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Jio, OneWeb target India’s satellite broadband market

Reliance Jio launched its satellite communications service called Jio Space Fiber at the India Mobile Congress even as rival Bharti Group-backed satellite internet service conglomerate, Eutelsat-OneWeb, said it was ready to begin offering satellite broadband services from next month.

The Mukesh Ambani-backed telco demonstrated the reach of the service by connecting four of the remotest locations in India with JioSpaceFiber in Gir, Gujarat, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Nabrangpur in Odisha and Jorhat, Assam.

“Jio has enabled millions of homes and businesses in India to experience broadband internet for the first time. With JioSpaceFiber, we expand our reach to cover the millions yet to be connected,” said Akash Ambani, chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Sunil Mittal, co-chairman of Eutelsat-OneWeb, where Bharti Airtel is the largest shareholder, said satellite broadband services will commence as the group has set up a satellite ground station in Mehsana, Gujarat, for its satellite-driven internet services, which he said was a new technology available for India.

“Satellite communications is here to serve every inch of our country and, of course, the globe. Today, the OneWeb constellation in which Bharti has the largest stake is ready to serve the globe, and it is ready to serve the country. Anybody, anywhere in the country, however remote or far or in difficult areas they are located, can be connected from next month onwards from a satellite ground station that has been set up in Mehsana Gujarat,” he said.

Both Airtel and Jio would need satellite spectrum from the government to make their services commercially available.

The government is yet to decide on the method of allocating the airwaves, with Jio and Vodafone Idea seeking auctions and Airtel seeking non-auction-based allocation.

Vodafone Idea said at IMC that it was preparing to roll out 5G services with ‘significant investments’ in the quarters ahead.

“In the coming quarters, Vodafone Idea will initiate significant investments in order to roll out 5G networks and further expand 4G coverage across the country. Moreover, the company is determined to realize the government’s vision of establishing a robust supply chain in critical and emerging areas, including OpenRAN. This endeavour will enable innovative Indian companies to design both hardware and software for the global markets,” Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said on Friday at the India Mobile Congress.

Birla noted that over the past year, the Vodafone Idea team has worked to prepare the core network for 5G deployment.

He added that Vodafone Idea has successfully developed a range of advanced use cases, poised to make a tangible difference across crucial sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, automotive, logistics and others.

The telecom operator, which has been working towards getting funding for its crucial 5G rollout, will be a laggard in 5G coverage to Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, which have between them set up over 350,000 5G sites within a year of getting 5G airwaves.

Reliance Jio chairman Akash Ambani said the No. 1 carrier deployed a 5G cell every 10 seconds, installing over 1 million 5G cells across all 22 circles of India.

“I am humbled to share that Jio alone has contributed to 85% of the overall 5G capacity in the country…and provided one of the fastest 5G internet speeds in the world,” he said. He added that Jio’s 5G rollout was powered by a 100% in-house 5G stack, designed, developed and manufactured locally. Ambani added that India ranked amongst the top three 5G-enabled nations, with over 125 million 5G users.

Sunil Mittal added during his inaugural keynote speech that Airtel’s terrestrial 5G services are already available across 5,000 districts and 20,000 villages. “Going forward, we plan to cover all of India with our 5G coverage by the end of March 2024,” he said.

On the first day of the three-day telecom event India Mobile Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 100 ‘5G Use Case Labs’ to educational institutions as an initiative to realize the opportunities associated with 5G technology by encouraging the development of 5G applications which cater, both to India’s unique needs as well as the global demands.

The initiative will foster innovation across various socioeconomic sectors like education, agriculture, health, power, transportation etc, and push India to the forefront of usage of 5G technology, he said. “The initiative is also a pivotal step for building a 6G-ready academic and start-up ecosystem in the country. More importantly, the initiative is a step towards the development of indigenous telecom technology which is critical for national security,” he said.

He said that 5G rollout which took place last year in India came as a surprise for the rest of the world, within one year of 5G rollout, 4 lakh 5G base stations which cover more than 97 percent of the cities and 80 percent of the population.

“India moved from the 5G rollout stage to 5G reach out stage”, he said. He underlined that the speed of median mobile broadband speeds have increased 3 times within one year. He further added that India moved from the 118th position to the 43rd position in terms of broadband speed.

“India is not only expanding the 5G network in the country but also laying emphasis on becoming a leader in 6G”, he remarked.

Pointing out the scam that took place during 2G, the Prime Minister said that the 4G rollout which happened during the present government’s tenure is free from blemishes.

He also expressed confidence that India will take the lead with 6G technology. He said, beyond ranking and number improvement in internet connectivity and speed lead to enhanced ease of living. He narrated the benefits of improved connectivity and speed in education, medicine, tourism, and agriculture. LiveMint

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