India’s finance minister said on Tuesday the country will auction its 5G airwaves this year, kicking off a rollout of next-generation telecom services in the world’s second-biggest wireless market by the end of March 2023.
New Delhi also will offer incentives to encourage more local design-led manufacturing to boost 5G in the country, Nirmala Sitharaman said in a speech in parliament as she unveiled the budget for fiscal 2022-23.
“The [5G] roll-out across the country will also happen much faster than other previous generation roll-outs considering the fact that the finance minister in her speech has also talked about fiberisation of all villages by 2025,” said Peeyush Vaish, partner and telecom sector leader at Deloitte India.
India’s federal government late last year bailed out its cash-strapped telecoms sector by announcing measures including a four-year moratorium on airwaves payments due to it and allowing mobile carriers to convert interest they owe New Delhi into equity.
That has helped telecoms firms free up cash to invest in growth and expansion, potentially making a 5G airwaves auction this year a hot bidding contest between the country’s three main carriers – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
Jio, the telecoms venture of oil-to-retail conglomerate Reliance Industries, has previously said it will be the first carrier to launch 5G services in India.
India has more than a billion wireless subscribers and its deep market potential pushed tech giants Facebook and Google to together pour roughly $10 billion into Jio, the country’s biggest mobile operator, in 2020.
Google has spread its bets even wider as it will invest up to $1 billion in Jio’s rival Bharti Airtel, a plan that was announced last month.
• Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard
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