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A combination of photos of Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal (Mint )
A combination of photos of Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal (Mint )

Ambani, Mittal differ again on timing of 5G rollout in India

  • Mittal reiterated the stance of top management at Bharti Airtel Ltd that the country’s 5G ecosystem is underdeveloped and that the cost of spectrum is exorbitant
  • Ambani said Jio Infocomm has built an indigenous 5G solution and it will lead the roll out in India

Billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal have differed once again on the timing of potential roll out of 5G technology. While Ambani, who controls the country's largest telecom services provider Reliance Jio said that the company is ready to offer fifth-generation wireless service by the second half of 2021, Mittal Chairperson of Bharti Airtel said that it may take anywhere between two to three years for the domestic telecom market to mature enough for 5G services.

Ambani, who was speaking at the fourth edition of India Mobile Congress (IMC), said India requires policy developments for early implementation of 5G services. He said Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has built an indigenous 5G solution and it will lead the roll out in India. "I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G revolution in India in the second half of 2021. It will be powered by indigenous-developed network, hardware and technology components. Jio’s 5G service will be a testimony to Atma-nirbhar Bharat," Ambani said.

This is however, not the first time that the two companies have differed on the issue. Mittal reiterated the stance of top management at Bharti Airtel Ltd that the country’s 5G ecosystem is underdeveloped and that the cost of spectrum is exorbitant. However, Jio plans to launch 5G as soon as the government auctions spectrum. The department of telecommunications (DoT) has indicated 4G spectrum sale in January-March. But there is no clarity on when 5G airwaves will be sold by the Centre.

Meanwhile, Jio continues to work in the 5G space. In October, Jio Platforms Ltd announced that it is working with US-based Qualcomm Inc. to develop 5G solutions and accelerate efforts to bring the high-speed network to the world’s second largest mobile market by subscribers.

Ambani, at RIL’s 43rd annual general meeting in July, had said, “Jio has developed a complete 5G solution from scratch. This will enable us to launch a world class 5G service in India using a 100% home-grown technology and solution".

He had said Reliance Jio will be able to easily upgrade its 4G network to 5G due to the telco’s converged network infrastructure. It is not clear on how Jio has developed an indigenous 5G solution and solved India’s decades-long challenge of boosting local telecom manufacturing—90% of telecom gear is currently imported.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings in its latest telecom outlook said, India's 5G spectrum sale could be delayed if the government focuses on a 4G auction in the year 2021.

The rating agency Fitch in a recent report noted that the 5G spectrum auctions could be delayed if the Indian government prioritizes 4G auctions next year to allow telecom companies to renew spectrum in 800/900 Mhz bands in certain states. Further, in the report, Fitch said that it expects limited participation from telcos like Bharti and Vodafone Idea (Vi) in the 5G auction due to high reserve prices set in the country by the regulator and limited usage cases.

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