Vodafone Idea (Vi), the third-largest telecom operator in India, has not launched 5G services alongside Airtel and Jio. While the telco has already proven the power of its 5G networks by demonstrating several use cases with the partners and vendors, it doesn't have the money to roll out 5G right now. Once Vi has sorted its funding issues, the telco will plan for the 5G rollout by purchasing 5G network gear from the vendors. While the telco may lose some customers to Jio and Airtel along the way due to the delayed 5G rollout, it can still benefit from the fact that the smartphone ecosystem in India is currently not 5G ready.
While the OTA (over-the-air) updates can be sent by the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in a matter of weeks, it still doesn't mean that everyone in India will be under 5G coverage and would want 5G in the first place. While 5G sounds exciting, it will take its sweet time to become a common technology in India.
Because there are only two operators currently offering 5G services in very limited areas of the country, Vi doesn't need to worry a lot and just focus on rolling out 5G as fast as possible. Vi is already in talks with several banks for funding. Once that is done, the telco would then go ahead and make deals with the vendors for the 5G gear.
It will take years before 5G is as common as 4G in India in the consumer segment. The use cases of 5G and market studies and experts suggest that it will be the enterprises that would require 5G services more. This is again an area where Vi can do good business. The telco already has many enterprise partners, and many more would be onboarded in the future, given the extensive portfolio of services that Vi Business, the B2B unit of Vodafone Idea, offers to the clients.
Since there's a non-ready 5G phone ecosystem in the country, it means that Jio and Airtel won't really be making a big impact with their 5G rollout, regardless of how fast they roll it out. Consumers are going to naturally upgrade to 5G phones and are unlikely to purchase 5G phones just for the sake of using 5G.
That said, Vi needs to resolve its funding issues as soon as possible. Otherwise, the telco will fall into greater trouble. Vi also can make a difference by offering better 4G services to customers.