When Reliance Jio launched its 4G mobile and data services, it became India’s sole 4G-only telecom provider. While the rest of the market had to support legacy infrastructure for customers on 2G and 3G networks, Reliance Jio was unburdened by such expectations and could focus on creating an infrastructure network that’s geared towards the 4G and next-gen network, including 5G services. According to Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani, the core and aggregation layers of Jio’s network has been 5G ready since day one, so the telco is ready to launch 5G faster than others.
Speaking at the company’s AGM, Ambani said that because of Jio’s approach at the time of launch to not focus on legacy networks, the implementation of 5G can be done at a minimal cost to the company. On the other hand, the adoption of next-gen 5G networks is likely to be a huge capital burden on rival telcos who are already reeling from underwhelming revenue in the light of Reliance Jio’s highly aggressive pricing over the past couple of fiscal years.
“We can upgrade this to 5G at minimum incremental cost,” Ambani said at the meeting, which he attributed to Jio’s converged network architecture, which is also tied into its fixed-line broadband service for homes and businesses.
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In other major announcements at the AGM, Ambani announced Reliance’s partnership with Microsoft Azure and Office 365 platforms for cloud services, as well as the Office business productivity suite for startups and SMEs. Jio is said to be building new custom solutions on Microsoft Azure for enterprises for easy and affordable access to advanced technologies such as data analytics, AI, cognitive services, blockchain, IoT and edge computing.
Telecom companies are awaiting the Indian government’s approval on spectrum allotment. Spectrum allocation in India is being done through the auction process and the government is yet to auction the spectrum 3.3K – 3.6K MHz bands. The spectrum band (3.5 GHz spectrum) is expected to be the first band to be globally accepted for 5G deployment.
In June, the GSM Association, which tracks telecom coverage and developments, estimated that India would have around 920 Mn unique mobile subscribers by 2025. as compared to 750 Mn subscribers in 2018. Further, India is predicted to have 88 Mn 5G connections by 2025, which is around 7% of the country’s total telecom connections. “This will leave India trailing regional peers such as China, which is set to see almost 30% of its total connections base on 5G by 2025, making it by some way the largest 5G market in the world,” the association had noted.