Airtel claims that it is ready to rollout 5G services in India as soon as the spectrum auction takes places and the government provides the required permissions. The spectrum auction for 5G is expected in May this year. The telecom operator has spent the last 15 months preparing the required infrastructure for 5G connectivity and believes it is ready to provide the services, company’s CTO Randeep Sekhon told India Today Tech on Thursday, on the sidelines of a event where Airtel demonstrated how 5G can shape the future of interactive sports entertainment by re-creating Kapil Dev’s famous 175 not out from the 1983 World Cup.

“Now, the 5G rollout is very close. The government is pushing for the auction date. Once they give us the spectrum, we will start the rollout. We have spent the last 15 months putting together the right infrastructure for it,” Sekhon said.

The last 12 months haven’t been easy for telecom operators. We have seen all major telcos increase the prices of their 4G data plans in India during this period. However, Sekhon is hopeful that 5G plans will not cost significantly more than the existing 4G plans. He gave the example of other markets where customers don’t have to pay a premium for 5G services.

“We will know the final costs only after the spectrum auction. If you look at other markets, where operators are already proving 5G, we haven’t seen them charging a premium for it over 4G,” he said.

The first set of 5G phones were launched in India almost two years ago. We are yet to see the network support for them. This leaves the users with an interesting choice to make – 4G phones with high-end specifications or 5G phones with some cut-downs. Asked about this, Sekhon said that customers make smart choices. Some of them are waiting for the 5G rollout to happen before buying a new phone. He added that phones should also be evolved by them and you would have 5G with the latest specs.

Airtel used the event to showcase its 5G’s high-speed, low latency capabilities. It used the 5G network to recreate the in-stadia experience of Kapil Dev’s famous 175 not out vs Zimbabwe, during the 1983 Cricket World Cup. The video was played in 4K mode, and brought key moments from the match to life, which had no video footage due to a strike by TV technicians. It was played at a high internet speed of over 1 Gbps and a latency of under 20 ms. However, the real world speed may differ.

Sekhon believes that 5G will have many cases, but, the entertainment part will also depend on the support provided by content providers.

“5G will ensure that we have really fast internet speed. Let’s say we are working from home or want to stream 4K videos but don’t have a fiber connection, then 5G will ensure fast internet speed. As far as content consumption and a more immersive experience go, we will need content providers for that,” he said.


India today