Vodafone Idea (Vi), India's third-largest telecom operator, is gearing up to introduce commercial 5G services in the country within the next 6-7 months. The company is presently engaged in trials of its 5G networks in Mumbai, Pune, and Delhi, and plans to shut down its 3G services to enhance 4G coverage using the available bandwidth. Akshaya Moondra, Vi's Chief Executive, emphasized the need for clarity on the monetization of 5G services before their public launch.
Vi is actively collaborating with partners to incorporate new technologies like vRAN and ORAN into its 5G infrastructure. Moondra acknowledged that Vi currently stands as the only loss-making private telecom operator in India. However, he refrained from commenting on the ongoing funding talks, a critical aspect for Vi to settle outstanding dues and expand its services.
Vi is expected to roll out its 5G services for general users by the end of 2024. The company holds 5G spectrum allocation in 17 circles across India, with Mumbai and Pune already experiencing access to Vi's 5G networks. Despite trailing behind Jio and Airtel, Vi remains competitive in the market with its strategic prepaid recharge pricing. Recently, Vi introduced two annual plans featuring Amazon Prime Video and Disney+Hotstar subscriptions at a more economical rate than Jio and Airtel.
To retain subscribers, Vi regularly unveils festive packs offering additional data and discounted prices. Presently, Vi boasts 228 million users in India, though this number has witnessed a decline due to users porting to competing operators. In comparison, Jio has 449 million users, and Airtel has 277 million users, according to the latest TRAI data.