Indian carrier Bharti Airtel tested a 5G network live today, the test was carried out in the Hyderabad area using the 1.8 GHz band. The carrier has spent the past year upgrading its network using Ericsson hardware made in India. And now he can activate 5G with just the push of a button.
But that would be a mistake, believes CEO Gopal Vittal. He insists that a true 5G experiment is only possible after the government allocates medium band (2.5-3.7 GHz) spectrum for new networks.
This hasn’t happened yet, so the only option at the moment is for 4G and 5G networks to share spectrum (using dynamic spectrum sharing). However, this would reduce the capacity available to 4G users while still providing sub-optimal 5G performance. The CEO believes marketing would be the only reason to consider such a hampered launch.
Once the necessary spectrum is available, Airtel believes its networks can deliver 10x faster speeds while reducing 10x latency. Users won’t even need to change their SIM card to access the new network.
India was supposed to auction multiple tapes for 5G use last year, but has been postponed due to the industry’s financial difficulties. The plan now is to auction the bands for 5G (3.3-3.6 GHz) use later this year, after an upcoming 4G auction scheduled for March 1.
Airtel reports that there are already 1 million 5G-enabled devices on its network, all of which are blocked using 4G at the moment. The carrier’s technical director said mass adoption of the new technology depends on the availability of 5G phones in the INR 10,000-15,000 range.
In December, rival Reliance Jio announced plans to launch a 5G network in the second half of 2021.