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Vi Completes Minimum Requirements for 5G Rollout

Vodafone Idea (Vi) announced on Friday that it has fulfilled the minimum rollout obligations necessary to start 5G services in all 17 circles where it acquired spectrum in August 2022.

When companies purchase spectrum in an auction, they must deploy networks and provide services to meet certain standards.

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While Vi’s competitors, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, have already surpassed the minimum requirements and nearly completed their nationwide 5G rollout, Vi has not yet disclosed its specific plans for rolling out 5G due to financial challenges.

“Vodafone Idea has fulfilled its Minimum Rollout Obligation (MRO) across all Vi 5G circles using both spectrum bands,” Vi stated in a release.

The company acquired mid-band 5G spectrum (3300 MHz band) in 17 priority circles and mmWave 5G spectrum (26 GHz band) in 16 circles.

The rollout obligations for both spectrum bands are similar in the initial phase. This means Vi must commercially launch services in at least one city in each of India’s 22 telecom circles within the first year.

While Vi has met the minimum requirements, a comprehensive rollout will begin in the coming months. The company plans to soon order network equipment from its vendors, including Nokia from Finland and Ericsson from Sweden, to enhance its 4G capabilities and commence 5G services.

Vi recently completed an Rs 18,000 crore follow-on public offer (FPO), with nearly Rs 13,000 crore allocated for capital expenditures. The struggling telecom operator also aims to raise an additional Rs 25,000 crore through debt.

Moreover, Vi has approved raising Rs 2,075 crore through a preferential share issue from a promoter entity.

The company anticipates achieving 40% revenue coverage within 24-30 months of rollout initiation, which is expected to commence soon.

Vi is likely to deploy 5G in the non-standalone (NSA) mode initially, as it requires lower investment compared to standalone (SA) networks.

Bharti Airtel has already launched 5G using NSA mode, while Jio has opted for SA mode. In NSA mode, 4G infrastructure is used for 5G services, whereas SA mode involves setting up a completely new network.

In addition to European vendors, Vodafone Idea is also conducting trials with open RAN suppliers like Mavenir in certain circles such as Punjab.

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