What 2023 holds in store for telecom in India

The growing 5G ecosystem and the launch of satellite services is likely to dominate 2023 in India even as Vodafone Idea struggles to survive.

Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor

January 16, 2023

3 Min Read
What 2023 holds in store for telecom in India

Last year was a significant one for India's telecom sector. Besides launching 5G technology, India witnessed proposals for new telecom legislation – the Draft Telecom Bill 2022 – to replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act of 1950 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933. The bill is likely to become a law this year.

Brokerage firm CLSA reckons India's telecom sector recorded sales growth of 14% year-over-year in 2022 thanks to rising data adoption and an increase in tariffs. This trend is likely to continue this year as well.

Figure 1: Cities such as Mumbai may see the arrival of new telecom technologies this year. (Source: robertharding/Alamy Stock Photo) Cities such as Mumbai may see the arrival of new telecom technologies this year.
(Source: robertharding/Alamy Stock Photo)

Growing 5G ecosystem

India's 5G ecosystem is expected to grow in 2023, with service providers Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel currently in the middle of a massive 5G rollout. While Jio has launched 5G in more than 100 cities, Airtel's 5G service is available in around 30. Airtel claimed to have acquired more than 1 million customers within a month of launching 5G services.

Even as the 5G ecosystem continues to grow, however, neither telco has yet announced any 5G-specific tariffs. Instead, they have been offering 5G services at 4G rates – although an update on 5G pricing is expected.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear when Vodafone Idea and Government-owned BSNL will join their rivals in the 5G market. Vodafone Idea's poor financial health makes any 5G push difficult and BSNL has not even started to offer 4G services. Based on recent developments, it seems unlikely to launch 4G before the second half of this year.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

Linked to this is the issue of 5G for enterprises, including 5G private networks. The adoption of 5G services by enterprise customers is likely to pick up this year in several industries. The danger is that an economic recession plays spoilsport, which means companies will want to be doubly sure of the return on investment before spending on new technology.

Several Indian companies, including Capgemini, GMR, Tata Communications, Tata Power, Tejas Networks (part of Tata Group) and Infosys, among others, have applied for spectrum from the government for 5G private networks. This process is likely to gain momentum this year.

Auction of satellite spectrum

Another major development this year is likely to be the arrival of satellite Internet services. The spectrum auction for satellite services is expected to take place later in 2023, with service launches happening by the end of the year. India's telecom regulator has said India will probably be the first country to auction satellite spectrum.

What lies ahead for Vodafone Idea?

This is going to be a decisive year for Vodafone Idea, as the government, which had initially offered to take a stake in the company in exchange for pending loans, is now demanding that the company's investors, Vodafone Group and Aditya Birla Group, should invest more funds in the company before the government does. In the past, both companies have said they are not interested in making any further investments in India. The deadlock between the government and the companies has not helped Vodafone Idea, which continues to lose customers and struggle to compete against other service providers.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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