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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 that 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.

Vittal said the company expects to cover all towns in urban India as well as key rural areas by March 2024. According to Vitthal, the company is in the 5G network construction phase and then it will make a decision as to what it will do, maybe, in the next nine 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.

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.

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

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