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India's Vodafone Idea rebrands as 'Vi' for a fresh start

Vodafone Idea has rebranded itself as "Vi" three years after the merger between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. The integration of the two companies, which it claims is the world's largest network integration, is now complete.

Over the last three years, the two companies have maintained separate brands. In a press statement issued by the company today, Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read called the rebrand an "important next step."

"As the integration of the two businesses is now complete, it's time for a fresh start. That's why we believe that now is the perfect time to launch Vi, one company which combines the strengths of Vodafone India and Idea," he said.

Vodafone Idea also mentioned that its 4G network now reaches 1 billion Indians, double the coverage at the time of announcement. The company has also invested in dynamic spectrum refarming (DSR), massive MIMO, small cells, cloud and open RAN technologies to provide better services to users.

Ongoing challenges
The company has been facing several challenges. It has to make a massive payout as part of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues. Further, it has been losing market share. Vodafone Idea's subscriber base dropped from 408 million at the time of the merger to 280 million at the end of June this year.

Vodafone Idea has claimed several times that it will be forced to exit the Indian market unless it gets some relief from the government. The recent judgment which allows ten years to telcos to clear AGR payments helps Vodafone Idea. This rebranding close to the AGR judgment signals that the company is here to stay.

The rebranding as Vi comes close on the heels of Vodafone Idea's announcement to raise funds of up to INR250 billion ($2.4 billion) through a mix of debt and equity instruments.

At the same time, the Vodafone Group said recently it will not infuse further equity in the company.

These funds will be used to clear dues and upgrade its networks. The network expansion and modernization will help the company move 2G subscribers to 4G, allowing it to boost its average revenue per user (ARPU), which is the lowest among the private telcos.

The company official also hinted at a tariff hike to bolster its financial position. Vodafone Idea's ARPU of INR114 ($1.50) is much lower than Bharti Airtel's of INR157 ($2.13) and Reliance Jio's of INR140 ($1.90).

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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