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Airtel to Support All 5G Smartphones Except iPhone Models From Mid-November

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All 5G enabled smartphones, except Apple’s iPhones, will start supporting Airtel 5G services by the middle of this month, a senior Bharti Airtel official said.

During the company’s earnings call, Bharti Airtel Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Gopal Vittal said Apple will release the software update in the first week of November and all of its devices should support the company’s 5G services by mid-December.

Airtel is providing 5G services at 4G rates but it is likely to take call on the pricing of the next generation services in the next 6-9 months, he added.

“Samsung… I think there are 27 models of 5G. 16 models are already ready and enabled. Rest will happen by November 10-12. OnePlus all 17 models will work on our network. Vivo all 34 models, Realme all 34 models will work on our network. Xiaomi’s all 33 models and Oppo all 14 models will work. Apple has 13 models. They will have (software update) release around the first week of November and by mid-December they should be all ready,” Vittal said.

According to market research firm IDC, 5.1 crore 5G smartphones were shipped from 2020 to first half of 2022 and they are expected to cross 50 per cent market share by 2023.

However, several 5G smartphones have been unable to access 5G services due to lack of compatibility between the network and the mobile phone.

Vittal said the company expects to cover all towns in urban India as also key rural areas by March 2024.

He said the company is in the 5G network construction phase and “then we take decision as to what we do, may be, in next 6-9 months.” “As the network starts getting built out we will see a significant part of our existing data traffic on 4G move to Airtel 5G plus. This is important since it will allow us to gradually move more and more spectrum to 5G at the flick of a button. We have also started testing the SA (standalone) mode on 5G. This mode may be relevant for some enterprise use cases,” he said.

Bharti Airtel may advance earmarked network investment of Rs 23,000-24,000 crore per annum to expedite rollout of 5G services and gain market share.

Without naming debt-ridden Vodafone Idea, Vittal said, “Given the financially pressed situation that one of the players in the Industry is going through, we feel that the moment is ripe for Airtel pulling ahead and being the decisively most aspirational brand in India. With this we hope to take a further lead particularly in the postpaid segment.” Bharti Airtel has posted an 89 per cent year-on-year rise in consolidated net profit for the September quarter at Rs 2,145 crore, as higher revenue per user, more data consumption, and expanded 4G base boosted realisations.

Airtel’s total revenue rose nearly 22 per cent year-on-year to Rs 34,527 crore during the just-ended quarter.

The company attributed this to “strong and consistent performance delivery across the portfolio and crossing 500 million customers globally”.

The Q2 net profit trailed street expectations, though the revenue numbers came in higher than market estimates.

The Average Revenue Per User or ARPU (a key metrics for telcos) stood at Rs 190 for the just-ended quarter as compared to Rs 153 in Q2 FY22, helped by focus on quality customers, feature phone to smartphone upgradation and data monetisation, Airtel said.

Vittal said that the company has only 8.5 per cent return on investments which is very low and can be achieved by investing in financial instruments.

“This return on capital needs to go up. We are not talking about massive corrections. We are already at Rs 190 ARPU. We need to see one round of correction. When this will happen I am not at liberty to say. We are watching this space and see when the time is ripe,” he said.

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