India’s telecoms operators, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, have achieved a significant milestone by deploying 300,000 5G sites since the launch of the new generation of mobile technology in October last year. According to India’s Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw, this achievement makes India the fastest 5G rollout country globally, with the second largest 5G ecosystem.
The progress of 5G deployment in India has been noteworthy, reaching 100,000 sites in five months, the next 100,000 in three months, and finally hitting the 300,000 milestone just two months later.
However, while the number of 5G sites has seen rapid growth, it remains crucial to assess whether 5G customer adoption matches the pace of rollout. Bharti Airtel recorded its first 1 million 5G customers in less than a month, though it does not regularly report on 5G user numbers, and it is not currently charging extra for 5G services.
Reliance Jio’s parent company, Reliance Industries, highlighted the impact of the rapid 5G rollout on data traffic and accelerated network deployment in its recent financial report. While both operators have vast customer bases that they can upgrade to 5G, they have yet to disclose specific 5G customer numbers.
India’s telecom market is vast, serving over 1.14 billion mobile customers, with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio accounting for more than 70% of the market. These two operators continue to grow their customer bases, while others have seen subscriber numbers decline.
For Reliance Jio, which boasts over 436 million mobile customers, the launch of its low-cost Jio Bharat 4G smartphone is expected to further increase its user base and eventually pave the way for 5G adoption.
However, despite the significant progress in 5G site deployment, India’s telcos still face the challenge of monetizing their 5G investments, a common concern shared by operators worldwide. While reaching 300,000 base stations is remarkable, the path to full 5G monetization and widespread adoption still requires significant efforts.