After lagging far behind Reliance Jio because of euphoria around the new telco and being bogged down by AGR dues, Airtel has regained a 31 per cent market share, close to Jio’s 36 per cent. One of India’s oldest telcos, Airtel has also established a presence in African countries and other parts of South Asia and is far stronger than former rival Vodafone in India. Now it has entered the 5G domain with the launch of the service in India, and is moving ahead in a phase-wise manner.
The telecom which is using a non-standalone architecture, with 5G infra built on the existing 4G core network, is set to launch the service in eight cities to start with. This will later cover most cities of India by March next year, and by 2024, every part of India will have Airtel 5G.
Taking its own route for expansion
Sunil Bharti Mittal mentioned Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and Bengaluru during his address during the launch at the Indian Mobile Congress. On the other hand, a senior official at Airtel has revealed that Chennai, Hyderabad and Siliguri are also among the eight cities. The company CTO Randeep Sekhon has mentioned that areas close to towers, where equipment to support 5G has been installed, can access the service from today.
Higher ambitions than 5G?
Apart from 5G, Airtel is surging ahead of Reliance Jio when it comes to providing internet through a cluster of low-orbit satellites. The constellation of 36 satellites ready for launch by Bharti-owned OneWeb, is similar to a much larger network launched by Elon Musk’s Starlink. Jio on the other hand has only received permission from the department of telecom so far.
Although Airtel’s non-standalone 5G architecture brings down capital investment, till it creates a standalone infrastructure in later stages of expansion, it can affect the speed that Airtel can provide. While Airtel had earlier claimed that its peak speed is 135 Mbps, the results in real-world conditions are yet to be seen.