Airtel’s 5G network trial in India is in full swing. The telco has extensively been putting the network’s capabilities and performance to test to make sure that it’s consumer-ready when the 5G services go live in the country. Airtel has been working alongside global brands such as Nokia and Ericsson, as well as domestic companies like Tata Group, for its 5G network. While Jio has claimed that it’ll be the first network to launch the full-fledged 5G services in India, it looks like Airtel 5G won’t be far behind. Here’s what we know about Airtel 5G launch in India, speed, trial, and spectrum so far.
Airtel 5G launch in India (expected)
While there is no official announcement yet, the Airtel 5G launch in India could happen later this year. The company, as you may know, has started 5G trials in major cities using spectrum allocated by the telecom department. Therefore, it’s only a matter of time before the telco makes the network available for commercial use in the country. However, the Airtel 5G services may not be available to all immediately. The cellular network infrastructure may take at least a year or a year and a half more to fully develop in India.
Additionally, Airtel has plans to pilot and deploy indigenously developed 5G services, in partnership with Tata Group, as early as January 2022. The telco would be using Tata Group’s ‘state-of-the-art’ O-RAN based Radio and NSA/SA Core technologies for made in India 5G. This will be available for commercial development starting January 2022, as per a joint statement issued by Airtel and Tata Group. There is no word on Airtel 5G plans prices at the moment.
Airtel 5G speed
The Airtel 5G speed has been around 1,000Mbps during the trials conducted by the telco in Gurugram and Mumbai. However, in Hyderabad, the network managed to hit peak speeds of 3Gbps (3,000Mbps), which is three times faster than Jio’s 5G trial, allowing users to download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds. While this is significantly faster than the 4G network speed, we have to bear in mind that the network was completely bereft of other users during the test, and the real-world experience may vary.
Airtel claims that its 5G network is capable of delivering 10x speeds, 10x latency, and 100x concurrency when compared to existing technologies.
Airtel 5G trial
The Airtel 5G trial network is now live in Cyber Hub in Gurugram, Phoenix Mall, Lower Parel in Mumbai, and Hyderabad. Airtel’s next destination for 5G trials is said to be Kolkata. However, Airtel users cannot experience the 5G network yet even if they have a compatible smartphone. The government’s rules currently do not allow testing with end-users. Additionally, the devices that operators use for such trials have special software.
Airtel 5G spectrum
The government is yet to conduct a 5G spectrum auction in India, but the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has allocated service providers such as Airtel some bandwidth to conduct trials. The telco is using 3,500Mhz bands to conduct 5G trials in Gurugram and Mumbai, while in Hyderabad, it demonstrated its 5G network using liberalised spectrum in the 1800MHz band through the sub-6GHz Non-Standalone (NSA) network technology. Airtel has also reportedly been allocated 28 GHz and 700 MHz bands for the trial, and its equipment is said to be compatible with 2100/2300MHz and sub-GHz bands (800/900 MHz).
The operator has claimed that it has the capability to operate its 5G network over existing 4G technology through software upgrades. Airtel also believes, if given permission, it could operate its 5G and 4G networks dynamically within the same spectrum block and deploy 5G in a matter of months. “The moment we receive government approvals, and we have the right spectrum bands and in adequate quantities, we’ll be able to roll this [5G] out immediately,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, Bharti Airtel earlier this year.