Airtel aims to cover all urban areas of India with 5G in September

Bharti Airtel said it will reach 4,000 cities across India with 5G by June

Indian operator Bharti Airtel aims to cover all urban areas across India with its 5G by September 2023, ahead of its earlier target of March 2024, local newspaper The Economic Times reported, citing the carrier’s managing director, Gopal Vittal.

“Airtel is already covering 400 towns and we’re adding about 30 to 40 cities or towns every single day. By June, which is just three months away, we will be in 4,000 cities [with 5G services],” Vittal was quoted as saying. “We have set a target to be across urban India by March 2024, my sense is we will be there by September 2023.”

Vittal also said that the telco will also cover around 60,000 to 70,000 villages in rural India this financial year.

However, the executive also highlighted that the industry is still seeing a lack of use cases and monetization for 5G. Most of the 5G use cases are still not commercially relevant and at a scale that can really drive the industry forward, he said.

Earlier this week, Airtel announced the launch of unlimited 5G data for its customers with the aim of encouraging them migrate to 5G services. The telco decided to remove the capping on data usage across all existing 5G plans.

All Airtel customers who are under the Airtel 5G Plus network coverage area can use the 5G connectivity for free, according to the operator. However, users have to make sure they are using a 5G-supported smartphone and have enabled Airtel 5G on their smartphone.

In October 2022, Bharti Airtel initially launched 5G services in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur and Varanasi.

The carrier is currently using equipment from Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung to provide 5G services. The Indian operator had secured a total of 19,800 megahertz of spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 3.3 GHz and 26 GHz bands in a recent auction carried out by the Indian government.

About a third of wireless data users in India, or 300 million subscribers, are expected to use 5G services by March 2025, according to a recent report by local Crisil Ratings.

Crisil Ratings, which is owned by S&P Global, also estimated that a total of 20-25 million subscribers are already using 5G services in the Asian nation.

Naveen Vaidyanathan, director at Crisil Ratings, said: “Currently, about 30-35% of the 150-170 million smartphones shipped in India annually are 5G enabled. While the share of 5G smartphones shipments will improve gradually, still low initial value proposition and high cost of the gadget versus a 4G phone would restrict overall 5G adoption to nearly 300 million users by fiscal 2025.  This would mean only a third of the data users in the country will be plugging into 5G services by fiscal 2025.”

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