5G battle in India enters an absorbing phase

5G battle in India enters an absorbing phase
Courtesy: Getty Images

Bharti Airtel has made a statement with their rollout plans, adding an extra dimension to the telco ecosystem, taking the contest to Reliance Jio.

In July last year Reliance supremo Mukesh Ambani laid bare his ambitions that Jio Platforms had developed an in-house 5G solution that was designed to take the battle to the tainted Huawei.

Reliance Jio had done its homework and entered into an understanding with Google to develop the new operating solution to power affordable smartphones, a new JioMeet offering that would rival Zoom and other cutting-edge initiatives that would place India slap bang in the centre of global high-tech solutions and innovations.

Ambani would be forgiven for thinking that he was going to go it alone in this worthwhile journey, with a little bit of direction from Google and Facebook. But India obviously had other answers when it came down to putting competitors in the field which is good news for Brand India.

Enter Bharti Airtel. India’s second largest telecom operator has confirmed its readiness for 5G technology and said that it can immediately roll out 5G services once “adequate spectrum” in the mid-band is available for telecom operators.

Suddenly China and Huawei are not such attractive options anymore.

Bharti means business

Ready for a rollout? Avneet Singh Puri, CEO, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Bharti Airtel demonstrating the country’s first LIVE 5G service over a commercial network at its Hi-tech City outlet, in Hyderabad.
Ready for a rollout? Avneet Singh Puri, CEO, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Bharti Airtel demonstrating the country’s first LIVE 5G service over a commercial network at its Hi-tech City outlet, in Hyderabad.Courtesy: ANI

Endorsing the extent of Airtel’s aspirations was Gopal Vittal, chief executive office of Airtel who made a statement of intent to the media saying that the telco could commercially launch 5G services without the mid-band as its network supports the high-speed technology. “When we launch 5G and make it available commercially, it must have a full power of 5G instead of marketing. Delivering experience is a must and you need more spectrum, especially in the mid-band. That doesn’t mean 1800, 2300 and 2100 MHz can’t be used,” Vittal said. “True 5G will be enabled through mid-band.”

Airtel went ahead and conducted a successful demo of a live 5G commercial network in Hyderabad, over its existing liberalised spectrum in the 1800 MHz band through the NSA (Non Stand Alone) network technology. Using a first of its kind, dynamic spectrum sharing, Airtel seamlessly operated 5G and 4G concurrently within the same spectrum block.

The experiment has been conducted but it would be a while before 5G is launched using existing 4G brands since the 4G universe for devices and apps is in a stage of maturity. Having said that Vittal emphasized that “We have been working on this since last one year to make our networks 5G ready. It is a flick of a button. It is important to have the right amount of spectrum for true 5G.”

Espousing self-reliant India

Airtel is not ruling out the possibility of using their 4G brand to launch a 5G service. A demo conducted in Hyderabad seemed to underline that eventuality.
Airtel is not ruling out the possibility of using their 4G brand to launch a 5G service. A demo conducted in Hyderabad seemed to underline that eventuality.Courtesy: Getty Images

Ambani and Airtel are both espousing the concept of a self-reliant India which is ready to be globally competitive. The gap is narrowing in the sphere of new age technology, tech products and innovation. The world may soon no longer be dependant on just one country for hi-tech products. There is an obvious slot for India to fill here.

Thanks to India’s ban on Chinese made apps China’s ByteDance is cutting the size of its 2,000 plus India team according to Reuters. No projections have been made of a comeback either given that India’s ban of 58 Chinese apps, on issues of compliance and privacy, has now been biting Beijing. ByteDance are the owners of popular video app TikTok. The ban dates from last year when political tension between the neighbours rose over their disputed border. “We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived…we find that has not been the case,” ByteDance wrote in the memo which was seen by Reuters. “We simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational…we don’t know when we will make a comeback in India.” Chances are the death knell has been sounded and hopes of a comeback would at best be a dream unfulfilled.

The external irritants apart it would behove the authorities, however, to create the right atmosphere for India to negotiate past its current 5G challenges. Thanks to the pandemic people are staying indoors for longer periods and the work from home concept is adding extra load to telecom towers across the length and breadth of the country.

Getting the house in order

Reliance supremo Mukesh Ambani has been served notice by another competitor on the block. The contest will no doubt have only one winner – the Indian consumer as both companies dial up their services.
Reliance supremo Mukesh Ambani has been served notice by another competitor on the block. The contest will no doubt have only one winner – the Indian consumer as both companies dial up their services.Courtesy: ANI

Internet reliability is of prime concern and then throw in the added but intimidating problems of exorbitant spectrum pricing, $20 billion on account of the supreme court’s judgement of AGR dues and the requirement to connect thousands of telecom towers with fibre are issues that will need to be addressed as soon as possible as the country is off the blocks on the information superhighway and there will be no time to waste on obstructions that were not factored in.

As tech India is dialing up its operations the necessity of 5G cannot be emphasised enough. The business potential it can open up is simply mindboggling with sectors like communications, data management, analytics, fintech, healthcare, autonomous vehicles and entertainment facilitate smart cities, smart homes, and the IoT waiting to cash in.

So, in this scenario, the idea of a Reliance and a Bharti going toe-to-toe in the race for a 5G rollout is good news to the consumer and the country in particular.

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