Biggest Telecom News of the year gone by




As a reporter I can tell you that there is never a dull moment in the telecom industry. It’s one of the most vibrant, exciting, controversial ‘beat’ a reporter can cover. And 2016 has been no different. It was the year when Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Jio was finally launched and of course shook the industry to its core, it was also the year when the government held the largest spectrum auction ever - yet failed to sell the premium 700MHz band spectrum. And while the industry grew the consumers faced the biggest service issue all through the year in the face of call drops, and of course one thing that’s constant with the telecom sector every year is the legal battles, I remember one of the Bharti brothers saying how they operate like a law firm with an antenna!

So here are some of the biggest telecom news of 2016

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Spectrum Auction

Spectrum Auction

India held the largest spectrum sale the country had ever seen in 2016. It lasted for five days and the government raised Rs65,789.12 crore in revenue. Spectrum auctions are always embroiled in controversies where operators mainly complain about the quantum of spectrum put on auction and the price of the airwaves but this time the govt had put enough spectrum for the operators even including the 700MHz band. Although the premium LTE band 700MHz was put on auction after countless back and forth between the telecom department and the regulator on whether to include the expensive band in the spectrum auction, it was put under the hammer along with other frequency bands like 900MHz, 2100MHz, 1800MHz only to remain completely unsold.

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Reliance Jio

Reliance Jio

It was the most awaited launch ever and one of the biggest news of all time in the industry, Mukesh Ambani’s start up! It gave the Indian consumers exactly what they wanted and then some. While telcos waited rather impatiently for Jio to launch its services so that they can get to the usual tariff correction but Ambani shocked everyone by announcing his ‘Welcome Offer’ where consumers can use all Jio services for free till the end of the year (of course later extending it till March 2017 by rechristening to ‘Happy New Year’ Offer). And that was the start of one of the biggest infighting the telecom industry has ever seen. The sparring telcos threw accusations at each other almost every single day after the launch, with incumbent telcos accusing Jio of running full fledge services under the garb of trial testing, poaching customers from existing operators and operators even went on to accuse the regulator TRAI of siding with Jio. Jio wasted no time in throwing a slew of accusation at the telcos right from accusing telcos of obstructing Jio’s entry in the industry to malpractices that led to call failures on Jio network. The fight will spill over in 2017 as the matter is now in court.

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Legal Battle

Legal Battle

Legal battles are nothing new in the telecom Industry but this year the telcos were in what can be seen as the biggest infighting the industry has ever seen. The war of words was mainly around Reliance Jio’s entry. While it was expected that as and when Mukesh Ambani led Jio will launch it’s services the other telecom players will take a hit. But Jio’s never ending free services took the fight to whole new level. Currently it has landed where most of the telecom disputes end up, in the court. The Telecom operators have moved TDSAT against Jio’s ‘Happy New Year’ Plan that is an extension of the ‘Welcome Offer’ where customers can continue to enjoy the free services till March 2017. So the stage is set in 2017 for a massive legal battle between Reliance Jio and the rest of the telcos.

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Call Drops

Call Drops

Even though data is growing rapidity in the country, voice calls contributes 70% of the revenues of existing players including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea but voice calls took a major hit in 2016. Even the Prime Minister stepped in to ask the telecom operators of the country to not neglect voice services for data. The problem had become so grave that the TRAI stepped in and proposed that telcos pay Re. 1 for every dropped call. Telecom operators said that not being able to set up telecom towers was the main reason for call drops, govt also gave access to telcos to set up towers on govt buildings and the former telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad went on to talk about absence of scientific proof on health hazards from telecom towers. With efforts from the govt and telecom operators, 2017 may see a drop in the number of call drops.

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Tariff War

Tariff War

Tariff war is common in the telecom industry but with Relaince Jio’s entry it was expected to get fiercer but Jio decided to carry on with free services even after its commercial launch on the 5th of September but that did have an impact on tariffs across all telecom players. While there were many changes that were made to the existing tariff after Jio’s entry in the industry by all major telecom operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea but no operator could match Jio’s offer (but of course). But the real tariff battle will start in 2017 when Jio starts charging its customers.

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