India’s much-anticipated 5G deployment will be akin to the China model of deployment, according to the capital market investment group, CLSA.

According to its report, the spectrum purchased by India’s top two telecom operators, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio across 22 circles in 26GHz, makes RJio and Airtel’s 5G spectrum in 3.3GHz and 26GHz comparable and even ahead of China’s 5G operators. The report predicts many similar trends in the adoption of 5G services and network deployment between the two economies in Asia. China and India are the world’s top-two mobile bases with a combined 2,780 million subscribers.

One of the key developments in the Chinese telecommunications market is the utilisation of spectrum sharing between telecommunications companies such as China Unicom and China Telecom. They signed an agreement in 2019 to co-built and co-share 5G network, where China Unicom will develop a higher portion of 5G infrastructure in northern cities, while China Telecom will develop a higher portion of 5G infrastructure in southern cities. In a similar fashion, CLSA predicts that 5G could trigger structural reforms such as spectrum sharing in India as well, although this would be allowed only a year after spectrum allocation. “In 5G auction even spectrum trading is allowed, but only after two years from the date of acquisition of spectrum,” noted the report.

BusinessLine had previously reported that a scenario for spectrum sharing between Airtel and Vodafone Idea could be explored in the future, especially as Reliance Jio strategically bought additional amounts of 3.5GHz spectrum in six circles, which causes a substantive portion of Bharti Airtel’s allocation in 3.5GHz to lie in areas of interference. According to top executives, this can trigger spectrum sharing agreements between Bharti and Vodafone Idea. 

The worldwide march to 5G accelerated with China’s launch of standalone 5G in 2020. China’s top operator China Mobile’s 5G package users had reached 511m, or 53 per cent of total mobile users of 967 million by mid-2022, and 5G network users had doubled year on year to 263 million. Since the migration to 5G average revenue per user has risen 10 per cent, driven by higher data usage. “China’s standalone  5G is the foundation of its industrial internet, which Asia telecoms research managing director Elinor Leung views as the sector’s next big driver of growth led by cloud, IDC, IoT which can grow 20-30% YoY contributing 13- 27 per cent of China telco revenues in 2022,” noted the CLSA report.

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