The Battle for 5G in India: A Two-Horse Race


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India’s telecom market has seen many players come and go, but Bharti Airtel (NYSE:BHARTI) and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:JIO) have been the two main players for more than two decades now. According to Sunil Mittal, the founder of Airtel, the country’s 5G battle will be a two-horse race between the two leading telcos.

Image Source- LatestFinance.News

Although the race for India’s first 5G spectrum may be heating up, a former CEO of Indian telco Bharti Airtel said that the country’s deployment plans are still “a gigantic maze.”

The fifth generation of high-speed mobile internet, or 5G, provides extremely fast download rates and additional bandwidth, making it able to handle emerging technologies like autonomous cars and virtual reality programmes, including the metaverse.

Reliance is reportedly pushing to launch its network within two months, according to Reuters. According to the article, it is also working with Google to create a cheap 5G smartphone.

“However, if you consider what’s taking place… One operator in China, for instance, has been investing more than $15 or $16 billion annually for the past few years, according to Kapoor.

“From a global standpoint, [$25 billion] sounds very good. But it appears truly enormous in India.

India began its 5G auction in July in preparation for a 2023 launch. Reliance Jio, the market leader, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea are among the bidders, along with Adani Enterprises, the business empire of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani.

The race is neck-to-neck
According to Kapoor, Reliance and Bharti Airtel would be in a “two-horse fight” for the 72 gigahertz of 5G spectrum.

They will go head-to-head, and their tactics may vary, he continued.

Jio from Reliance Industries made the highest earnest money deposit with the Indian government in July, totaling 140 billion rupees. The quantity of spectrum a corporation desires to purchase is indicated by the amount of earnest money that has been paid.

While Vodafone Idea put down an earnest money deposit of 22 billion rupees, Bharti Airtel put down 55 billion rupees.

With its recent announcement, Reliance may have benefited from being the first to market, but Kapoor suggested that Bharti Airtel’s postpaid subscriber base may provide it an advantage over its competition.

He emphasised that clients appreciate their interactions with service providers more than anything else.

Because of this, “each of them will have to compete fiercely in the market to ensure that they have a great client experience and are able to be competitive and of the highest calibre.”

More fiber needs to be distributed.
But Kapoor argues that there is still work to be done on India’s 5G infrastructure before that can happen.

It won’t be simple to provide a significant deployment in a country the size of India, he added.

“Are our webpages entirely fiberized? For instance, China currently has one million sites. and we [have] around 250,000 sites for each operator.

India would require “a lot more” fiberized sites, he continued, before it can provide coverage in every crevice. The foundation of super-fast 5G networks is fibre infrastructure, which necessitates a massive supply of fiber-optic cables.

I believe we are two to three years away from being able to truly say that we provide a wonderful client experience, according to Kapoor.


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