Airtel on Thursday announced that it had become the first telco to successfully demonstrate live 5G service over a commercial network in Hyderabad. Taking on Reliance Jio, the New Delhi-based telco stated that it operated 5G and 4G concurrently over the existing liberalised spectrum in the 1800MHz band through the Non-Standalone (NSA) network technology. Airtel 5G is touted to deliver 10 times the speed of existing network technologies — allowing users to download a full-length movie in a matter of seconds on a 5G phone.
Airtel worked with its equipment partner Ericsson to enable the new experience. The operator claimed that it had the capability to operate its 5G network over existing technology-neutral spectrum in mid-bands that are at 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2300MHz frequency alongside the sub-GHz bands available at 800MHz and 900MHz. The transition to 5G is available through software upgrades over the existing network infrastructure, the operator said.
If permitted by the Department of Telecom (DoT), Airtel stated that it could operate its 5G and 4G networks dynamically within the same spectrum block and is ready to deploy 5G in a matter of months. However, the operator didn’t provide any specific timeline on the commercial rollout of its 5G network in the country.
“The moment we receive government approvals, and we have the right spectrum bands and in adequate quantities, we’ll be able to roll this [5G] out immediately,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, Bharti Airtel, during a virtual media briefing.
For the early demonstration, Airtel used Oppo Reno 5 Pro and Oppo Find X2 Pro smartphones. The operator, however, said that over 20 commercially available 5G phones in the country would be ready for Airtel 5G. Existing users will also not be required to upgrade their existing SIM cards to get the next-generation network experience on their compatible handsets.
In December, Airtel arch-rival and India’s biggest telecom network Jio announced that it would start rolling out its 5G service in the country in the second half of 2021. The operator also promised to test its 5G network at scale, though it is yet to demonstrate its offering to the public.
Airtel’s 5G demonstration is live at select stores in Hyderabad. The operator is claiming to maintain social distancing norms to curb coronavirus spread while showcasing the new experience.
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