Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, combined, are adding 5G sites at a breakneck pace of around 3,500 sites per week, according to the Economic Times of India. That’s not all. The publication says the telcos want to increase site additions to 9,000-10,000 per week, some time in the next three to four months. And we thought DISH Wireless was rolling out quickly at 1,000 sites a month!
If the Indian deployment number seems high, remember the promise made by Indian multi-billionaire and owner of Reliance Jio Mukesh Ambani in August to spend $25 billion dollars to cover the country in 5G by the end of 2023.
In August, Reliance Jio was the top bidder for the country’s 5G spectrum, followed by Airtel and Vodafone Idea NSE. Reliance Jio spent $11 billion, Bharti Airtel spent $5.4 billion and Vodafone Idea spent $2.4 billion, according to Reuters. The government auctioned 72 GHz of spectrum in the low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz), mid (1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands.
Airtel has also announced that it crossed the one million unique 5G user mark on its network. The company achieved this milestone in less than 30 days of its commercial launch even as the network is being built.
Less than a month ago, Airtel launched Airtel 5G plus in several top cities, serving customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur and Varanasi. The services in these cities are getting rolled out in a phased manner as the company continues to construct its network and complete the roll out. Airtel initiated the 5G trials in 2021, and claimed to be the first operator to commercially launch 5G in the country.
A speedtest by Ookla showed Reliance Jio’s 5G downloads at 606.53 Mbps to 875.26 Mbps, while Airtel clocked in at 365.48 Mbps to 716.85 Mbps range, according to the Free Press Journal. Jio’s 5G median speed was the highest in Delhi at 600 Mbps and Airtel peaked in Varanasi at 516 Mbps, the publication said.
“[More speed] means a higher investment for Reliance Jio, while Airtel can keep prices low initially because of less spending on the network architecture,” the Free Press Journal said. “Before users in India can start making the most of 5G services, devices will also have to be upgraded with the software that supports high speed data in 5G enabled handsets.”
By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor