Indian carrier Bharti Airtel has trialed a live 5G network. The test was conducted in the Hyderabad region using the 1.8 GHz band. The carrier spent the last year upgrading its network using Ericsson hardware manufactured in India, and now it can enable 5G with the push of a button.
However, according to the company’s CEO Gopal Vittal, a true 5G experience is only possible after the government allocates mid-band spectrum (2.5-3.7 GHz) for the new networks. That hasn’t happened yet, so the only option right now is for 4G and 5G networks to share spectrum (using Dynamic Spectrum Sharing). But still, this would reduce the available capacity for 4G users while providing a sub-optimal 5G performance.
Once the necessary spectrum is available, Airtel has said that it believes its networks can deliver 10 times higher speeds while reducing latency 10 times. Users won’t even need to change their SIM cards to jump on the new network.
India was supposed to auction off several bands for 5G usage in 2020, but postponed due to the financial struggles of the industry. The plan now is to auction off bands for 5G usage (3.3-3.6 GHz) later this year, after an upcoming 4G auction scheduled for March 1.
Airtel reports that there are already 1 million 5G-capable devices on its network, all of which are stuck using 4G for now. The carrier’s CTO says that mass adoption of the new technology depends on the availability of 5G phones in the Rs.10,000-15,000 range.