Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have been rolling out 5G for more than six months. Both telecom operators are deploying different technologies and have different strategies with regard to 5G. Airtel is deploying 5G NSA (non-standalone), and Jio is deploying 5G SA (standalone). Because of deploying 5G SA, Jio has to install more 5G BTS (Base Transceiver Stations). Airtel can reach more areas than Jio with much lesser 5G BTS because it is deploying 5G NSA, which leverages the existing 4G core.
According to the data shared by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), as on March 3, 2023, Airtel had deployed 19,142 5G BTS across India and Jio had deployed 82,509 5G BTS. But here, it is worth remembering that Airtel has crossed 500 cities with its 5G while Jio is yet to do the same. For Jio, the capex should be much higher because it needs a more denser infrastructure for the 5G rollout. While someday, Airtel would also be walking towards 5G SA, right now, to justify returns in the medium term, Airtel has gone with 5G NSA.
Read More - Airtel is Offering Better 5G Experience: Opensignal Data
The telcos are not charging customers for using their 5G if they are active 4G users. This is because there's no specific use case that would attract customers towards 5G. For the users, 5G is all about high download speeds and lower latency, and nothing else. For this, they might not pay additional money over 4G at the moment and thus, to help users experience 5G, the telcos are offering it for free. Since the telcos are not monetising their 5G services, it would be a hard thing for them to keep fueling 5G capex without a tariff hike for 4G services.
Jio rolling out more 5G BTS doesn't necessarily mean that its 5G is going to be a better experience for the users. But when it comes to downloading speeds, yes, Jio's 5G is better than Airtel's. However, in many other departments, it is slightly behind.