Ericsson’s senior representative in the region has said that 5G deployment in India remains “a few years away”, due to intense price competition between vendors and insufficient availability of spectrum resources.
“The overall telecom market in South East Asia, Oceania and India has strong fundamentals in terms of the growth in subscriptions, smartphone penetration, and data consumption. At the same time, operators are challenged by intense competition and the cost of managing increased data traffic,” Nunzio Mirtillo, head of South East Asia, Oceania and India, told journalists from the Economic Times of India.
“However, spectrum allocation constraints mean that the majority of 5G deployments across South East Asia and India are a few years away.”
India remains the world’s second largest mobile telecoms market with 1.2 billion mobile subscribers. However, it is also one of the most competitive, with operators trading on wafer thin margins in a bid to try and gain leverage through scale.
As a result of this, and of the recent Supreme Court ruling that saddled Indian telcos with an additional $13 billion of combined debt, Indian telcos are decidedly lacking the required capital investment funds to begin their 5G preparations in earnest.
The Department of Telecoms and the Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India are yet to confirm when they will begin the process of auctioning 5G spectrum.
Speaking at an industry event in Delhi last year, Bharti Airtel’s CEO, Gopal Vittal, told journalists that Indian telcos would require 1,000MHz of spectrum, each, in order to comprehensively role out adequate 5G services.
“Indian operators need 1,000MHz of spectrum, each, in order to do 5G properly. There is a lot of work to be done freeing up mmWave spectrum in the high bands. Even when you talk about spectrum in the mid band, the 3.5GHz spectrum, every operator is going to need 75-100MHz of spectrum, otherwise you will see a 5G icon displayed on your phone, but in reality you will just be getting a 4G experience,” he said.