In all probability, Telecom big-shot Bharti Airtel Ltd is likely to shut down 3G service in next 3-4 years and re-farm the spectrum linked with it for 4G services, as confirmed by a top official of the company.

To quote the words of Gopal Vittal, managing director and chief executive officer (CEO), India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel, “There are almost no spent that we are doing on 3G. Our view is in next 3-4 years we are likely to see the 3G network actually shut down faster than 2G network because there is still 50 percent of the phone being shipped out in India that are feature phones”.

Further, he added that the company is investing quite a bulk amount in 4G, placing more reliance on it to build up more data capacity in the network. The company will be opting for 2100 megahertz band, which is mainly used for 3G and 4G services. To this Vittal stated that “Where we have the second career of the 3G or third career than through flip of software you get incremental capacity on 3G. Most of that spectrum will finally go towards 4G for which we will need to have radio units”.

According to Vittal, in some telecom circles, the company has already installed modern 3G equipment which can support 4G services but the initially deployed equipment for 3G services still needs to be replaced. To this, he stated that “Some of the older radios are pure 3G which we need to replace. It will take its time. I think that the answer for that will be a function of how fast pick up of voice happens on VoLTE (4G voice call network). The moment that happens voice will not be required to be carried on 3G which can help re-farm us 2100 Mhz for 4G”.

Reports and Records:

The telecom major recently posted the sixth straight quarter of drop in earnings as its consolidated net profit plunged 76.5% to Rs343 crore for the September quarter compared to Rs1,461 crore it had registered in the same period, a year ago.

However, it also has recorded a four-fold growth in the mobile data traffic during the reported quarter in India, and its mobile broadband customers also witnessed a steady rise by 33.6% to 55.2 million. An Airtel representative also confirmed that the revenues will be further hit to the tune of 4% of its consolidated EBITDA or around Rs300 crore in the ongoing quarter due to a reduction in mobile call connection charges to 6paise which has been applicable from 1 October.

Lastly, in a separate development, Airtel has also announced the transfer of its optical fiber business to its wholly-owned subsidiary Telesonic Networks for a valuation of up to Rs5,650 crore.