Bharti Airtel, the second-largest telecom operator in India, has just announced that it has spent Rs 43,084 crore for 19867.8 MHz of 4G and 5G spectrum. The spectrum has been secured by Airtel for 20 years. Airtel took airwaves in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 3300 MHz, and 26 GHz frequencies.
The acquisition of this vast amount of spectrum strapped onto an already industry-best existing pool of spectrum will mean that the company does not need to spend any material sum on the spectrum for many years to come. In addition, this spectrum acquisition has enabled Airtel to drastically reduce the payout towards spectrum usage charge (SUC) and eliminate the adverse SUC arbitrage compared to new entrants.
Airtel now has the widest mobile broadband footprint across the country, making it well-positioned to usher in the 5G revolution in India. In the past year, Airtel has led the industry and spearheaded 5G technology in India, testing several use cases with multiple partners at many locations. From demonstrating India’s first 5G experience over a live 4G network in Hyderabad to India’s first rural 5G trial to the first cloud gaming experience on 5G to the successful deployment of India’s first captive private network on the trial spectrum, Airtel has created and nurtured a vibrant ecosystem of partners and start-ups to support faster adoption of next-generation technologies.
Over the years, Airtel has been very astute in its competitive spectrum acquisition approach. It has assiduously accumulated the largest pool of low and mid-band spectrum (Sub ghz/1800/2100/2300 bands), which can be used to provide the best 5G coverage, while massive capacities in the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands will allow Airtel to create 100X capacities at the least cost. This well-thought-out strategy for spectrum acquired through auctions, M&A and trading, has allowed Airtel to avoid the need for adding an expensive sub GHz band. This enables Airtel to meet all its objectives – the best 5G experience, 100x capacity enhancement and the most power-efficient solutions that will go towards meeting the ambitious ESG goals of the company. Even more importantly, this will provide Airtel with an enduring competitive advantage for years to come in delivering the lowest total cost of ownership.
Airtel now plans to launch 5G services in every part of the country, starting with key cities. The company is convinced that its higher-quality customer base will adopt 5G devices at a rapid pace in the country. In addition, Airtel’s strong presence in the Enterprise segment will allow for a slew of industrial use cases, further strengthening Airtel’s leadership in the B2B market.