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5G radio count crosses 140K, Maharashtra tops chart, shows DoT data

Reliance Jio had 4 times more 5G radios than Airtel as of early March, according to official statistics

5G spectrum

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Subhayan Chakraborty New Delhi

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The country had 140,000 5G Base Stations (BTS), commonly called 5G radios, as of April 2, latest data released by the Department of Telecommunications shows.

Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu had the highest number of installed BTS, the data shows. A BTS is a fixed radio transceiver in any mobile network, most often installed on mobile towers.

The two telecom companies racing for 5G domination — Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel — are putting up 5G BTS at fast clip in cities across the country. The total number of installed BTS had stood at 84,346 on February 16 and 20,980 on December 20, last year.

The government had earlier mandated the two telcos to put up at least 10,000 BTS per week. While it has not been possible to hit that level consistently, the rollout of 5G infrastructure is in a fast lane and on autopilot, industry insiders said.

Operator numbers differ

“There were logistics issues earlier, primarily around right of way. Many of those have been resolved, but some persist. The company is confident of extending 5G device to every town and tehsil by December 2023,” an official from Reliance Jio said.

5G is being introduced in India on two technological platforms. In the standalone (SA) mode, the network is built particularly for 5G, while in the non-standalone (NSA) mode, the network is built as a top-up on an existing layer of the 4G radio network. 

While Reliance Jio has launched its 5G network on the SA mode, Bharti Airtel has opted for NSA. As a result, industry experts have pointed out that Reliance Jio will need to install more BTS than Bharti Airtel.

Reliance Jio had 4 times more 5G radios than Airtel as of early March, according to official statistics.

On March 2, Bharti Airtel had rolled out 5G in more than 500 cities with 19,142 5G BTS, while Reliance Jio had rolled out 5G in more than 450 cities with 82,509 5G BTS.

Eyes on small cells

A persisting issue being faces by telcos is the lengthy clearance process for setting up infrastructure. To allow faster 5G rollout and ensure better coverage in urban areas, the Department of Telecom (DoT) is expected to exempt the installation of low-capacity 5G transceivers from the existing clearance process.

This would effectively allow low power base transceiver stations (LPBTS) with effective radiation power of less than 600 Watt to be installed on street furniture such as electric poles, bus stops, and traffic lights by telecom service providers (TSPs). But officials could not confirm by when such a move would be taken.

In November last year, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had batted for the particular category of LPBTS or small cells in its official recommendations on adopting street furniture for small cell and aerial fibre deployment.

Such equipment, or small cells, should only require permission from the agency owning street furniture such as power company, or city government or traffic police department and not any central clearances, it had said. 

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First Published: Apr 21 2023 | 5:48 PM IST

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