Simply put, Airtel says all it now needs is spectrum to deliver 5G services at a speed of up to 900 Mbps

Simply put, Airtel says all it now needs is spectrum to deliver 5G services at a speed of up to 900 Mbps
Sunil Mittal, Chairperson, Bharti AirtelBCCL
  • India’s second largest telecom operator by subscribers Airtel said that it is ready to roll out fifth generation (5G) services through its existing network infrastructure.
  • With this move, Airtel is claiming that it can roll out 5G within months at no added costs.
  • Bidding for the 5G spectrum auction will begin from March 1, 2021.
India’s second largest telecom operator by subscribers Airtel said that it is ready to roll out fifth generation (5G) services through its existing network infrastructure. This marks a huge difference in how Airtel’s owner Sunil Mittal and his rival Mukesh Ambani, who owns Reliance Jio, are approaching the 5G race.

“With virtually no change in radio assets & antennas and no major increase in operational costs, it will allow Airtel to roll-out 5G fast and wide,” said the company in a statement, adding that the same technology will also enable Airtel to deploy 5G in 3.5 GHz in future. Let’s untangle this.

Here’s a look at what the spectrum bands are and what speeds they can offer.

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BandSpectrum frequenciesPossible speeds
Low band600-850 MHz50-250 Mbps (slightly faster than 4G)
Mid band2.5-3.7 GHz100-900 Mbps
High band25-39 GHz1.8 Gbps

On the other hand, Reliance Jio, led by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, has worked with Qualcomm Technologies to test 1 Gbps speed in 5G.

According to Airtel’s statement, it is now capable of delivering data at ten times the current speed, with one-tenth latency (time taken for data transfer) and 100 times the number of concurrent connections.

Airtel says it can plug and play 5G with “simple software upgrades”


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There are two ways of deploying a 5G network – one where the technology is built from scratch, which also needs you to buy equipment which are 5G compatible, secondly, one can buy equipment which are based on the existing 4G technology which is called the Non Stand Alone network.

“Stand alone means more capex, it's investment heavy. Actually, very few countries are doing stand alone most of the countries the telecom companies are doing NSA only and that makes sense because you are using existing tech and equipment,” said Nitin Soni, senior director at Fitch Ratings.

Bidding for the auction will begin from March 1, 2021. India’s telecom authority the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended a beginning price of ₹492 per MHz of 5G spectrum. S P Kochhar, director-general of Cellular Operators Association of India, believes that the expensive 5G auction will only make things worse for Indian telcos which already are in debt.
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