Bharti Airtel, one of India’s three leading private operators, has stolen a march on rivals Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio by becoming the first Indian operator to launch a 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) service.
Local press reports indicate that the service, to be called Airtel Xstream AirFiber, will be launched across the country in the coming months, beginning this week with Delhi and Mumbai.
It will be available at a monthly rental price of Rs 799 (about US$9.70). A half-year subscription includes a one-time refundable security deposit of Rs 2500 (about US$30.20). There’s also a discount of 7.5% on the six-month subscription plan.
While these prices may not be affordable for everybody, the service does meet a need. Airtel points out that fibre to the home (FttH) connects only 34 million homes in India, and a very large number of customers struggle for fibre access.
Thus, it claims, Xstream AirFiber is the country’s first 5G wireless Wi-Fi solution that will offer internet to consumers in areas with limited or no fibre access, notably addressing the last-mile connectivity issue in parts of rural and urban India.
Xstream AirFiber is described as a plug-and-play device with in-built Wi-Fi 6 technology that will offer wide indoor coverage and can simultaneously connect up to 64 devices. It will be manufactured in India under the Make in India programme.
5G FWA isn’t just a boost for customers. It could also help Airtel monetise its 5G networks, whose ongoing rollout is unlikely to be cheap.