The case of 5G in India is a curious one. We have almost everyone ready for 5G here- right from the smartphone makers, telecoms and even the consumers but there is an unexplainable amount to delay from the ministry and the departments falling under it.
After a bit of dilly-dallying, Airtel recently announced that it is ready for a 5G roll out and Jio has made its intentions clear repeatedly. Vi has also joined the bandwagon stating that it is now ready for a commercial launch of 5G in India and is ready to go live as soon as it gets a nod from the government and the desired spectrum is available.
In an investors’ call, Ravinder Takkar, managing director (MD) and chief executive (CEO), Vi said, “We are deploying equipment which is 5G-ready, both on radio and core… The country’s 5G ecosystem is still nascent but we are well prepared for 5G rollout whenever the ecosystem develops.”
Even though Takkar announced their willingness to make 5G commercially available in the country, he did raise a few doubts on the overall scheme of things. Takkar voiced out his concerns over the cost of the spectrum bands 3,300MHz to 3,600MHz earmarked for 5G and this precisely was the reason why all telecom companies in India not been committing themselves for an early 5G launch.
He also hinted that the government agencies may still not be prepared for the effective utilization of the ultra-high-speed connectivity and suggesting that an underdeveloped ecosystem and lack of clarity around implementing the technology may still impact the actual introduction of 5G in India.
His thoughts were similar to what the Standing Committee on Information Technology stated a few days back. Headed by Shashi Tharoor, the committee expressed its concerns over the lack of vision and control over deadlines. The lawmaker said that this could mean that the history could be repeated and the country may miss the 5G bus.
Burden on consumer’s pocket set to increase
The cash-strapped telecom network has to pay billions to the government to clear its dues following which there were multiple rumours that Vodafone may exit India. However, the company is said to be in advanced stages of discussion with investors to raise $2.5 billion from a consortium of investors.
These funds will not only help Vi to get ready for 5G but will also help ramp up its 4G infrastructure in priority circles to combat competition from Jio and Airtel, as well as retain customer losses.
Another mode of covering for losses is price hike and according to Takkar, Vi may as well take a lead when it comes to raising tariff and will not wait for the competition to act.
All three private telecom players have time and again suggested that the current tariff plans are not sustainable for a long term and have hinted that the consumers should be ready to shell out more to enjoy the same benefits. While the companies were unanimous about the price hike, there were some disagreements about the proposed pricing structure.
That said, looking at the recent TRAI data around 4G, post-paid subscriber additions and improvement in customer engagement metrics, Airtel and Vi are expected to raise tariffs soon. Jio on the other hand may wait for a while as its numbers have dipped slightly.
This tariff increase is thus critical for debt-ridden Vi to cut down on losses and thus become better prepared for further investment and deployment of 5G technology in India.