Bharti Airtel tests 5G in Hyderabad, races ahead of rivals

Airtel’s ability to run 5G services over its existing commercial network is a win for the company, which has been struggling to play catch-up with Mukesh Ambani’s Jio for the past few years and has ceded its leadership in the Indian telecom market

Bharti Airtel Ltd became the first telecom service provider to demonstrate its capability to roll out 5G wireless services in India, stealing a march on rival Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which plans to launch the service later this year but hasn’t completed trials.

Airtel Tests 5G in Hyderabad
Credits: Gadgets.NDTV

On Thursday, Bharti announced that it has conducted on-field trials in Hyderabad to establish its ability to launch 5G, or fifth generation, services.

The next-generation wireless service will pave the way for blazing fast internet speeds and power internet of things (IoT) applications, such as driverless cars and smart cities.


Airtel’s ability to run 5G services over its existing commercial network is a win for the company, which has been struggling to play catch-up with Mukesh Ambani’s Jio for the past few years and has ceded its leadership in the Indian telecom market.


Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd, claimed in July last year that Jio has built an indigenous 5G solution and was ready to launch the service in the second half of 2021. It has not shared details of its 5G solution.


“We are the first telco to successfully demonstrate and orchestrate a live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad. This demonstration emphatically validates the 5G readiness of Airtel’s network across all domains—radio, core and transport," Airtel chief executive Gopal Vittal told reporters at a press conference.


The differing timelines apart, both telcos have said that a full-fledged 5G rollout will be possible only with adequate spectrum availability.


Airtel used a block in the 1,800MHz spectrum band to operate both 5G and 4G simultaneously on its network in Hyderabad. According to experts, any band can be used for 5G service by upgrading the equipment and technology; however, telcos will have to use bands in the range of 3,300-3,600MHz to provide best high-speed and low-latency experience to customers.


The total capital expenditure required for the rollout of 5G, including spectrum, sites and fibre, is expected to be ₹1.3-2.3 trillion, of which ₹78,800 crore to ₹1.3 trillion is estimated for metros and A circles, Motilal Oswal Financial Services said in a report in October.


Bharti Airtel’s shares were little changed on Thursday at ₹571, outperforming the benchmark Sensex’s 1.13% decline.


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