government and the regulator to take policy steps to make India 2G free.

“I'm sure lots of our operators are trying incentivize customers to move to a 4G network, yet they can't short change the customer choice paradigm," Mathews added.

Reliance Jio on Tuesday took potshots at the rivals, suggesting that the government and regulator take policy steps to make India free of the older 2G technology that Vodafone Idea and Airtel are still heavily dependent on. The comment came on a day when Jio said it would raise tariffs in the coming weeks, following similar statements made by Vodafone Idea and Airtel, in that order.
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“The bulk of voice service is still on 2G, and for companies that have both 2G and 4G spectrum, the lower bandwidth can be optimised for voice while the higher ones can be maximised for data,” an executive at one of the two incumbent carriers said.

“There are several functions like banking OTPs, smart meter reading, etc that work equally well on 2G and 4G, so some people prefer to remain on 2G because they’re not interested in using data… Of the total number of subscribers, about half would be using 4G handsets today,” he added.

Airtel recently told the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that over 400 million customers continued to use 2G networks, during its submissions on deferring the interconnect usage charge, while seeking a deferral of three years of zero termination charge.

Vodafone Idea added that despite 4G and Volte (voice over LTE) services being made available, consumers were actively availing 2G services.
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“This also shows that factors like consumer behaviour, service choice, device eco-system, pricing and affordability etc, are playing a pivotal role in consumer choice regarding migration to new technologies or continuing on existing ones,” Vodafone Idea had said in its submission to Trai.
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