While the US and other countries are enjoying the 5G network, India is yet to organize an auction for the 5G airwaves.
The next-generation mobile network technology is expected to be 10 times faster than 4G and is expected to bring a revolution in the quality and strength of the mobile internet. As India is gearing up for the 5G network, everyone has one question on their mind: when will 5G launch in India?
Industry experts have different opinions about this — At the Indian Mobile Congress 2020, Mukesh Ambani has promised that Jio will roll out 5G services in India by June 2021. However, Sunil Mittal, chairperson of Bharti Airtel, has said that it’ll take at least 2-3 years to make India 5G ready.
Here’s how different mobile carriers in India are preparing for 5G.
Jio To Pioneer 5G Revolution In India In 2021: Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani, who controls India’s largest mobile carrier company Jio, addressed the fourth edition of the Indian Mobile Congress (IMC) and 5G was the talk of the town on the opening day of the event. He said Jio has developed indigenous 5G solutions and the company will spearhead the rollout of 5G in India beginning in the second half of 2021.
“I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G revolution in India in the second half of 2021. It will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components. Jio’s 5G service will be a testimony to Atma-Nirbhar Bharat,” said Mukesh Ambani.
In October, Jio announced that it has partnered with Qualcomm in developing 5G solutions to accelerate 5G launch in India. Prior to that, Jio also aligned its efforts with Google to launch affordable 4G and 5G Android smartphones in the country.
India’s 5G Ecosystem Underdeveloped. Will Take At Least 2-3 Years For Rollout: Airtel
Airtel, on the other hand, has differed from Jio’s statement of launching 5G services in India, in the second half of 2021. Speaking at the same event where Mukesh Ambani assured 2021 rollout, Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal said that the next generation of mobile network technology will take at least 2-3 years.
Airtel’s chief executive Gopal Vittal has time and again criticized the government’s policies regarding the 4G and 5G spectrum. In an analyst’s call, he said, “We have always maintained that the indicative reserve price on the spectrum of 5G, the 3.5 GHz band, is very, very expensive, and we will not be able to afford it at those levels.”
Meanwhile, Airtel has signed a multi-year contract with Ericsson to procure 5G-ready radio and transport solutions. While no clear date for the 5G rollout has been announced by Airtel, Sunil Mittal’s statements reflect that Jio will win the race.
Vodafone Idea Network Is 5G Ready: Vodafone CEO
Vodafone Idea, the most recent conglomerate between the two telcos, said it has upgraded its infrastructure and architecture for 5G and can launch 5G whenever the government auctions the spectrum. The company has upgraded its 4G network with 5G architecture and has deployed technologies like massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) to offer 5G services in India. This could help the telco in cutting costs as it will not need to start from scratch.
“Our network is very much 5G-ready. When the 5G auction takes place, we will be able to launch 5G. However, there is a need to develop India 5G use cases. India is unique and some global use cases might not be relevant,” said Vodafone Idea MD and CEO Ravinder Takkar.
5G Spectrum Auction Delayed Again As Telcos Aren’t Financially Ready Yet
Fitch, the global ratings agency, has said that India’s 5G spectrum auction has been further delayed and is unlikely to be held before August. 5G auction was originally planned for 2019. One of the major reasons behind the delay, according to Fitch’s report, is that the government is likely to focus on 4G spectrum auction in 2021.
Another reason to delay the auction is the weak financial positions of Indian telcos. Fitch has also predicted that the 5G auction could witness limited participation from Indian telecoms due to exorbitant pricing of spectrum.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea owe a massive amount to the government in the form of licensing fees and penalties. According to an estimate, carriers owe around 920 billion Indian rupees to the government. After paying the dues, they would not be in a position to buy 5G spectrum at the hiked base price.
The delay in auction of the 5G spectrum could further push the availability of 5G for the general public in India.