The Indian operator is readying itself for the launch of 5G with an IoT platform initially targeting the utility, automotive, and manufacturing sectors

In India, the nation’s telcos are waiting somewhat impatiently for the release of 5G spectrum by the government at a currently undisclosed date later this year. Reliance Jio, for example, said back in December that it was ready to launch commercial 5G services as soon as it could be allocated spectrum. 

However, numerous roadblocks still stand in the way of India’s 5G spectrum auction, with the elephant in the room being the exceedingly high price the government aims to charge for the spectrum. At around eight times the price paid by telcos in South Korea, the reserve price set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is prohibitive, with the likes of Bharti Airtel in the past saying they will not bid if prices are not lowered.

Nonetheless, this does not mean that Airtel is not laying the groundwork for its place in the 5G market. Today, the company has announced the launch of its 5G-ready IoT platform, with which enterprises will reportedly be able to connect and manage millions of devices and applications. For now, the platform supports 2G and 4G, as well as narrowband IoT networks.

Director and chief executive of Airtel Business, Ajay Chitkara, said that the company’s platform would initially focus on the utility, automotive, and manufacturing sectors, with additional sectors to be offered in the near future.

“Enterprises have three key requirements for IoT. First, connectivity solutions that future proof their device and application investments. Second, the security of their data. And third, seamless integration with existing IT systems to make IoT data actionable. Airtel IoT is built on these insights to massively simplify the IoT journeys of enterprises," said Chitkara.

Numerous enterprises in India are already using Airtel’s IoT solutions, including MG Motor, Pine Labs, Paytm, Kirloskar, BSES, Genus, and Kent. The ecosystem will be further diversified through the invitation of start-ups, which Chitkara hopes will build specific industry solutions using the Airtel IoT platform. 

“We will invite them to come on this platform and build solutions which can solve specific use cases,” Chitkara said. “We can jointly develop solutions and pilot them before commercial adoption.” 

As the largest player in India’s B2B connectivity market, serving around 2,500 large enterprises and a million small to medium enterprises, Airtel Business is already well positioned to leverage this new platform. 

“We have built a strong capability on the digital side and a very strong talent pool to support the IoT business,” said Chitkara.


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