Bharti Airtel will utilise its extant 4G network infrastructure to roll out 5G in India.
Expected Launch and 4G Leverage
Commercial launch of 5G services is expected 4-5 months after acquiring spectrum in auctions expected to take place later this year or early 2022.
Non-standalone (NSA) 5G is the 1st stage of 5G tech in which telcos can use their existing 4G assets and leverage the same across the 5G network.
In the process overall capex requirements will be reduced.
The telco would have to invest in new radios in order to use spectrum in a new band like 3.5 GHZ (a 5G band which will be up for auction).
Bharti Airtel says that it does not have expectations of changing its capex requirement since much of its investments in 4G can be used for 5G.
A top exec has said that the firm is ready to switch to 5G network as soon as the 3.5 GHZ band is auctioned.
The source also said that keeping in mind the use case scenario a NSA 5G network will be ” relevant for the country for the next 10 years, even though standalone 5G might be introduced earlier”.
According to them NSA 5G tech offers low latency upto 10 millisecs lending support to services such as “machine-to-machine functions, smart factories for enterprises, and virtual and augmented reality services for mobile customers.”
However where it falls short is its inability to handle remote robotic surgery or autonomous cars which require lower latency and more precision.
Airtel’s move is in contrast to Reliance Jio which is aiming for a direct standalone 5G network.
A Standalone 5G network is a next-gen technology which offers lower latency supporting critical functions such as autonomous cars, robotic surgery, Internet of Things-based critical communications, remote control of critical infrastructure, or massive data analytics.
Presently South Korea, Singapore, the US and China are already ahead of the curve when it comes to deployment of 5G core by replacing 4G core.