2022 is finally gone. It was a monumental period for the Indian telecom industry. Several major incidents which changed the course of the sector took place. Here, we will be discussing some of the top highlights of 2022 for the Indian telecom industry. At the top of the list would, of course, be 5G. India is finally a 5G nation. While it has been three months already, it still feels great and proud to call India a 5G nation. Yes, India was late to the 5G party, but the way Indian telcos have arrived, the world can't help but take notice. Let's go over everything now.
5G Launch in India
October 1, 2022, will always be known for the launch of 5G in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tapped the button at the India Mobile Congress (IMC), which launched 5G in the country. Note that this was just a ceremony and not a commercial launch.
Bharti Airtel was the first to launch 5G commercially in India on October 6, 2022. Even at the end of 2022, Airtel was the only telco with commercial 5G networks in India. Jio is still in the beta phase with 5G. Jio had announced that starting Dussehra, which was on October 5, 2022, Indians in select cities would be able to consume 5G beta services under the Welcome Offer.
At the end of December 31, 2022, these were the cities where 5G was present.
Jio 5G Cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Kolkata, Nathdwara (5G Wi-Fi), Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Lucknow, Trivandrum, Mysuru, Nashik, Aurangabad, Chandigarh, Mohali, Panchkula, Zirakpur, Kharar, Derabassi, 33-district heads of Gujarat, The Mahakaleshwar temple and Shri Mahakaal Mahalok in Ujjain (5G Wi-Fi), Kochi, Guruvayur Temple premises (5G Wi-Fi), Tirumala Temple (5G Wi-Fi), Vijaywada, Indore, Bhopal and Guntur.
Airtel 5G Cities - Patna, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Gandhinagar, Delhi, Gurugram, Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Siliguri, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Imphal, Shimla, Visakhapatnam or Vizag, Lucknow, Panipat, Jammu and Srinagar.
Airtel plans to cover India with 5G NSA (non-standalone) networks by March 2024, and Jio plans to cover India with 5G SA (standalone) by December 2023. Ericsson predicted that India would have 31 million 5G users by the end of 2022 (wish there was a way to verify this). Ericsson has also predicted in its mobility report that India would have 690 million 5G subscriptions by 2028, which would be more than the total 4G subscriptions in the country.
Vodafone Idea (Vi) is the only telecom operator which hasn't launched 5G in India yet. Anyway, let's move on to the next big thing that happened.
5G Spectrum Auction of 2022
The Indian government sold spectrum worth Rs 1,50,173 crore in the first-ever 5G spectrum auction to Indian telcos. A total of 72,098 MHz of spectrum was offered to the telcos, out of which 51,236 MHz of spectrum was sold.
Reliance Jio became the first Indian telecom operator to acquire spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Jio spent a total of Rs 88,078 crores in the spectrum auction. The telco acquired a total of 24,470 MHz spectrum in the 26 GHz, 3300 MHz, 1800 MHz, 800 MHz, and 700 MHz bands.
Bharti Airtel spent Rs 43,084 crores in the 5G spectrum auction. Airtel acquired a total of 19,867 MHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz, 3300 MHz, 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 900 MHz bands.
Vodafone Idea (Vi) made bids for 5G spectrum worth Rs 18,799 crore and acquired a total of 6,228 MHz of airwaves in the 26 GHz, 3300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 1800 MHz bands.
Adani Data Networks, a new entrant to the Indian telecom industry, bid for spectrum worth Rs 212 crore only and acquired a total of 400 MHz spectrum in the 26 GHz band.
Vodafone Idea Appoints New CEO
Vodafone Idea appointed a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) - Akshaya Moondra. From August 19, 2022, Ravinder Takkar was no longer the CEO of the cash-strapped telecom operator. Takkar served for a period of three years as he was appointed on August 19, 2019, and his term was scheduled to end on August 18, 2022. It wouldn't be fair to say this, but under Takkar, the company didn't show much promise. Moondra, who is currently leading the company, has been dealt a hand that is too hard to play. Vi is clearly struggling, and while we can talk about it all day, it would be best that we move to the next highlight.
Gopal Vittal's Term as MD and CEO of Bharti Airtel Extended
Gopal Vittal's term as the Managing Director (MD) and CEO of Bharti Airtel was extended by five years after the shareholders gave their approval to the board's decision to do the same. From February 1, 2023, Vittal will again serve as the MD of the company for the next five years. Under Vittal, Airtel has made great progress, and with the 5G launch, the telco is expected to perform even better in the coming years.
Vittal was also appointed as the Deputy Chair of GSMA for two years, starting January 1, 2023. It is the second-highest position in the organisation. Further, this makes Vittal just the second Indian after Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Airtel, to hold such a high-ranked position in GSMA.
Adani Group Makes Entry into Telecom Sector with 5G
Adani Group was a surprise entry into the Indian telecom industry. In the initial stages, when the company's name surfaced for being a participant in the 5G spectrum auction, many assumed that Adani Data Networks was looking to do what Jio did with 4G. However, much to the disappointment of people who like controversies, Adani Group clarified that it was just looking to be a part of the B2B segment with 5G.
As mentioned above, the company just bid for 400 MHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz band, which would help it in setting up private 5G networks. But, as the saying goes - "never say never". We could see the Adani Group making an entry into the telecom sector's consumer business in one way or the other.
Reliance Jio Gets a New Chairman, and it is Mukesh Ambani's Eldest Son
Akash Ambani, the eldest son of Mukesh Ambani, was appointed as the new Chairman of Reliance Jio. Akash has been actively involved with Jio for many years now and has also been spotted making announcements for the telco in the Annual General Meetings (AGMs) of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), the owner of Jio Platforms Limited (JPL).
It was under Akash Ambani that Jio started rolling out 5G. It would be an interesting journey to witness. Especially when Jio goes for IPO (Initial Public Offer).
Vodafone Idea Revamps Entire Postpaid Lineup for Consumers
In a big move, Vodafone Idea announced new Vi Max postpaid plans for consumers. These new plans brought back the REDX branded postpaid offering for the customers. With the new plans, Vi aims to offer extra benefits to consumers and retain existing users. This was an unexpected announcement from the telco, which is struggling to keep users from leaving its networks. Vi has been losing customers for several consecutive months.
Govt Announces Relief Package for BSNL
The Indian government announced a new relief package for BSNL worth Rs 1.64 lakh crore in 2022. Under the relief package, the government also talked about the merger of BSNL and BBNL. This was the second relief package for BSNL since 2019. Get the details of the relief package by clicking here.
Launch of Gatishakti Sanchar Portal
The launch of the Gatishakti Sanchar Portal by the Indian government will help the telecom sector in going ahead with 5G. The portal is meant to serve as a central platform for all Right of Way (RoW) related clearances. Many states have already been onboarded with the platform, and more should follow in the future. This portal would ensure that the wait time for the telcos to get RoW clearances comes down, which in turn would mean faster rollout of new technology services.
BSNL finally completed 4G proof of concept (PoC) trials with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in 2022. The state-run telco is all set to launch 4G in early 2023. Union telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that BSNL would launch its 4G in January 2023 and 5G just seven months after that.
BSNL also gave Skipper a Rs 2570 crore project for helping with the 4G rollout in 2022. The project is to supply and erect mobile towers for 4G.
C-DoT Unveils Made in India 5G Core
At the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2022, C-DoT unveiled a homegrown 5G core. The 5G core would enable BSNL, as well as telcos in other developing nations, to get access to 5G core technology.
These, in my opinion, are the top highlights of 2022 for the Indian telecom industry. If you think I missed out on something, put it in the comments below. This is it from us for 2022. See you in 2023.