Idea Cellular management hosted a conference call today to provide update on data business and 4G in particular. As part of data network expansion [3G + 4G], Idea will deploy 30-35K BTS in FY16 against our forecast of 20K BTS. This should impact capex forecasts favorably, and sure enough, management indicated annual capex is unlikely to increase further from FY16 level. We highlight that by adding 30-35K BTS, Idea is more than doubling its mobile data capacity[3G + 4G] in FY16, as the total number of 3G BTS was 30.3K as of Mar-15.
All new BTSs are based on S-RAN technology, whereby equipment operating on 900-band is capable of running 2G as well as 3G, 1800 equipment can run 2G and 4G, and 2100 can run 3G and 4G. Idea CFO said this reduces risk of technological obsolescence, as same equipment can deploy higher generation technology through seamless spectrum re-farming. Further, older 2G BTS (900/1800) when replaced by SRAN are shifted to hinterlands to add coverage / capacity. Idea is now targeting one Fiber PoP [Point of Presence] for every 4 to 6 BTSs versus 8-10 till recently.
Idea has 1800 spectrum for 4G-LTE in 10 of the 22 circles and it plans to launch 4G in all these 10 circles in 1QCY16, covering a total of 750 towns by June 2016. Of these 10 circles, six are major ones where Idea has 900-2G as well as own 2100-3G spectrum; these six account for 53% of Idea’s revenues and mgmt. said the 4G offering would be fairly competitive vis-a-vis rivals.