In response to Jio's position on the phase-out of legacy technologies, particularly 2G and 3G networks, Vodafone Idea (Vi) has suggested that the government create a policy on the subject. The following was sent in response to TRAI's consultation document titled "Digital Transformation through the 5G Ecosystem."
Vodafone Idea countered by citing stakeholder comments and arguing that the demands and remarks made are rhetorical and ignore the serious consequences a network outage would have on current customers due to regulatory mandates.
According to Vi, 2G networks are mostly used by users of feature phones who might not be able to upgrade to smartphones because of the high expense of buying new ones. The carrier also emphasized how many of its customers are still dependent on 2G networks.
In contrast, Reliance Jio in July 2023 announced its new 4G phone, Jio Bharat V1 4G Phone. By offering the most cost-effective JioBharat 4G Phone in India Jio claimed, “India still has 250 million mobile subscribers trapped in the 2G era with feature phones. These feature phones do not provide access to internet.”
Through its “2G-Mukt Bharat” project, Reliance Jio seeks to update feature phones to the new Jio Bharat OS platform in order to provide a better user experience, including internet connectivity and the ability to make digital payments.
Vi said that users of feature phones who are unable to switch to smartphones because of the high cost of new device purchases are the main target audience for 2G networks. Additionally, the operator emphasized how many consumers are still served by 2G networks.
Depending on the quantity of 3G-specific devices that are still using the network to receive 3G services, Vi said that 3G networks are being progressively phased down throughout various circles. Moreover, in response, Vi said that the market is figuring out the best path and timing for network shutdowns in light of user demands.
Vi revealed that it had fully shut down 3G networks in five circles—Maharashtra, Gujarat, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Andhra Pradesh—during its Q3 FY24 earnings call.Vi went on to emphasize how widely 2G networks are being used in large-scale enterprise installations and IoT devices like ATMs, smart meters, and point-of-sale (PoS) devices. Vi emphasized how difficult it would be to replace such gadgets with ones that could support 4G and 5G.
Speaking about the possible ramifications of a legislative order to discontinue 2G service, Vi cautioned that it would prevent marginalized and low-income people from using basic telecom services and have an impact on Internet of Things devices like ATMs and PoS systems.
Furthermore, Vi noted that the auction standards offer a spectrum that is neutral with respect to technology, therefore any regulatory order to stop using a specific technology would go against these norms. Vodafone Idea therefore recommended TRAI to disregard any rhetorical remarks about a sunset date for old technologies and cautioned against endorsing any legislative requirements that would cause annoyance to the general people.