5G delays in India threaten Jio's vendor ambitions

Reliance Jio's plans to sell its own 5G technologies to other international operators have been hit by a probable delay to India's 5G spectrum auctions, according to reports.

An auction of airwaves was scheduled for later this year but risks being delayed until early 2022 due to the current outbreak of coronavirus.

Jio, India's largest mobile operator, had hoped to launch 5G services later this year before turning its attention to markets outside India.

"Once Jio's 5G solution is proven at India-scale, Jio Platforms would be well-positioned to be an exporter of 5G solutions to other telecom operators globally, as a complete managed service," said Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries, the parent company of Jio, at last year's annual general meeting.

A delay to the auction would put that plan in jeopardy because Jio would be unable sell its product to other service providers before proving it works in India.

"Jio will find it tough to go global without first testing the solution in the country," said Ashwinder Sethi, a principal at consulting and analyst firm Analysys Mason. "It means that they need to deploy at least 50% in India, which will take two to three years."

"Because of these timelines, I see very limited play for Jio in the developed markets."

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5G is already present in more than 60 countries and the number is bound to grow significantly by the time Jio's solution is tested in India.

Hold-ups could force Jio to explore underdeveloped markets and are likely to reduce the size of its addressable market and cause it to reconsider its global vendor ambitions.

One possibility is that it seeks alliance with another vendor to promote and market its solution. This might be a way to sell a 5G technology globally without first launching it in India.

Jio's 5G efforts mark the first time an Indian service provider has developed a technology it hopes to sell globally.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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