Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, two of the leading telecommunications players in India, have different strategies for rolling out 5G. But both strive to do it in the shortest possible time. While 5G monetization is still something the industry is figuring out, the telcos want to reach everywhere they can with their 5G networks. To let users experience and get used to 5G, telcos are offering it to 4G subscribers at no extra cost. With 4G, Jio and Airtel came out on top, followed by Vodafone Idea (Vi). The same is going to happen with 5G.
But 5G won’t just be like 4G. It will not only be about the mobile consumer. With 5G, telcos can unlock several new revenue streams for the companies. The use cases of 5G that have already been demonstrated are just like scratches on the surface, the real thing is yet to come. The tech and telecom industry is betting on 5G to revolutionize the future, and there’s no doubt it will. But leading the way are the telecom service providers (TSPs) that will ensure that 5G coverage can reach every part of the country.
One thing the telcos haven’t started implementing yet is the mmWave 5G. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that mmWave 5G will be on the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands for the end mobile consumer. Telcos would only deploy mmWave 5G for enterprises. The coverage of mmWave 5G is negligible and many small cells need to be placed close together for a decent experience. To do that on a large scale for consumers would be super expensive, something that the telcos won’t be able to recoup for years to come.
Further, consumer adoption of mmWave 5G services would be extremely low, as no one really needs more than 3 Gbps+ download speeds to watch anything on their smartphone. Consumers would only get the mid-band 5G services.
Airtel and Jio would compete to capture the attention of mobile users with their 5G networks. 5G users would help increase average revenue per user (ARPU) from mobile services in the long run. Both operators would also like to work with more and more companies to set up private 5G networks for them and offer varied services with their 5G networks.
But it’s not just about competition in the revenue segment. The competition between Jio and Airtel would also be who uses more native equipment. The government wants India to become Aatmanirbhar and the telcos are already working on homegrown technology. While they can’t roll out an end-to-end homegrown 5G network, they are working to ensure most parts of their networks are built using indigenous technology. Jio and Airtel both look at the market from different angles.
Although both companies operate in the same industry, the way they conduct their business is completely different. Airtel continues to attract premium or high-paying customers, while Jio wants to play on a larger scale, even if it means acquiring low-paying customers.