Telecom disruptor Reliance Jio has raised concerns over the USOF administration’s decision to use 2G technologies for voice services for Andaman Nicobar Islands, calling it “retrograde” and “unfair”.
In a letter to the concerned telecom bodies Jio has stated that the move is not aligned with market realities and is causing losses to the exchequer.
“With no advantage in terms of additional service or otherwise, the present bid condition for additional 2G rollout is bound to cause additional losses in both opex and capex,” said the company in a letter dated 25 June.
Earlier in June, the telecom department had invited bids from operators to install 214 mobile towers in the islands across national highways and uncovered villages. Jio, which provides 4G LTE service, has claimed the project will benefit incumbent operators to deploy their old equipment while they continue to deploy their 4G network in other parts of the country.
BSNL has been nominated to execute the work related to satellite augmentation in ANI and Lakshadweep and Augmentation of 2G Mobile Network in Lakshadweep Islands. Provision of mobile services in the region and seamless mobile coverage along the National Highway will awarded through open competitive bidding as per the extant USOF procedures.
“USPs may deploy equipment to support enhanced capabilities and advanced services. However, support for 2G (Voice) + 4G (data) is mandatory,” said the tender notice dated 4th June. Reliance Jio does not provide 2G services unlike other incumbent telcos in the country.
Jio has argued that since the areas covered under the USOF project being uncovered coupled with the availability of cheaper 4G handsets as well as the ability of POS devices also to support 4G connections, it would be feasible to provide 4G connections in the region. While terming the 2G mandate ‘exclusionary’ and against the digital India provisions, Jio also insists that it would also impact cost efficiencies.
The ministry has also rolled out similar plans for providing 2G mobile services across the naxal affected sates with the first phase of 2335 towers expected to be completed soon. The initiative is funded by the universal service obligation fund (USOF) of the telecommunication department which provides non-discriminatory access to quality information and communications technology (ICT) services at affordable prices to people in the rural and remote areas.