On Thursday, Bharti Airtel said its network is 5G ready now as the telco successfully demonstrated live fifth-generation service – with ultra-high speeds – over a commercial network in Hyderabad city. The move assumes significance as telcos are gearing up to leverage 5G as the next frontier for future growth to bolster revenues and provide a stronger customer experience. While the latest demonstration underscores the company’s technology capabilities for rolling out of fifth-generation services in the future, Airtel said the actual impact of the 5G experience would be available to customers “when the adequate spectrum is available, and government approvals are received.”

For the demo run, the company leveraged the existing liberalized spectrum in the 1800 MHz band.

“In many ways now, it is a flick of a button to turn on 5G. We must get the right 5G experience for which adequate spectrum in the right bands needs to be made available.

“Today, we have conclusively demonstrated that as far as Airtel is concerned, we are 5G ready,” Bharti Airtel MD and CEO Gopal Vittal said at a virtual conference.

The company said Airtel 5G could deliver 10x speeds, 10x latency, and 100x concurrency when compared to existing technologies. Specifically, in Hyderabad, users could download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds on a 5G phone.

Airtel seamlessly operated 5G and 4G concurrently using dynamic spectrum sharing within the same spectrum block.

The company said its demonstration had validated the 5G readiness of Airtel’s network across all domains – radio, core and transport.

“Every single part of our network is now fully 5G ready…and can use any spectrum band to click on 5G experience in a matter of months,” Vittal said.

Airtel said it is committed to position India as a global innovation hub at the forefront of the tech revolution.

India can become a global hub for 5G innovation, Vittal said, adding this would require the coming together of the ecosystem – applications, devices, and network innovation.

“We are more than ready to do our bit,” he emphasized.

Airtel said it is the first operator to demonstrate this capability. The company had already demonstrated 5G capabilities in labs, where on a standalone mode, it delivered experiences of up to 3 Gbps.

“We are excited, as this has been demonstrated over a commercial network…The moment we receive Government approvals and have the right spectrum bands in adequate quantities, we will roll this out immediately.

“Even on existing bands of spectrum, 5G can be turned on, but the full power of the experience will be felt only when the adequate spectrum is available from the Government,” Vittal said.

The company does not see any significant change in its CAPEX cycle going forward.

Telecom companies are eagerly looking to tap the upcoming 5G opportunities in India, a lucrative market with the second largest number of telephone connections in the world.

Reliance Jio has said it will continue to accelerate its digital platforms’ rollout and indigenously developed next-generation 5G stack.

The company had said it would make 5G affordable and available everywhere, adding that its 5G service would be a testimony to the vision of ”Atmanirbhar Bharat”.

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