The wait is, apparently, nearly over. Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of global conglomerate the Aditya Birla Group, and one of the shareholders of operator Vodafone Idea (aka Vi), has been heard on Indian TV saying Vodafone Idea is to begin its 5G rollout soon.
However, while Birla did tell CNBC-TV18 that Vi 5G services were going to happen, he didn’t say precisely when. It’s clearly an important move for shareholders (not least the government, now Vodafone Idea’s single largest shareholder with a 33.44% stake after a recently executed equity conversion plan) as the company can ill afford to be left behind by its rivals Jio and Airtel in the pursuit of high-paying customers.
However, Vi needs to pay massive debts and invest in existing infrastructure too as well as find the money to build a 5G network.
Meanwhile its rivals have been increasing their 5G coverage. This week Bharti Airtel said it had launched its 5G Plus services in the Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh in North India.
Depending on which update you read, Jio already boasts coverage of 2,345 cities and towns across the country. The Economic Times suggests that this includes 406 cities. Airtel has already reached 500 cities in its 5G coverage and has a target of reaching all of urban India with 5G by September this year. Vi has a lot of catching up to do.