Idea Cellular sprints ahead of Bharti Airtel in 4G growth

idea-4gIdea Cellular, which set a record in terms of speed of rollout when it introduced 4G services late last year, continues to expand its high-speed network at a breakneck speed.

During the Apr-June quarter, the company added a whopping 5,296 towers, or 58 new towers per day.

Idea had 19,939 4G towers at the end of June, while it had only 1,813 LTE towers at beginning of this year.

Idea’s total 4G coverage doubled to 5,191 villages at the end of the quarter from 2,619 in the preceding quarter.

Bharti Airtel does not reveal the number of 4G base stations it has.

All this expansion was also reflected in higher data growth. Idea’s total data traffic increased by 13% to 93 bln MB, easily outperforming Bharti Airtel, which reported a modest growth of 8% in its data traffic for the same quarter.

Out of this, nearly 5 bln MB was contributed by 4G subscribers. On average, a 4G user was consuming close to 1 GB of data per month.

Data is increasingly where the competition is due to the saturation of voice services.

Idea, for example, said that its total voice traffic during the quarter actually fell, something unimaginable a year ago.

Meanwhile, data consumption is set to growth with the exploding number of 4G-enabled smartphones.

The number of 4G devices on Idea’s network zoomed to 1.42 cr from 1.11 cr three months earlier.


With the impending launch of Reliance Jio, Idea too was forced to cuts its data prices during the quarter.

Average data pricing went from nearly 23 paise per MB to about 21 paise per MB, the lowest data price that Idea has ever reported.

In constrast, Bharti Airtel did not cut its data prices as sharply, and reported only a slight decline at 22.31 paise per MB compared with 22.87 paise in the previous three months.

Despite each user consuming a higher quantum of data, the average expenditure on data per user fell during the quarter to Rs 142 per month from Rs 147 per month.

The fall was even sharper for high-speed data users. Average expenditure by an individual user on high-speed data fell to Rs 174 per month from Rs 191 per month during the preceding quarter.