Bharti Airtel, India's leading telecommunications service provider, announced its largest 5G rollout to date on Friday. Airtel has added 235 new cities to its Network, taking the total number of cities with Airtel 5G Plus to over 500 in the country. To recollect, Bharti Airtel was the first to announce and launch 5G services in India in October 2022. However, Bharti Airtel still caters to 2G customers. Airtel currently offers 2G, 4G and 5G services to customers in India, and Airtel 5G to get bolstered with investments shifting towards 5G Networks from 4G.
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Airtel 5G Plus to Get Bolstered with Capital Investments
Bharti Airtel is redirecting its capital investments to the next-generation 5G Networks from 4G, as it makes more sense for the telco to focus on 5G, which offers next-generation network experience and capacity to subscribers with growing data usage. Airtel will invest more in 5G by shifting investments from 4G, according to a report by ET Telecom.
Airtel to Serve 2G Customers
Airtel has no plans to shut down the legacy 2G Network because the Radios of Airtel run on a single Radio Access Network (RAN), and it doesn't cost much for the telco, according to the report which quoted Airtel Chief Technology Officer Randeep Sekhon. Airtel's CTO said the 2G Network still caters to a meaningful 2G user base, and shutting down 2G would mean denying 2G device users access to the Network.
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2G Users in India and Network Maintenance
Of India's 300-350 million feature phone users using 2G, less than 100 million are on Airtel Network. So, shutting down 2G means denying access to around 100 million 2G device users. Sekhon also added that maintaining 2G Networks costs less, considering the annual maintenance and power expenses. Also, no new spectrum is required to offer the service, thereby keeping the costs very low for maintaining the 2G Networks.
Shifting Investments to 5G
As the usage on the 5G Network grows, it is better for Airtel to focus on 5G and so the shifting of capital investments towards 5G. As the device ecosystem shifts from 2G to 4G and 4G to 5G, Sekhon expects the 2G layer to become thinner, and at some point in the future, the telco may consider shutting the 2G Network completely, but not immediately, adds the report.
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First to Shutdown 3G
Airtel was the first to shut down 3G Network and refarm the 2100 MHz spectrum for 4G services. As 4G offers much better efficiency, speeds and experience, it is better to reuse the spectrum for 4G than 3G for Airtel.
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Airtel Fixed Wireless Access
Airtel is working with chip makers, software developers, hardware manufacturers to develop Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) devices in India. During Quarterly results, Airtel CEO provided an update regarding the FWA device ecosystem issues and pricing dynamics. Airtel's CTO also elaborated that if the FWA devices are priced too high, then FWA will be a cold start in India. Airtel holds PAN India 26 GHz spectrum, which is the band required to deploy FWA services that deliver around 2-4 Gbps kinds of speeds.