Vodafone Idea, the country’s struggling third telecom player, plans to begin the journey to roll out 5G services, matching rivals Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, but the firm has offered no specific timeline for the launch or coverage of the ultra high-speed internet services. Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla on Saturday pledged the telco’s commitment to taking India on “the new pace of country’s digital journey” while speaking at the inauguration of India Mobile Congress 2022 and launch of 5G services in the country by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We will soon begin 5G rollout journey. We will leverage our strong presence in rural India, our enterprise customers, our tech partners, and global experience of Vodafone Group for progressively rolling out our 5G network and services in the coming period,” Birla said.
Unlike its rivals Reliance Jio and Airtel which outlined firm timelines for the launch of 5G services, Vodafone Idea did not disclose any rollout schedule or timeframe.
Bharti Airtel’s 5G service will be available in eight cities from Saturday, its chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said at the event. Mittal also said Airtel will roll out 5G services in several cities across the country by March 2023 and across India by March 2024.
Reliance Jio, the nation’s biggest telecom firm, will expand 5G telephony services offering ultra high-speed internet connectivity to every part of the country by December 2023, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani said at the mega telecom event.
Financial pressure has been mounting on cash-strapped Vodafone Idea, despite opting to convert about Rs 16,000 crore of interest liability payable to the government into equity.
Mobile tower giant Indus Towers is learnt to have asked debt-ridden Vodafone Idea to clear outstanding dues and pay on time every month for continuity of business post-November. According to sources, American Tower Corporation (ATC), which has 75,000 mobile towers in India, is also mulling steps to secure its dues.
“We have 240 million people connected to our networks with 50 per cent of them in rural India. Our networks have been constantly upgraded to be capable of swift and smooth migration to 5G. Having taken concrete steps for 5G ecosystem development, 5G use case for Indian enterprises and consumers and acquisition of 5G spectrum in the well-designed auction, we will soon begin the 5G rollout journey,” Birla said.
He said critical policy interventions by the government in the telecom space had boosted investor confidence and hoped that the sector will continue to receive policy support.
The Aditya Birla Group chairman termed 5G as a “generational leap in technology”, one that demonstrates India’s prowess on the global stage and reinforces the telecom industry’s role as the bedrock of Digital India.
The Telecom industry has been among the country’s key growth engines, catapulting India into the top five economies of the world. It continues to play a transformational role in touching every aspect of daily lives and work, Birla said.
“Today we are set to make a giant leap into the future, driven by reformist and futuristic policies of our PM, we are committed to the vision of building the digital infrastructure for India of tomorrow,” he said.
On Saturday, VIL also showcased a 5G use case and demonstrated how technology can be leveraged for ensuring worker safety and efficiency in critical construction sites.
With the launch of 5G networks, the telecom industry will further ignite the digital dreams of 1.3 billion Indians and many thousands of enterprises, Birla said.
“It will also set the stage for the country to become a $5 trillion (roughly Rs. 408 lakh crore) economy in the next few years with a $1 trillion (roughly Rs. 81 lakh crore) contribution by the digital economy itself. 5G will augment services at scale and create impact in critical areas like industries 4.0, automated manufacturing, to creating connected factories, smart cities, smart homes, immersive gaming and other innovative business and consumer solutions,” Birla noted.
The 5G-era will also accelerate immersive education, remote health and smart agriculture to enable inclusive growth and prosperity in rural India.
The launch of 5G services marks the start of an exciting journey for India, he said, adding as the ecosystem evolves, it will unleash the limitless potential for 5G development and use cases in years to come.
“The telecom industry will certainly play its roles in bringing alive his (Prime Minister’s) vision for Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India),” he said.