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India Sees Fastest 5G Rollout Ever As Telcos Hit Targets

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By Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor

Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, India’s two biggest telcos, say they have hit minimum 5G rollout targets for year one across all 22 service areas (or circles) in the country.

The telcos were allocated spectrum a year ago, on August 17, 2022. Since then, they have deployed 308,466 5G basestations, as of July 30, 2023, according to data shared by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). India’s government calls it the fastest rollout of 5G services anywhere in the world.

Both telcos acquired spectrum in the 3300–3600MHz and 26GHz frequency bands, with Jio also buying licenses for 700MHz. The two operators launched 5G services in October last year and have been expanding coverage since then.

Late starter

But Vodafone Idea, India’s number-three player, has not met the rollout obligations attached to licenses. Indeed, it is yet even to launch a commercial 5G service.

It bought 850MHz of spectrum in the 3300MHz frequency band for 17 circles along with 5,350MHz of 26GHz spectrum for 16. It has got as far as launching 5G services in Delhi and Pune on a trial basis.

While telcos and authorities can congratulate themselves for rolling out a 5G network at superfast speed, the real challenge will be to monetize the 5G investment.

Airtel’s CEO, Gopal Vittal has raised the issue several times at industry events. While 5G has triggered a spike in data consumption, operators still need to raise prices, he said.

Since the launch of 5G services in October 2022, both Airtel and Jio continue to offer unlimited 5G services for free.

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