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Kudos to Airtel & Jio for a combined 50 million 5G subscribers, spread over 500 cities

Six months since the launch of 5G services, India has reached a key milestone this month, notching up 50 million 5G customers.

A top Department of Telecommunications official confirmed the number, based on data submitted by Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.

It means 5G customers now account for 4.37 per cent of India’s total subscriber base, based on TRAI data up to 31 December 2022. It is estimated to be around 6.5 per cent of the total 4G subscriber base, pegged at 773 million.

Globally, India now accounts for 5 per cent of the world’s one billion 5G customers, as of the end of last year.

India is already closing in on western Europe. An Ericsson mobility report said western Europe ended 2022 with 63 million 5G subscribers (a penetration of 11.5 per cent). This, despite the head start of over two years.

In Latin America, the subscriber numbers are much lower at 19 million; 31 million in south east Asia and Oceania; 9 million in the Middle East and north Africa; and 15 million in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, as of the end of 2022.

However, there are three markets India needs to catch up with. One is China with 644 million 5G customers which account for 38 per cent of its total subscribers.

Another is north America which ended 2022 with 141 million 5G customers, nearly double the 2021 figure, accounting for a 35 per cent penetration.

The global CEO of Ericsson, Borje Ekholm, said in a recent interview to Business Standard that 5G will be rolled out faster in India by the end of the year than in the US and that it has already surpassed the pace of the roll out in Europe.

Third, in north east Asia which includes South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, there were 84 million 5G customers at the end of last year.

Experts have given varying projections on India’s 5G growth. Omdia estimates that by the end of 2024, there will be over 150 million 5G subscribers, with a major offtake from the second half of 2023.

Ericsson predicts that India will be the second largest 5G market in terms of subscribers by 2028, after China.

Certainly, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are rolling out their 5G networks aggressively. They have covered over 116,000 towers, that’s 15 per cent of all towers.

Based on telecom company sources, Reliance Jio has covered 50,000 towers and installed over 300,000 radios which include three radios each for 3.5 GHZ and 700 MHz which they had bought for coverage.

Bharti Airtel has installed over 100,000 radios. It has not bought spectrum at 700 MHz because it already has enough spectrum in other bands for coverage.

The two companies have jointly covered over 500 cities with a minimum coverage of 20 per cent though in some cities such as New Delhi, this goes up to 70 per cent, according to telco sources in the know.

Omdia projects 150 million 5G subscribers by end-2024; telcos expect the number to be breached by the end of this year Over 6.5 per cent of 4G users are now on 5G India is closing in on western Europe which has 63 million 5G subscribers; it is already ahead of Latin America and the GCC But it is behind China where 5G penetration has hit 35 per cent. Business Standard

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