India’s first 5G services went live over the weekend, with Bharti Airtel announcing its commercial 5G launch at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) event.
Airtel’s 5G services went live in eight cities: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Nagpur, Siliguri and Varanasi. The operator’s chairman Sunil Mittal pledged to extend coverage to most cities by March 2023, with nationwide coverage by March 2024.
India’s market leading operator Reliace Jio Infocomm underlined its commitment to switching on its 5G offering by Diwali (22nd October), at which point it also plans to launch an own-branded 5G smartphone. Its inaugural service will be available in Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai before being expanded nationwide by December 2023.
Vi (Vodafone Idea) did not confirm a timeframe for its planned 5G launch; CommsUpdate noted that the operator is in the process of negotiating funding as well as arrangements around the deployment with vendors and infrastructure companies. The operator was recently forced to issue a confirmation that it was pursuing “softer payment terms” with Indus Towers after reports indicated that it could lose its access to the towerco’s sites if it failed to clear its arrears.
The beleaguered operator was however keen to talk up its partnerships with smartphone makers - including Oppo, Samsung, Vivo, and most recently OnePlus – as evidence that it is pushing the development of a 5G ecosystem. At the IMC show, Vi demonstrated what it claimed were India-specific 5G use cases, including a smart agriculture offering for small farms.
According to The Economic Times, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that state operator BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is laying the groundwork to launch 5G services in 200 cities, with August 2023 targeted as a launch date. The operator is reportedly aiming to achieve 80%-90% coverage within two years.