5G rollout should be India’s national priority: Mukesh Ambani

spectrum auction India Jio 5G broadband
Image by lakshmi Prasad | Bigstockphoto

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said the rollout of 5G services should be made India’s national priority, and that Jio is ready to “quickly and seamlessly “upgrade its network from 4G to 5G.

“India must complete the migration from 2G to 4G to 5G at the earliest. To keep millions of Indians at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid confined to 2G is to deprive them of the benefits of the digital revolution,” Ambani said at the India Mobile Congress virtual event on Wednesday.

Ambani said that Jio’s 100% home-grown and comprehensive 5G solution, which is fully cloud native and digitally managed, is ready for commercial deployment.

Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are conducting large scale 5G field trials to test various consumer and enterprise use cases of local relevance.

The country’s telecom regulator last week started a consultations process for setting up base prices across ten frequency bands for the commercial launch of 5G services. Once the process is completed, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will start the auction process.

5G spectrum sale and network rollouts are expected to take place in the second quarter of 2022.

Ambani also highlighted the need for affordable devices and applications along with services for greater digital inclusion in the country, and urged the Indian government to use the universal service obligation (USO) fund to ensure that all Indians are connected.

Jio recently launched its affordable smartphone, JioPhone Next, in partnership with Google. Ambani stressed on the importance of cheaper devices to bring in digital inclusion. “… the USO fund can be used to subsidize devices to select target groups.”

“We should not lose sight of the fact that affordability has been a critical driver of the phenomenally rapid expansion of the mobile subscriber base in India. India should move towards greater digital inclusion, and not greater digital exclusion. When we talk of affordability in the policy context, we only think of affordability of services. Actually, India needs to ensure affordability not only of services, but also of devices and applications,” he added.

The chairman also urged all the industry players to work together to achieve a nationwide fiber footprint.

“This is because the world is now transitioning into a digital-first era when almost everything will be done in the digital space first, and then translated into the physical world … Fiber has almost unlimited data carriage capacity. Therefore, to be future-ready, India has to be fiber-ready,” he said.

Jio is betting big on its fiber-to-the-home broadband services in the country, and has already connected 5 million homes.

While Jio is focused on providing connectivity through both wireless and wireline networks, Ambani said that the industry should also look beyond connectivity and focus on the critical components of the digital ecosystem that are necessary for India’s digital transformation.

“The Government is putting in place a sound regulatory and policy framework for this. This has helped thousands of young Indian entrepreneurs and start-ups create platforms, applications and solutions that can accelerate India’s digital transformation. We are already seeing innovative solutions in Education, Financial Services, Entertainment, Retail, Agriculture, Manufacturing and other key verticals of the economy,” he said.

Ambani added that India’s energy systems are poised for radical transformation. “Technologies are maturing for energy saving through smart grids, decarbonization of the economy, and drastic reduction in cost of India’s transition to clean and green energy.”

Despite COVID-related hardships, India will stage an economic comeback where technology will play a pivotal role, Ambani said.

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