India’s Jio sets 5G sights for second half of 2021

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Mukesh Ambani, chairman of India’s Reliance Industries, on Tuesday said policy steps are necessary to speed up the rollout of 5G and indicated Jio Platforms would make moves on 5G next year.

“Policy steps are needed to accelerate early rollouts of 5G and to make it affordable and available everywhere,” Ambani said, speaking at India Mobile Congress.

Ambani, the richest person in India, noted that as many as 300 million subscribers in India still use 2G, and also called for “urgent policy steps” to ensure people have access to affordable smartphones.

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It’s unclear when 5G spectrum will be made available or in what bands, as an anticipated auction was already delayed. Still, Ambani indicated 2021 as the timeline for Jio advancing 5G.

“I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G revolution in India in the second half of 2021,” he said, adding that it will be developed using home-grown network, hardware, and technology components. “I can say with utmost confidence that 5G will enable India to not only participate in the fourth industrial revolution, but also to lead it.”

RELATED: Jio is driving a ‘best of times, worst of times’ in Indian telco

The Reliance chairman said the company is creating native solutions in education, healthcare, agriculture, infrastructure, financial services and e-commerce. “Each of these solutions, once proven in India will be offered to the rest of the world to address global challenges.”

Reliance Jio shook up the Indian telecom market since entering the scene, becoming the largest mobile operator in under five years. With a 4G LTE-only network and very low pricing. Jio already has around 400 million subscribers.  

Earlier this year Ambani laid out visions for its Jio Platforms unit that include exporting in-house 5G tech globally, and teamed up with Google for an affordable smartphone.

Jio Platforms, which is behind operator Jio, in a funding blitz this year secured more than $20 billion in investments. Investors include tech giants Google, Facebook, along with Intel and Qualcomm, among others including financial firms.

RELATED: India’s Jio creates 5G tech in-house, teams with Google on affordable smartphone

Bharti Airtel itself raised more than $5 billion, which IDC’s Simon Baker and Shiv Putcha noted in a recent FierceWireles column, saying it may have been overshadowed by Jio’s massive investments.

According to the Economic Times India, Jio and India’s Bharti Airtel are expected to gain revenue share as Vodafone Idea sees losses. With Jio and Bharti Airtel together forecast to dominate between 75% and 80% of the telecom market, up from about 70% currently.

Bharti Airtel leads for mobile experience in Tutela testing 

Tutela this week released a snapshot of mobile experience in India, where Airtel won four of five metrics including the highest consistent quality, fastest median download speed and lowest latency.

The network testing company says “excellent” consistent quality means that connections have a network experience that can handle things like 1080p video streaming, real-time mobile gaming or HD video calling.

It’s broken down into six key performance indicators including average download and upload speed (for excellent the minimum threshold is 5 Mbps down/1.5 Mbps up), latency (minimum of 50 ms), jitter (min. of 30 ms), packet loss (min. 1%), and time to first byte (min. of 3.2 s).  

Results show 55.4% of tests on Airtel’s network met the “excellent” consistent quality thresholds, followed by Vodafone Idea at 48.5%, Jio in third at 45.1%, and BSNL Mobile at a very low 14%.

Notably none of the operators met the 90% threshold for core consistent quality, meaning a network experience for simple usage like SD video streaming, social media and web browsing.

Airtel still topped the list though with 83% of tests delivering a standard experience, while Jio’s network provided core quality in 78% of tests, and Vodafone Idea in 73.8%.

Tutela India mobile experience graph Dec 2020

(Tutela)

Earlier this year Bharti Airtel deployed virtual RAN software from Altiostar across its 4G network in major cities in India. Airtel in April signed a major multi-year deal with Nokia to expand 4G coverage and increase capacity. Ericsson also has deals with the operator, including to supply 5G-ready radios and backhaul solutions in India, as well as a three-year partnership for the vendor to provide pan-India managed network operations.

RELATED: Nokia scores major network deal with India’s Bharti Airtel

In Tutela’s report, median download speeds for Airtel and Vodafone Idea were not separated by much but Airtel took the lead with 10 Mbps. Vodafone Idea came in at 9.4 Mbps. Jio followed with median downloads speeds of 6.5 Mbps and BSNL Mobile at just 2.8 Mbps.

Vodafone Idea did have the fastest median upload speed at 5.1 Mbps, followed by Airtel (4.2 Mbps), Jio (3.4 Mbps), and BSNL Mobile (1.7 Mbps).

As noted earlier, many in India don’t have access to high-speed networks yet. The minimum thresholds set by the FCC for broadband speeds in the U.S. are 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up – those speeds aren’t always found and it’s a metric some say is still too low.

Tutela’s India report was based on 615 billion network quality measurements, including 62.9 million speed tests between August and October 2020.  

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