The ‘Big 3’ of Indian telecom reiterate their commitment to 5G rollout

Rarely does one see competitors on the same platform in a public forum. But the launch of 5G services in India at the Indian Mobile Congress on Saturday witnessed Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Mukesh Ambani, Founder & Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, Sunil Bharti Mittal, and Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Mangalam Birla, sharing the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The men behind three of the country’s largest telecom companies reiterated their commitment to 5G.

Observing that the Indian Mobile Congress had evolved into a global telecom event over the years, Ambani said that 5G was the foundational technology that would help unlock the potential of other transformative technologies like artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT), robotics, blockchain and metaverse.

“Acceleration of growth by making India a $40-trillion economy by 2047, up from $3 trillion today, and inclusion in development by increasing per capita income rapidly to over $20,000, from $2,000, today. Therefore, it will not be an exaggeration to say that 5G is like a Digital Kamadhenu, the heavenly cow that grants whatever we desire,” added Ambani.

Promising the most affordable 5G service in the world, Ambani said Reliance Jio would have completed its rollout to “every town, every taluka and every tehsil of the country” by December 2023.

Bharti Enterprises’ Mittal said that the 5G launch marked the beginning of a new era in the country as the technology would help open up new opportunities for all Indians. Directly addressing the prime minister during his speech, Mittal informed that Bharti Airtel was the first company to offer 5G services in India.

“As you will launch 5G services today, Airtel will start offering it in eight cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and Bengaluru,” Mittal said. He further stated that Bharti Airtel will bring 5G across the country by March 2024.

Speaking on a lighter note, he mentioned how Reliance Jio’s aggressive launch in telecom helped fast-track 4G expansion. “It also made us (competition) run faster to catch up with Jio!” he added to peals of laughter and a hearty round of applause from the audience.

Aditya Birla Group’s Birla said that Vodafone Idea had been constantly upgrading infrastructure to ensure a smooth transition to 5G. “Having taken concrete steps for the 5G ecosystem development, 5G use cases for Indian enterprises and consumers and the acquisition of 5G spectrum in a very well-designed auction, we will soon begin the 5G rollout journey,” even while stopping short of spelling out any timelines.

The launch of the sixth edition of the country’s marquee telecom and technology event drew a record crowd of more than 3,000 for the inauguration ceremony itself as life continues to return to normalcy across the country following more than two years of Covid-19 induced restrictions. The fact that the four-day event is being used to showcase the 5G rollout, has added to its attraction.

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