Airtel To Roll Out 5G Services In August, Pan-India Coverage By March 2024: MD Gopal Vittal

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We believe that by March 2024 we’ll be able be able to cover all towns and important rural areas with 5G: Vittal

The detailed plans for network rollouts for 5,000 cities in India are fully implemented: Bharti Airtel

The cost of mobile service in India is quite low, and should be raised: Bharti Airtel MD

The operator of Telecom Bharti Airtel is reportedly scheduled to launch its 5G services across the country in the next month (August 2022) in addition to plans to bring 5G coverage to all towns and important rural areas by the end of March 2024.

“We are planning to start 5G in the month of August and will extend to the pan-India launch in the near future. In March 2024, we believe we’ll be able to reach every town and the most important rural areas with five-G.” Bharti Airtel MD and CEO Gopal Vittal said during the company’s post-earnings conference.

“In fact, the detailed network plan for the rollout of 5,000 cities across India are fully in place. This is one of the largest deployments in the history of our country,” Vittal added.

The announcement comes just two weeks after Bharti Airtel obtained 19,867.8 MHz spectrum from the auction for 5G, which cost an total of 43,084 crore. It bought spectrum across multiple frequencies ranging from 1800 MHz, 900 1 MHz, 2100MHz and 3300 MHz, and 26 GHz.

The company’s main purchase of mid-band spectrum Vittal stated that the telco’s capital expenditure would be at or below the current levels.

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He also dismissed the necessity of acquiring the costly 700 MHz band that has fewer towers needed to cover as compared with other band.

“Our competitors do not have such a vast mid-band spectrum. Remember that if we didn’t have this huge portion of the precious mid-band spectrum, we’d have no choice but to purchase expensive 700 MHz spectrum” Vittal added.

He also warned that the acquisition of 700 MHz would result in higher capex because of the installation of “power-guzzling radios with large power consumption that operate on that band’.

The company also clarified its position regarding the use of stand-alone (NSA) 5G-based networks.

“…it permits us to utilize existing 4G technology at no cost as there are already radios and spectrum within our network…NSA will enable the fastest call connection time for Voice and also allow us to provide a more rapid uplink than any other provider due to our huge spectrum assets in the mid spectrum,” Vittal said.

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During the earnings conference, Vittal also said that the cost of mobile service in India is extremely low and that it needs to be increased.

This morning, Airtel announced a rise of 465.81 percent year-on-year (YoY) on its net profit for the consolidated period up to 1,606.9 Cr in the 1st period (Q1) in the year of 2022-23 (FY23).

The annual revenue for users (ARPU) increased by 2.4 percent from quarter to quarter (QoQ) in the quarter to INR 183 during Q1 FY23. Vittal declared that he is expecting ARPU of the company to exceed 200 INR and possibly INR 300 within the next few months ‘as a result of the rise in tariffs’.

Airtel is the very first company that was able to run a trial of 5G in the year 2018. Airtel also conducted the nation’s first trial of 5G in rural areas in the outskirts of Delhi as well as the first trial of 5G on 700 MHz spectrum in Kolkata this year.

It is competing against Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea in this space. Jio is owned by Mukesh Ambani-led Jio claims that it has completed 5G coverage plans in all 1,000 cities. Jio is the sole buyer for the 700-MHz spectrum and has conducted field tests using its five-G telecom gear.

With the telecom companies spending massive sums on the 5G auction the telecom providers are at deploying their networks in order to get the first mover advantage in this market. In the midst of Airtel and Jio fighting a fierce fight for supremacy, it is to be determined who will win the race when the dust has settled.

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