Telecom Diary: Finally, Vodafone Idea readies 5G strategy – ET Telecom

Telecom Diary: Finally, Vodafone Idea readies 5G strategy5G has been the talk of the town with aggressive launches and campaigns by top two telecom players Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel.

The third private player Vodafone Idea may not have announced an official 5G launch date but is slowly getting its ecosystem ready with multiple partnerships.

It has tied up with smartphone makers like Motorola, Xiaomi to enable 5G connectivity across their range of smartphones in India. Also collaborated with Gamerji, an esports start-up, to enter into the esports segment which is expected to grow manifold once 5G becomes mainstream.

5G is more about enterprises and it goes beyond faster download and data speeds. Currently, there is no use case available for 5G which can’t be offered or accessed in 4G.

Experts feel till the time 5G reaches a certain level and use cases develop, Vodafone Idea will be ready to take off with its 5G. Vodafone Idea may be late to join the 5G bandwagon, but the party has just begun, a senior telco executive says. The main hindrance has been funding. The struggling telco has been trying to raise funds since long but is yet to make any headway. Due to this, the telco has been losing subscribers to its competitors.

Vodafone Idea is in continuous talks with network vendors to finalise its 5G rollout plans. It had earlier showcased multiple use cases including a smart agri solution, and a cloud-based Gurushala solution while 5G trials were underway. It claims it is fully prepared to launch 5G services with its future-ready network and has emerged as a clear leader in the Internet of Things (IoT) offerings.

The market is abuzz with 5G services but the use cases are still some time away. As Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal recently remarked “5G is a supercomputer without the relevant applications”.

Experts say telcos need to work closely with enterprises, startups, and other stakeholders to come up with 5G use cases to properly leverage the potential of the high-speed technology. A need to form deep partnerships with various industries to come up with 5G use cases that are specific to the Indian requirements is critical.

Vodafone Idea recently got an approval from the government to convert telco’s interest dues into equity, which was a part of the telecom reforms package announced in September 2021. The company’s interest dues on deferred adjusted gross revenues (AGR) at over Rs 16,000 crore has been converted into equity with the government becoming the largest stakeholder with 33.44 % share. This came after the government received an assurance from Vi’s promoters for infusion of capital in the company. Subsequently, the company is in talks with lenders and banks to refinance its loans.

If there is an indefinite delay in launching 5G, it may hamper prospects of Vodafone Idea which is why it needs to quickly close its fundraising plan.

Jio and Airtel have launched 5G services in over 700 cities till date. 5G has become the most sought-after smartphone features in 2022, with 5G smartphones capturing a 32% market share in 2022. There are nearly 85 million 5G smartphone users in India but no killer use case as yet, which may give Vodafone Idea enough time to catch up with its rivals.