Airtel CEO announces plan to roll out 5G services before Reliance Jio

Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal announced on Wednesday that the company is planning to launch 5G services within a month and by December, Airtel should have coverage in key metro cities.

The announcement came as Reliance Jio plans to roll out 5G services by Diwali, which falls on October 24.

Vittal said in a statement that after December, the company will expand rapidly to cover the entire country.

“We expect to cover all of urban India by the end of 2023. If you want to know the availability of 5G in your town, you will be able to check it on the Airtel Thanks App and see whether your phone and city is 5G ready. This feature will be available on our app with the 5G launch,” he said.

Airtel 5G will deliver dramatically higher speeds compared to a 4G network. It could be anywhere between 20 to 30 times the speed we get today.

Vittal said that Airtel 5G will also enable differential quality for special requirements, something called network slicing.

“So, if you are a gamer, and want a flawless experience, we will be able to slice the network for you. Or if you are working from home and want a consistent experience, we will deliver it for you,” he noted.

Bharti Airtel last month paid Rs 8,312.4 crore to the Department of Telecom (DoT) towards dues for 5G spectrum acquired in the recently concluded 5G auctions. It said it has paid for four years of 2022 5G spectrum upfront.

According to Vittal, Airtel has chosen a specific 5G technology for smartphones that has the widest ecosystem in the world.

“This means that all 5G smartphones in India will work on the Airtel network without any glitch. This will be true even when you travel abroad with your Airtel 5G enabled phone. In other technologies, it is possible that as many as four out of ten 5G phones don’t support 5G,” he said.

Meanwhile, to build a pan-India true 5G network, Jio has committed a total investment of Rs 2 lakh crore.

To begin with, Jio announced the launch of 5G services in four metro cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai.

Just like 3G and 4G, telcos will soon announce dedicated 5G tariff plans and according to industry experts, consumers may pay more to access the 5G services on their devices.

However, the tariff plans will come down as usage increases, and more people embrace 5G networks especially in metros where the initial demand will come.

An immediate tariff war with the launch of 5G is unlikely, but it “will be competitive as India continues to be a price-conscious market”.

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