After the completion of the 5G spectrum auction, telecom operators are gearing up to launch 5G services in India. We recently published a detailed guide on Jio’s 5G launch, and in this article, you will find everything you need to know about Airtel 5G launch in India. From Airtel 5G launch date, supported 5G bands in India, download speeds, Airtel 5G cities list, and more, we have compiled all the resources for you. So on that note, let’s go ahead and find out all about Airtel 5G developments in India and when we can expect to use its 5G network.
Airtel 5G Launch in India: Everything You Need to Know (August 2022)
In this article, we will discuss the details of Airtel 5G launch in India, its 5G bands, which cities will get Airtel 5G first, and more. Apart from that, we have also added Airtel’s 5G download speeds and 5G internet packages that Airtel will offer users. Simply expand the table below and jump to the section of your choice.
Airtel 5G Spectrum: 5G Bands in India
During the last 5G auction held in India, Airtel did a pretty solid job of acquiring 5G spectra of all frequency band categories. In second place, after Reliance Jio, Airtel spent Rs 43,084 crores to secure 19.8 GHz of 5G spectrum. Specifically, Airtel has purchased the following 5G bands in India – 900 MHz (n8), 1800 MHz (n3), 2100 MHz (n1), 3300 MHz (n78) and 26 GHz (n258, mmWave).
Now, as you can see, Airtel did not bid for the lower 700 MHz frequency band, while Reliance Jio did so with all their might and acquired the 700 MHz spectrum within 22 circles in India. If you are wondering why Airtel did not go for the 700 Hz frequency band, the company’s CEO, Gopal Vittal, explained the reason in a interview with TelecomTalk.
Vittal explained that Airtel decided to focus on getting the biggest pool of midrange frequencies. And it avoided 700 MHz spectrum because it would cost more to acquire and deploy, would be bad for the environment due to higher power consumption and more carbon emissions, and no added benefit in terms of speed (even on the SA network).
Looking at the sub-GHz spectrum, Airtel has purchased a few slices of 900MHz frequency bands for only three circles including Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. It looks like Airtel is looking to expand 5G coverage in hilly terrain with the lower frequency band and also offer sub-GHz 5G services in those areas. In the lower frequency band under 6 GHz, Airtel picked up the 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands in 12 different circles.
As for mid-band sub-6GHz spectrum, Airtel went all out and bought 100MHz in the 3300MHz frequency band within 22 circles, which is impressive. This means that Airtel is looking to offer 5G sub-6GHz services in all regions. On top of that, Airtel has done a spectacular job of acquiring the super-fast high-end 26 GHz mmWave band in the 22 circles. The company bought 800 MHz in the 26 GHz frequency band, giving stiff competition to rival Jio.
Here is a detailed look at Airtel’s 5G spectrum allocation in the 22 circles of India.
Airtel 5G: SA or NSA network?
In our explainer on sub-6GHz vs mmWave bands, we mentioned that there are two methods to deploy a 5G network: SA (standalone) and NSA (non-standalone). Almost all telecom operators in India and globally are opting for NSA architecture as it is cost effective and faster to deploy. It uses existing 4G infrastructure to offer 5G services without much difference. In addition to this, Airtel uses DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) to share spectrum between 4G and 5G bands.
5G SA is expensive to deploy and telecom companies have so far been reluctant to implement this architecture where the entire network stack is based on 5G specifications. That said, recently Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said that his company can upgrade its 5G NSA infrastructure to SA 5G with a software upgrade. It looks like Airtel will virtualize the 4G EPC to move it to the 5G core.
Nevertheless, for the first few years, Airtel 5G will also be based on NSA technology. As we move forward, Airtel may upgrade the existing 5G network to SA 5G. To learn more about SA and NSA 5G, see our article on 5G development in India. We explained concepts such as EPC, O-RAN technology, 5G radio, kernel, etc.
Launch date of Airtel 5G in India
In a official release, Airtel has announced that it will begin 5G rollout from August 2022 with telecom providers including Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. In the same breath, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of Airtel, said: “We are delighted to announce that Airtel will begin rolling out 5G services in August”.
In all likelihood, Airtel will launch its 5G services by end of August 2022. That said, keep in mind that this will obviously be a gradual rollout, with major cities getting 5G services first. Vittal added that it will cover all cities and rural areas by March 2024.
Airtel 5G Supported Circles and Cities
Reports suggest that Airtel will initially launch its 5G services in the following Indian cities – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Jamnagar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune.
That said, another recent report says not all cities will get 5G services in August. In that case, you have to wait a few more months, maybe by the end of September or October, to get Airtel’s 5G network in major cities. Apart from this, Airtel has already detailed a 5G network rollout plan for over 5000 cities across India.
As for Airtel 5G circles, the company is in a great position to bring its 5G network to everyone 22 circles and they are: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Kolkata, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mumbai, North East, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu , Uttar, Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West), West Bengal. But keep in mind that you have to wait until March 2024 to use Airtel’s 5G network in all corners of India.
Do you need a new Airtel 5G SIM card?
So far, Airtel has not announced that you will need a new 5G SIM card to access its 5G network. In fact, no other telecom operator in India has stated that a 5G compatible SIM card is required. You can very well use your Airtel 4G SIM card to access the 5G network. We have written a detailed article on whether you need a new 5G SIM card to enjoy 5G services, so go through it for more detailed information.
Airtel 5G Download/Upload Speeds
Airtel has conducted several 5G trials in various frequency bands and configurations. In the mid-frequency band of 1800 MHz on the NSA (non-standalone) architecture with DSS support, Airtel has clocked the download speed of about 340 Mbps and 67 Mbps download speed. Airtel claims that with higher frequency band and SA architecture, it can deliver up to 1Gbps download speed with around 20ms latency indoors.
The company also made a test in Hyderabad in 2021, and the download speed reached up to one Massive 3Gbps, which is incredible. In other test sites like Gurugram and Mumbai, the download speed reached 1 Gbps on the 3500 MHz frequency band. That said, keep in mind that the trial was conducted in isolation, without many users or spikes in traffic. So yes, it remains to be seen how well Airtel’s 5G network performs in the real world.
Airtel 5G Plans and Prices in India
When it comes to Airtel’s 5G plans, it looks like the the price will be higher initially. Airtel’s ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is around Rs 183 but it has also been hit by AGR dues which are in the thousands of crores. Airtel might start with a competitive 5G plan, but expect that to be pricey, somewhere around Rs 500 per month. As Airtel 5G services are launched in India, we can tell you more about its pricing structure.
All You Need To Know About Airtel 5G Network
So that was all you need to know about the launch of Airtel’s 5G network in India. From the spectrum acquisition, it looks like Airtel has a strong presence in the sub-6GHz and mmWave frequency bands, almost close to Jio’s 5G network coverage. However, with the 900 MHz wafer, it will not be able to penetrate much and offer last-mile 5G services in rural areas. Anyway, it all comes from us. If you want to learn more about the Indian 5Gi standard, head over to our explainer. And to check the supported 5G bands on your phone, go to our linked guide. Finally, if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.