Airtel completes 5G trial, announces network is 5G-ready

28 Jan 2021

Indian cellco Bharti Airtel has announced that its network is 5G-ready and has completed a successful demonstration of 5G services on the 1800MHz band in Hyderabad, the Economic Times writes. According to Airtel the company is prepared to launch a commercial 5G service on its existing 4G spectrum but will wait for the government to release 5G airwaves. Explaining the decision, CEO Gopal Vittal highlighted the importance of customer experience with the technology, stating that commercial 5G offerings must be ‘full power’ rather than just a marketing ploy. The official added that the company has been working to prepare its networks for 5G for more than a year and that all that is needed to activate the system now is ‘a flick of a button’.

Regarding the decision to delay the full commercial launch of 5G, Airtel CTO Randeep Sekhon pointed out that the 5G device ecosystem is still comparatively immature. According to the official there are presently around a million 5G devices on Airtel’s networks, but these handsets are priced in the INR25,000 (USD342) range whilst mass uptake of the technology would require prices to fall to around INR10,000 to INR15,000. ‘4G was successful due to lower prices,’ the official explained, adding: ‘We will work with all device partners to bring 5G smartphones to support all new and existing bands and technologies like dynamic spectrum sharing.’ Airtel is also reportedly exploring OpenRAN technology for its 5G network, as well as both Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA) deployment methods.

India, Bharti Airtel