According to initial estimates carried out by mobile operators, telecom department and Trai, top metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata would be among the first cities that would see the rollout of 5G services from October this year. However, the launch would be scattered and stretch for months after the initial debut, running through the first half of 2023 as part of Phase 1 run.
The other cities to boast of inaugural 5G services in Phase 1 would include Gurugram, Pune, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Lucknow, and Gandhi Nagar, according to estimates based on field trials, network upgradation, and other technical parameters.
Consumers may have to shell out more on tariffs as companies will charge for premium services to recuperate their costs on spectrum and network upgrades. “We believe tariff hikes are likely by the end of 2022, as telcos would focus on monetisation to offset the hefty spectrum commitments,” Jefferies said in a post-auction report. Companies said network deployment work is progressing at a hectic pace, especially as telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has made it clear that the government is looking at an October launch.
Vaishnaw has also instructed his staff to start allocating frequencies at the earliest and close formalities by the second week of this month. “Field work and network deployment had already begun in case of 5G, and companies have a good experience through the trials that were being conducted for a long period in the pre-auction stage,” a senior official in one of the mobile companies said.
Another official said initial deployment of 5G will not be a technological challenge when compared to upgrade that had to be made when the network shifted from 3G to 4G. “4G was migrating from a digital network to an IP-based setup. In case of 5G, it remains an IP-based system, though there will be upgrades to software, servers, while radio antennas have to be installed. Also, small cell sites for 5G have to be installed wherever the need arises. ”
Asked whether the entire cities will be covered at launch, officials said, “This may not be the case. In the beginning, large zones will be 5G enabled, and these would gradually be expanded to cover the entire cities. It will be in batches. But even if they are not covered, the fall back will be on very dependable, high-speed 4G network. ”