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Airtel will launch 5G services this month, plan to cover every town by 2024

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Aug 11, 2022 9:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minute

According to a senior company official, telecom operator Bharti Airtel will begin rolling out 5G services this month and will cover all towns and key rural areas of the country by March 2024.
Gopal Vittal, managing director and CEO of Bharti Airtel, also stated that the price of mobile services in India is very low and needs to be raised.

"We intend to launch 5G starting August and extend to a Pan India roll out very soon. By March 2024 we believe we will be able to cover every town and key rural areas as well with 5G.

"In fact, detailed network rollout plans for 5,000 towns in India are completely in place. This will be one of the biggest rollouts in our history," Mr Vittal said during the company's earning call.

Bharti Airtel secured a pan-India footprint of 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands, as well as select purchases of radiowaves in the low and mid-band spectrum, in the recently concluded spectrum auction for a total consideration of 43,040 crore.

Mr Vittal stated that the company's capital expenditure will remain at current levels and downplayed the need for purchasing premium spectrum in the 700 megahertz band, which requires fewer mobile towers for coverage than other bands that telecom operators currently have.

Advantages of such a large spectrum

"Our competition does not have such a large mid-band spectrum. Do remember that if we did not have this large chunk of precious mid-band spectrum we would have had no choice but to buy expensive 700 Mhz spectrum.

"And once we had bought it we would have had to deploy large power guzzling radios on this band. Not only would the cost have been higher, but it would also have led to more carbon emissions," Vittal said.

He stated that the network deployment in the 700 Mhz band provides no additional coverage over the company's existing 900 Mhz spectrum band.

Non-standalone (NSA) 5G networks, according to Vittal, provide more benefits than standalone 5G networks due to wider coverage and more devices that can access the network.

He stated that in the United States and South Korea, where both SA (standalone) and NSA have been launched, traffic on SA accounts for less than 10% of total 5G traffic.

"The third advantage of this mode is that it allows us to use existing 4G technology at no extra cost since we already have the radios and the spectrum that are live on our network. Finally, the last advantage of NSA is around experience – it will allow for a faster call connect time on Voice. In addition, it allows us to provide a faster uplink than anyone else given our massive spectrum holdings in the mid band," Mr Vittal said.

Country's largest telecom player

Jio, the country's largest telecom player, claims to have completed 5G coverage planning in the top 1,000 cities as well as field trials of its in-house 5G telecom gear. It is the only player who has acquired premium 700 Mhz spectrum.

Mr Vittal stated that Airtel has an industry-leading average revenue per user of 183 and expects it to soon reach 200 and, eventually, 300 due to tariff increases.

Bharti Airtel's consolidated profit more than fivefold increased to 1,607 crore for the quarter ended June 2022, primarily due to tariff increases, compared to 283.5 crore in the same period last year.

Bharti Airtel's consolidated revenue from operations increased by about 22% to 32,805 crore during the reported quarter, up from 26,854 crore previously. Bharti Airtel India's revenue increased by 24% to 23,319 crore in Q1 FY22, from 18,828.4 crore. Bharti Airtel's mobile services revenue in India increased by 27% year on year (YoY) to 18,220 crore from 14,305.6 crore. The company invested Rs. 5,288 crore in India and Rs. 1,088 crore in Africa.

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