Airtel’s networks are now 5G ready, Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of India and South Asia of Bharti Airtel said in a Q3 2021 earnings call. He admitted that the 5G ecosystem itself in India is still at a nascent stage considering that the devices that were shipped in the country in December 2020, only about 4 percent to 5 percent were 5G compatible. Also Read - iQOO Z5 5G launched globally, slated to launch in India on September 27
“So to that extent, I think you’re seeing some movement on 5G and this number compared to, let’s say, October was 2 percent. And if you compare it with September it was almost nothing. So there has been a change in some of the shipments coming in,” Vittal added. Also Read - Microsoft Surface Duo 2 launched, gets major upgrades over the original Duo
Airtel wants to become a pan-India 5G player
Airtel aims to become a pan-India national player in the long term when it comes to rolling out 5G, though he pointed out that because of the constraints like the price of the device, any new technology typically starts in urban areas. Also Read - Jio vs Airtel vs Vi: Best prepaid recharge plans under Rs 100 with unlimited calls, data benefits
“So my own sense is that finally in any technology that we use, in the long term, we will need to be a Pan-India national player. In the short term, if you want to optimize the pace of rollout and the pace of adoption, yes, obviously it will start in urban areas,” according to Vittal.
Airtel recently demonstrated its live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad over its existing liberalised spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band through the NSA (Non-Stand Alone) network technology.
For those unaware, the dynamic spectrum sharing allows the company to use the 5G and 4G networks simultaneously within the same spectrum block. Airtel claims that a full-length movie can be downloaded in just a matter of seconds on its network, thanks to 10x speeds, 10x latency and 100x concurrency when compared to existing technologies.
5G smartphone shipments in India to reach 38 million in 2021
According to a report by research firm Counterpoint, the 5G smartphone shipment in India is expected to reach 38 million in 2021. The report added that the non-availability of 5G networks and high prices led to a slow pick-up of smartphone sales in Q1, 2020, though things started to change after the launch of OnePlus Nord in August 2020.
In India, players like Realme, Xiaomi, OnePlus, Apple, Motorola, etc have already unveiled their 5G smartphones. Some devices like Moto G 5G are even as affordable as Rs 20,999. Meanwhile, OnePlus Nord, which is a good mid-range 5G smartphone option was announced at a starting price of Rs 24,999.
5G trials in India to begin in two to three months
The DoT (Department of Telecommunications) is expected to begin 5G trials in India in two to three months by May, according to a report by Economic Times. However, do note that the beginning of trials would not necessarily mean that commercial services for Indian users will begin as well. It is likely that users will need to wait much longer to get their hands on 5G services in India.