Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country’s 5G services at India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2022. Leading telcos such as Airtel, Jio announced the launch timeline of their 5G networks, however, Vodafone Idea (Vi) did not share a concrete timeline. Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla promised that Vi will be rolling out 5G “soon,” but did not divulge the exact dates.
At the inauguration of IMC 2022 on Saturday, Birla said, “We will soon begin 5G rollout journey. We will leverage our strong presence in rural India, our enterprise customers, our tech partners, and global experience of Vodafone Group for progressively rolling out our 5G network and services in the coming period.”
Meanwhile, Airtel’s 5G services have already started rolling out in eight cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Bangalore, Siliguri, Chennai, and Hyderabad. The telco aims to introduce 5G services in more cities across the country by March 2023, and across India by March 2024. Jio promises pan-India 5G coverage by December 2023.
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Birla heaped praises on the PM’s policies, saying, “Today we are set to make a giant leap into the future, driven by reformist and futuristic policies of our PM, we are committed to the vision of building the digital infrastructure for India of tomorrow.”
Birla added, “We have 240 million people connected to our networks with 50 per cent of them in rural India. Our networks have been constantly upgraded to be capable of swift and smooth migration to 5G. Having taken concrete steps for 5G ecosystem development, 5G use case for Indian enterprises and consumers and acquisition of 5G spectrum in the well-designed auction, we will soon begin the 5G rollout journey.” At the event, Vi demonstrated a 5G use case to show how the technology can ensure worker safety and boost efficiency in construction sites.
Although Birla tried to paint a rosy picture, Vi has been riddled with debt in spite of converting nearly ₹16,000 crore of interest liability that is payable to the government into equity. Mobile tower company Indus Towers has reportedly warned Vi to clear its outstanding dues and to settle its monthly payments to ensure uninterrupted services. Vi’s troubles appear to see no end, as American Tower Corporation (ATC) is also planning to collects its long-pending dues from the telco. It remains to be seen how Vi manages its ever-increasing debts and rolls out its 5G services in the country.