Bharti Airtel launches 5G, but will not charge more for now


Bharti Airtel on Thursday made a formal announcement on the launch of 5G services in key Indian markets and revealed that it will not make customers pay more for the technology until its rollout is more widespread.

The Indian press was full of the news of Bharti’s 5G launch earlier this week, the operator’s CEO Sunil Mittal having announced on Saturday that the network would go live later that day. As the Economic Times reported, Mittal’s announcement was all about being first to market. The reason for that became clear when Reliance Jio Infocomm hit the button on its own 5G network on Tuesday, albeit in beta form.

Bharti has now issued a formal statement detailing the launch of 5G – Airtel 5G Plus, to give the service its full title – in eight cities, including Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. But while the telco is clearly very excited to unveil the service, it’s pretty clear that this is not a broad 5G launch as yet.

“Customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur and Varanasi will start enjoying the cutting edge Airtel 5G Plus services in a phased manner as the company continues to construct its network and complete the roll out,” Bharti Airtel said.

“Customers who have 5G smart phones will enjoy the high speed Airtel 5G Plus on their existing data plans until the roll out is more widespread.”

Aside from the use of the future tense in those two sentences, something that always suggests things are not completely as the operator would have them seem, it’s also noteworthy that Bharti Airtel has not rolled out 5G-specific tariffs yet. There had been talk in the press of the launch of 5G pricing plans within a matter of days, but clearly the telco is not there yet.

All in all, it seems that Bharti’s 5G launch might at this stage be little more than a few sites here and there.

But that’s not altogether surprising, given the timeframes Indian telcos have been working within.

India announced the results of its 5G spectrum auction just two months ago, with Reliance Jio picking up well over half of the US$19 billion the multi-band sale raised, around twice Bharti’s bill. Just days later Bharti announced it would begin network rollout immediately and unveiled ambitious plans to deploy 5G in 5,000 towns by March 2024, essentially 18 months away.

India is desperate to play a bigger role at the outset of 5G than it has with other generations of mobile technology. It might already have missed the boat on that – although the news earlier this week that Reliance Jio is in talks to sell homegrown kit to overseas players will give it hope – but its operators are moving at pace nonetheless.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Tomar 07/10/2022 @ 4:59 pm

    Its not a launch, just fake, neither in delhi or gurgaon even airtel employees don’t have access to 5G, its just fake marketing

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