India needs affordable 5G and the steep spectrum reserve price is a barrier

Exhibiting its 5G prowess, Bharti Airtel on Thursday announced that it had successfully conducted a live demonstration of 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad city.

The company said the full impact of the 5G experience would be available to Airtel customers when adequate spectrum is available and government approvals received.

Gopal Vittal, managing director and chief executive officer of Bharti Airtel, said, “Every one of our investments is future proofed as this game-changing test in Hyderabad proves. With Airtel being the first operator to demonstrate this capability, we have shown again that we have always been the first in India to pioneer new technologies in our quest for empowering Indians everywhere.”

The demonstration in Hyderabad was conducted over an existing liberalised spectrum in the 1800 megahertz (MHz) band.

Vittal said India has the potential to become a global hub for 5G innovation and this would require the coming together of the ecosystem — applications, devices, and network innovation. He added that Airtel was “more than ready” to do its bit.

The company seamlessly operated 5G and 4G concurrently within the same spectrum block.

Though Airtel has started testing 5G services, the spectrum for this has been kept out of the auctions proposed to be held in March.

Earlier this month, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released a notice inviting applications for spectrum auctions in seven bands — 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, and 2500MHz. The bidding is scheduled to begin on March 1.

Last month, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal for the auction of 2,251.25 MHz of spectrum worth Rs 3.92 trillion at the base price.

Telecom operators will need to submit applications for participating in the auction by February 5.