Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are the two telecom operators who will make the biggest impact with 5G in India. Jio will likely reach more places in a more efficient manner with 5G because of the presence of the sub-GHz spectrum. What's interesting about the sub-GHz spectrum? Well, Jio will be able to reach rural areas and deliver 5G at a much lower cost than the other telcos that will have airwaves in the high bands. In simple words, the sub-GHz spectrum can reach more houses with fewer number of sites. But the same is not the case for the higher frequencies.
Airtel and Jio have taken the 5G spectrum for all the circles. Vodafone Idea has taken it only for 17 circles. Vi didn't care much about the Category-C circles, except for Bihar. This means that Vi users in Category-C circles will not get 5G network services, and it is better for them to switch to Jio or Airtel for 5G.
The kind of spectrum portfolio that Jio and Airtel have built is much better than Vi's spectrum portfolio. Vi isn't even spending a significant sum on capex for network expansion. More likely, Vi's 5G services will also be very limited to what Airtel and Jio will offer. What's worth noting here is that both Airtel and Jio have said that they will launch 5G in August 2022 in India.
Most Users to go to Airtel or Jio for the First 5G Experience
There won't be a very large number of users who would take up 5G services initially, but the maximum of those who do would likely go to Airtel and Jio for their first-ever 5G experience. For Vodafone Idea to compete with Airtel and Jio as an equal, a lot of money would be required. Vi hasn't been able to raise money for multiple reasons, and it has affected the company's chances to deliver the kind of 5G services its competitors would.
But in the priority circles, Vi can definitely get its hands on the enterprise customers. That's where most of the high-scale revenues would be with 5G in the initial days. Analysts also assessed that Vi's 5G networks wouldn't be able to compete with Jio and Airtel's. Further, in the Category-C circles, its competitors can eat up all the market share.
5G would definitely come at a premium to 4G; how big that premium would be is something we will get to see in the near future. But one thing is for sure, if a user purchases a 5G SIM, he/she would most likely want PAN-India coverage, which at this moment only Airtel and Jio can deliver. 5G smartphone penetration is happening fast in India, and within the next two to three years, India is estimated to have hundreds of millions of 5G users. This means that Airtel and Jio will again get a lead over Vi in 5G as they did in 4G. The biggest pain point for Vi is 2G users, along with not being able to raise additional capital.