Consumers still await 5G use cases after the launch of the services a year ago. October 1, marks the anniversary of the first launch of 5G services in New Delhi. Since then, telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have invested upwards of ₹1 lakh crore between them for the nationwide launch of these services.
Both operators claim that their 5G network is available across the nation. Speaking about completion of the anniversary, Randeep Sekhon, CTO, Bharti Airtel says that their coverage of 5G has expanded from 1 million in October of 2022 to 50 million at present. Airtel states that their 5G network is available across 28 States and 8 union territories, and they will be able to make 5G available to all their customers by the end of this year.
Sekhon’s commitments echo Reliance Chairman, Mukesh Ambani’s claims during the annual general meeting of Reliance Industries. Ambani has also stated that 5G services will be made available pan-India by December 2023.
Lots to improve
Despite the pan-India presence of 5G services, consumers are yet to see its true impact. Faisal Kawoosa of Tech Arc said, “5G has not come up as a true game changer for customers. While the operator promises ubiquitous experience, the reality is contrary to it. Customers are firstly not getting seamless 5G experience.”
“Moreover, there are no true use cases emerging for customers from 5G. Right now, it is just another generation of cellular band.”
This is clearly true as operators are yet to offer 5G plans at a price differential. Gopal Vittal, Airtel CEO, had told businessline previously in Ficci Frames, that they were not making money from 5G yet.
Reliance Jio has just launched Jio Air Fibre, one of the first use cases for 5G, earlier in September. It’s uptick will only be known with time.
US lagging too
Indian operators are not alone in this conundrum. A 2022 report by Financial Times found that even American telcos like Verizon were anxious for a payoff to 5G services. 5G launches in the United States happened years before India.
Telcos expect to spend billions of rupees into the 5G rollout. Reliance had committed spending 2 lakh crore on its 5G network. But payoff for customers is a distant dream.