India’s top three telecom operators gave contradictory views on the future of mobile telephony in the second edition of the India Mobile Congress.
While Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani said India will be a fully-4G country by 2020, ready for 5G, Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal urged the government to offer tax relief, and Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla asked for leveraging technology and investments before moving to 5G.
At the inaugural session of the three-day event on Thursday, Reliance Jio demonstrated multiple live 5G trials ranging from driverless cars, surveillance drones, and aerial disaster management vehicle SKYSHIP, with facial recognition features for rescue activities. Airtel also showcased a 5G-enabled self-operated drone for disaster response and monitoring.
The ongoing tariff war post the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016 has forced several telcos to shut shop or merge with bigger peers to survive.
“While India’s consolidation has not happened in an orderly fashion, other than the Vodafone-Idea merger, many operators have had to go through significant pain, a lot of job losses have happened…$50 billion have been written off…but we have finally arrived at a point where we are at a right industry structure,” said Mittal.
While Bharti Airtel acquired Telenor India and Tikona Digital Networks, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular merged to become the largest telecom operator in India. Aircel is in the midst of insolvency proceedings, while Reliance Communications awaits final approval to sell its assets to RIL’s Jio.