5G network in India soon; Jio partners with Qualcomm to speed up efforts

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Jio Platforms, owned by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is partnering with Qualcomm, the American wireless technology company, to develop 5G solutions and accelerate efforts to carry the high-speed network to the second largest telecom market in the world.

According to a joint statement, Jio, which includes the tycoon’s telecom operator is collaborating with Qualcomm Technologies to “fast track the development and roll-out of indigenous 5G network infrastructure and services in India.”

Although India is yet to auction airwaves for 5G, Ambani has been preparing Jio for the fifth generation wireless service with what he calls a technology built in-house. That means that, unlike some of its competitors, his carrier won’t have to spend much to move to the new system, he says. That also saves Jio from the political disputes linked to Chinese suppliers of equipment like Huawei with which global operators are engaged.

Ambani has expressed interest in supplying the technology to other carriers if it is successfully rolled out in his home market.

It was four years ago that Jio launched in India, offering free calls and cheap data. Now, with around 400 million subscribers, it is the largest carrier in the country.

Recent reports had also suggested that in collaboration with Google, Reliance Jio is developing affordable Android-based 4G and 5G smartphones, a move that could bring cheap smartphones to hundreds of millions of Indians and counter China’s dominant vendors.

Smartphone brands are also releasing 5G ready devices. However, a large majority of 5G smartphones are available in the premium to ultra-premium range which makes it out of reach for many in the country.

This recent move signifies Jio and India’s entrance into the 5G product club. Just a handful of countries, including the US, South Korea, Australia, Switzerland and Germany, are currently able to show speeds of 1 Gbps (Gigabits per second) for 5G customers.

Asia’s richest man Ambani has set out to turn his energy empire, Reliance Industries Ltd., into a technology powerhouse, with Jio at the forefront of his ambitions. He has set his eyes on eCommerce, aiming to take on Amazon and Walmart owned Flipkart in India.

In 2020 alone, he sold stakes worth billions from his digital and retail units to global investors.