Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, two of the leading telecommunications players in India, have different strategies for rolling out 5G. But both are aiming to do it in the least time possible. While monetising 5G is still something that the industry is figuring out, the telcos want to reach everywhere possible with their 5G networks. To let users experience 5G and get used to it, telcos are offering it at no additional cost to 4G subscribers. With 4G, Jio and Airtel emerged at the top, with Vodafone Idea (Vi) following behind. The same is going to be with 5G.
But 5G is not just going to be like 4G. It won't just be about the mobile consumers. With 5G, telcos can unlock several new revenue streams with the enterprises. The use cases of 5G that have already been demonstrated are just like scratching the surface, the real deal is yet to come. The tech and telecom industry is betting on 5G to revolutionise the future, and there's no doubt that it will do that. But at the forefront of it stand the telecom service providers (TSPs) that will be ensuring that 5G coverage can reach every part of the nation.
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One thing that the telcos haven't started deploying yet is the mmWave 5G. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that mmWave 5G on the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands is going to be for the end mobile consumers. Telcos would be deploying mmWave 5G only for enterprises. mmWave 5G's coverage is negligible, and it requires a lot of small cells to be placed near each other for a decent experience. To do that at scale for the consumers would become super expensive, something that the telcos won't be able to get a return on for several years.
Further, the consumer uptake of mmWave 5G services would be extremely low as no one really requires more than 3 Gbps+ download speeds for watching something on their smartphone. Consumers would only be getting the mid-band 5G services.
Airtel and Jio would be competing to get the attention of mobile users with their 5G networks. 5G users in the long-term would help with raising the average revenue per user (ARPU) from mobile services. Both operators would also be looking to partner with more and more enterprises to set up private 5G networks for them and offer varied services with their 5G networks.
But it isn't all about the competition in the revenue segment. The competition between Jio and Airtel would also be in who is using more indigenous equipment. The government wants India to become Aatmanirbhar, and the telcos are already working on homegrown technology. While they cannot roll out an end-to-end homegrown 5G network, they are working to ensure that most parts of their networks are built using indigenous technology. Jio and Airtel both look at the market from different angles.
While both companies operate in the same industry, the way they execute their business is completely different. Airtel continues to be attracting premium or high-paying customers, while Jio wants to play at a larger scale, even if that means gaining low-paying customers.