The cash-strapped telco plans to fully switch off its 3G network in FY25 and refarm its airwaves in the 2100 MHz band for 4G, which would boost overall network capacity, Moondra said at Vi’s fiscal third quarter earnings call on Tuesday.
The company has already shut down 3G services in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Mumbai and Kolkata in the fiscal third quarter, and will phase out the service in other circles amid falling 3G devices on its network.
“We are looking to launch 5G services in about 6-to-7 months,” Moondra told investors. “While significant investments have already been made (read: by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel) in 5G, there is no monetisation happening yet, though it should be around the corner. We expect to have a better idea on 5G monetisation by the time we launch.”
He said Vi – India’s only loss-making private sector carrier – is in discussions with various technology partners for finalisation of its 5G rollout and is also working with partners to develop India-relevant 5G use cases and build device ecosystems. “We are also in advanced stages of 5G trials of embracing new technologies such as vRAN & ORAN,” Moondra said.
Vi’s bigger rivals, though, have a serious headstart on the 5G front. Jio has already completed its nationwide 5G rollout while Airtel is poised to do so by March.The Vi chief executive declined to give any update on the telco’s much-delayed and pending fundraise, saying that it continued to be engaged with different parties for this. “As for funding discussions, these are in progress with investors, and given the nature of these discussions, we will not be able to respond to any queries.”In October 2023, in Vi’s fiscal second quarter earnings call, Moondra had said the firm expected to close its equity funding talks in October-December period. But ET had subsequently reported that the funding is delayed and that the telco is also looking to sell fibre assets and in-building solutions (IBS) to raise an additional ₹10,000-12,000 crore.
Moondra’s comments came a day after Vi narrowed its net loss to ₹6,989 crore in the December quarter on the back of a one-time exceptional gain as well as lower finance and operational costs, though the stressed telco lost 4.6 million subscribers.
Loss-making Vi has been struggling to raise funds for more than three years now. It needs a large capital infusion quickly to pay the government, large vendors like Indus Towers, expand its 4G coverage and roll out its pending 5G network.
(You can now subscribe to our Economic Times WhatsApp channel)