- Airtel has become the first telco to orchestrate and demonstrate and orchestrate live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad city.
- Jio had announced that it would launch 5G services in the second half of 2021.
- Both telcos have emphasised on the usage indigenous equipment following Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).
Telecom companies Airtel and Jio have paved the way to becoming 5G ready in India. Airtel announced that it has become the first telco to demonstrate and orchestrate live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad city, while Jio had noted that its 5G services will be available in India in the second half of 2021. However, there will be more clarity after the Spectrum auction slated for March 2021. The telcos' CEOs Gopal Vital and Mukesh Ambani have revealed some details hinting at the possibility of a 5G-equipped nation in the near future.
Airtel and Jio 5G networks, where do the telcos stand?
Airtel on Thursday confirmed that its network is fully 5G ready and that it has become the country's first telco to successfully demonstrate and orchestrate live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad city. Airtel noted that it did this over its existing liberalised spectrum in the 1800 MHz mid spectrum band through the NSA (Non-Stand Alone) network technology. The telco further noted that it used a "first of its kind, dynamic spectrum sharing to operate 5G and 4G concurrently within the same spectrum block." This demonstration has emphatically validated the 5G readiness of Airtel's network across all domains - Radio, Core, and Transport.
When asked if users with a 5G handset can use the 5G network in Hyderabad, Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal Vittal said it is possible theoretically. However, he noted that the 5G network will be made available for the public with the availability of spectrum and government approvals.
Airtel noted that "if permitted, Airtel can operate 5G and 4G dynamically within the same spectrum block and is ready to deploy 5G in a matter of months," and that over 20 commercially available 5G smartphones in India will be ready for Airtel 5G
Airtel further noted that it used its spectrum sharing technologies and now can operate 5G over its existing technology-neutral spectrum in mid-bands, that is 1800, 2100 and 2300 MHz and sub-GHz bands -- 800 or 900 MHz. It notes that with future spectrum allocations in 3.5 GHz will enable Airtel to deliver a truly world-class 5G experience to customers. Airtel stated that its users can now switch on 5G through simple software upgrades over the existing network infrastructure. With virtually no change in radio assets and antennas and no major increase in operational costs, it will allow Airtel to roll-out 5G fast and wide. The telco noted that it worked with mid-band rather than high-band as they give better coverage.
Airtel's announcement comes a month after Reliance CEO Mukesh Ambani announced that Jio's 4G network will be available in the second half of 2021. When asked about Jio and Vi, Vittal said he will not comment on the competition and that he will speak for Airtel which is fully 5G ready after the testing was done on a commercial basis.
In December 2020, Ambani confirmed that 5G services will be available in India in the second half of 2021 emphasising on the Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) approach. "India is today among the best digitally connected nations in the world. In order to maintain this lead, policy steps are needed to accelerate the early rollout of 5G, and to make it affordable and available everywhere. I assure you that JIO will pioneer the 5G Revolution in India in the second half of 2021. It will be powered by the indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components."
Jio recently stated that the technology has marked 1Gbps speed in the initial testing. Jio is also working on developing its own MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Out Put) technologies and 5G small scale equipment which bolsters network speed and range of coverage, which is under advanced stage of development, the company said. The digital arm of Reliance is also venturing into IoT (Internet of Things) smart home solutions, and services in retail, health and education.
Make in India approach
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said in mid-July that unit Jio had developed its own 5G technology, which supports faster mobile connectivity. "Once Jio's 5G solution is proven at India-scale, Jio Platforms would be well-positioned to be an exporter of 5G solutions to other telecom operators globally, as a complete managed service," Ambani had said
Ambani in December 2020 in the Indian Mobile Congress said, "Jio's 5G service will be a testimony to your inspiring vision of Atma Nirbhar Bharat. I can say with utmost confidence that 5G will enable India to not only participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution but also to lead it."
Kiran Thomas, President, Reliance Industries at a Reliance Industries earning conferencesaid, "Obviously, we are by far, the leader in India when it comes to 4G broadband. We have a no legacy all-IP modern network easily upgradeable to 5G because they architected correctly from day one. But in 5G, I think, the true differentiator that we are really bringing into the market is the fact that almost the entire 5G solution has been developed internally".
Airtel's Vittal has also emphasised the indigenous role in the deployment of 5G. However, he noted that for the current commercial equipment of 5G in Andhra Pradesh's, Hyderabad, the telco had partnered with Ericsson as well as other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).