Indian carrier Bharti Airtel trialed a live 5G network in Hyderabad using the 1.8 GHz band. The carrier spent the last year improving its network using Ericsson hardware manufactured in India. And now it can allow 5G with the push of a button.
But CEO Gopal Vittal believes that a true 5G experience is only possible after the government designates mid-band spectrum (2.5-3.7 GHz) for the new networks. As that is yet to happen, the only option right now is for 4G and 5G networks to share spectrum (using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing). However, this would reduce the available capacity for 4G users while giving a sub-optimal 5G performance. The CEO thinks that marketing would the only reason to consider such a restrained launch. Once the needed spectrum is available, Airtel believes its networks can produce 10 times higher speeds while reducing latency 10 times. Users won’t even need to change their SIM cards to jump on the new network.
India was supposed to sell off several bands for 5G usage last year but postponed it due to the financial struggles of the industry. The plan now is to auction off bands for 5G usage (3.3-3.6 GHz) later this year, after an upcoming 4G auction scheduled for March 1.
Airtel reports that there are already 1 million 5G-capable devices on its network, all of which are using 4G for now. The carrier’s CTO says that the mass adoption of the new technology depends on the availability of 5G phones in the INR 10,000-15,000 range.