Vodafone Idea has countered Reliance Jio’s request to the telecommunications regulator for a sunset date or timeline for shutting down 2G networks. Reliance Jio, which entered into the telecommunications with 4G has a purely 4G and 5G network, unlike Vodafone Idea and Airtel who have subscribers on their 2G network predating the 4G era. 

Responding to a consultation paper floated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Reliance Jio had said that the government should come out with a policy for closing down the 2G and 3G networks completely so that unnecessary network costs could be avoided and all customers can be migrated to 4G and 5G services. According to Reliance Jio, this will also give great impetus to developing ecosystem to 5G use cases. 

‘Increase in digital divide’

In counter comments for the same consultation paper, Vi characterised these comments by Jio to be rhetoric in nature that ignore the significant impact on existing customers from the network shutdown.

“Any forceful shutdown through regulatory mandate, will lead to low income and marginal consumers being forced out of accessing the basic telecom services, thus increasing the digital divide,” Vi said in its counter comments. 

According to Vi, the market itself is deciding the optimum course of the rate at which older network technologies are shut down. For instance 3G networks are being shut down gradually in several circles, in the latest quarterly call, Vi mentioned that it will be switching off its 3G network by the end of FY25. 

‘Adverse impact’

The same cannot be said for the 2G network as both Airtel and Vodafone Idea continue to have a large subscriber base on the 2G network. It all boils down to affordability of smartphones since most smartphone OEMs have not been able to bring a truly affordable device for the poorest of the poor. 

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Reliance Jio has made several attempts to rectify this issue since 2016, with the launch of the Jio Phone. Recently it launched a new iteration of the phone, however only time will tell if it will have a significant impact on prompting the 2G subscriber base to transition out of the old tech. 

Vi further said that regulatory mandate to transition out of old network technologies will have an adverse impact on the IoT ecosystem as well. “Any mandatory migration towards newer technology will impact PoS and loT devices like ATMs, etc. as in certain cases, it may not be even able to change the equipment to be capable to latch onto 4G network. Any forceful shutdown can have severe consequences as availability of various services is dependent upon loT devices and 2G networks,” it added.