5G launch is right around the corner, according to Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. While we are not expecting 5G to go official in India at least by mid-2022, telcos are testing their indigenous technology internally. Last year, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio said it would launch 5G by mid-2021, whereas Bharti Airtel in January said its network is 5G ready. Both the telcos will launch 5G as soon as the government brings the spectrum for auction. Ookla, the global network measuring service, in its 'Ookla 5G Map' displays that both Airtel and Jio have set up 5G towers. While Jio's 5G tower is located in Mumbai, Airtel's tower is located in Hyderabad. These towers are listed under the 'Pre-Release' category. Overall, there a total of 5G 21,996 towers across the globe.
Ookla Displays 5G Towers of Jio and Airtel Under Pre-Release Category
Ookla says the towers listed under the pre-release category will have the 5G network hardware in place but is currently in testing and/or not yet accessible to customers. At the end of January, Bharti Airtel officially said that it had completed a commercial test of 5G in the city of Hyderabad. The Ookla 5G Map must be showing the same tower of Bharti Airtel. On the other hand, we have Reliance Jio, whose 5G tower is set up in Mumbai, where the company could be testing its in-house 5G equipment.
Both Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel said they are capable of rolling out 5G services immediately in the country, subject to the 5G spectrum auction from the government. The DoT just hosted the Spectrum Auction 2021, during which the spectrum in the premium 700 MHz band went unsold yet again. It is unknown when the 5G spectrum auction will be held in India.
At the moment, we are sure that 5G is at least eight months away from commercial launch in India. Airtel demonstrated the commercial 5G trial using the spectrum in the 1800 MHz band via the NSA network technology. It seems like Srilankan telecom operators are also gearing up for the 5G launch as Ookla 5G Map shows three towers in the pre-release category.
Ookla's 5G Map also suggests that there are a total of 21,996 towers set up around the world right now. 5G is present in more than 35 countries at the moment. It is safe to say India missed the 5G bus, similar to 4G.