Bharti Airtel is rolling out non-stand alone (NSA) 5G network technology and can commercialize the service across the country within four to five months of receiving spectrum on the 3.5 GHz band. It is expected that by the end of this year or early next year 5G spectrum may be auctioned.
Bharti Airtel said that it would not need to make any specific changes in its capital requirements as the company would get the benefit of investment on 4G also in 5G. A senior company official said, “After the auction of 5G spectrum on the 3.5 GHz band, we are ready to convert our network to 5G at any time. We will be adopting the NSA 5G network and seeing the use, it seems that it will be effective in the country for the next ten years. But standalone 5G may also come first. ‘
Bharti’s stance on 5G is completely different from Reliance Jio. Jio is going to bring the standalone 5G network directly, which is the next generation technology. NSA 5G technology allows telecom companies to use their existing 4G cores. This will give companies the benefit of investment made on 4G and will also reduce capital costs. They will have to make some investment in new radio to use the spectrum of the new band.
A top Airtel official said that this technology works from machine to machine in a short period of time (8 milliseconds), running smart factories for industries and augmented reality services for mobile customers. But remote (robotic) surgery or automated car operation may not work because these tasks require more precision.
Standalone 5G networks are based on 5G cores, with very little delay. This is why it is effective in robotic surgery, IoT-based communication, remote controlled infrastructure or comprehensive data analysis. The process of implementing 5G core is underway only a few years after 5G was introduced in South Korea, Singapore, USA and China.
When asked about the 5G fee, a senior company official said that the fee will be higher but it will depend on the competition in the market. He, like Jio, ruled out the possibility of making mobile devices available at discounted rates. Jio is offering 4G services along with smartphones to attract customers. Earlier, the company has also given 4G feature phones, which has helped the company to increase its customer base. The Airtel official said, “Neither we give subsidy, nor are we in the business of making phones. Any company that has given a waiver has regretted it later.
He said that 50 per cent of their revenue in India goes to operating expenses, with 30 to 35 per cent of the network being spent. In developed countries this cost is only 17 to 18 percent. In such a situation, there is scope to give subsidy in those countries. Airtel is spending on fiber network expansion. It aims to lay fiber networks in 1,000 cities.