India's telecom market has four telecom service providers (TSPs). Three players are private, while one is owned and run by the government. A few years back, Reliance Jio made its entry just when 4G was starting to grow in India. Can it happen again in the 5G era? Many have speculated that with the Adani Data Networks, the Adani Group is looking to get into the telecom space the way Ambanis did it. But that's a far possibility. For now, Adani Group doesn't have enough spectrum to be competing across the nation with players such as Jio, Vi and Airtel.
Then, the Adani Group has already confirmed that, for now, they are only looking to offer enterprise 5G services. So for the next few years, we can forget that Adani Group is entering the consumer space in the telecom market. It wouldn't even make sense for the company as it doesn't have a background in the sector, and further, to offer mobile services, a PAN-India fiber infrastructure and more is required, which would involve huge investments while the returns on these overwhelming investments wouldn't be sufficient.
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So, can a foreign player come to the Indian market at this time and start offering 5G to both consumers and enterprises? Well, that's a possibility. But even then, the tariff structure that exists in India might not be viable for any foreign telecom group. India is recognised as one of the markets with the cheapest data rates, and that doesn't help in justifying huge investments in the market to investors.
But the honest truth is, there's a dire need for a strong fourth private telecom company. Currently, in the prepaid space and now with 5G as well, most of the load is shared by Jio and Airtel. Vodafone Idea (Vi) is also a large player, but its business has been on a declining trend for years now. Another strong private player would intensify the competition in the market. Whenever there's huge competition to win the hearts of the consumers, you know who wins - the consumers! That's why duopoly or monopoly are considered bad situations because they kill the competition in the market, and then companies aren't really rushing to impress the customers. Instead, it all becomes about what the company wants rather than what the customers want.
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If a fourth private telecom player has to come into the Indian market, then it definitely won't be now. The sector is heavily taxed, and many companies have been wiped off the Indian market in the last several years. But as 5G matures, maybe we will see new entrants in the consumer space by the end of the decade.