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Private sector must end differences to create 5G ecosystem, says Airtel CEO

Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal’s statement comes amid a war of words between Airtel and Reliance Jio after the latter said it will start charging for calls made to rival networks at 6 paise a minute.  (Photo: Reuters)Premium
Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal’s statement comes amid a war of words between Airtel and Reliance Jio after the latter said it will start charging for calls made to rival networks at 6 paise a minute. (Photo: Reuters)

  • He also stressed on the need for enabling policies that will allow easy and affordable access to technology, lay out fiber, and make spectrum cheaper to build networks

NEW DELHI: India’s private telecom operators, equipment and device makers, and information technology (IT) firms must set aside their differences to create an ecosystem for 5G technology, Bharti Airtel Ltd chief executive Gopal Vittal said on Tuesday.

“We have to set aside our differences and be part of one. The private sector – telcos, equipment players, device players, manufacturing companies, IT companies – everyone can benefit as growth of technology makes us all the more productive. So, we should collectively sign on to create a 5G ecosystem," Vittal said at the India Mobile Congress (IMC).

He also stressed on the need for enabling policies that will allow easy and affordable access to technology, lay out fiber, and make spectrum cheaper to build networks. With this, Vittal reiterated the need for affordable spectrum to roll out the fifth-generation wireless service.

The chief of India’s second largest telco has repeatedly said the cost of 5G spectrum is exorbitant, which is the fundamental issue in implementing the technology. Vittal has also said India’s ecosystem for 5G services is underdeveloped.

Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal, who also spoke at the IMC, said India will be ready for 5G implementation in the next two-three years.

This is contrary to the claim by Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), that Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has readied a home-grown 5G solution and it will roll out the services as soon as spectrum is sold through auctions. Ambani, at the IMC on Tuesday, said Reliance Jio will launch 5G services in the second half of 2021.

Ambani, at RIL’s annual general meeting in July, had said the made-in-India solution will be ready for field deployment next year, and Jio will be able to easily upgrade its 4G network to 5G due to the telco’s converged network infrastructure. Jio provides only 4G services.

On Tuesday, Vittal said having own standards for 5G is an “existential threat" to India, which will curb exposure to the global ecosystem and slow down India’s growth in this space.

“… There is sometimes talk of India having its own 5G standards. This is an existential threat which could lock India out of a global ecosystem and slow down the pace of innovation. We would have led our citizens down if we allow that to happen," Vittal said.

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