Indian operator Vodafone Idea (aka Vi) says it is in advanced talks with various network vendors for finalisation of its 5G rollout strategy and has concluded device testing of all major OEMs on its upcoming next-generation mobile broadband network.
According to comments in its latest annual report, Vodafone Idea says it remains committed to ramping up 4G coverage and introducing 5G services “once funding is in place”.
The company has pointed to 5G clusters in Delhi and Pune where it has partnered with various OEMs to test the compatibility of available 5G handsets.
As India’s Economic Times points out, rival operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have been expanding their 5G coverage since last October with both now looking to launch next-generation services nationally by December 2023.
By contrast, Vodafone Idea has yet to announce its 5G launch timeline, most likely due to the ongoing fundraising issues mentioned in the report. It has been trying, with limited success, to raise around 200 billion rupees via a mix of debt and equity for over a year. That’s about US$2.44 billion, though gross debt is more than ten times that figure at about $25.5 billion.
In the report, Vodafone Idea’s chairman Ravinder Takkar cited another problem: that telecom tariffs remain unsustainable, and need to increase significantly to generate reasonable returns for operators to promote investments.
Also, of course, the company still has some creditors to appease. For example, another story in the Indian press says that tower company Indus Towers has said Vodafone Idea is now paying 100% of its current monthly charges but won't be able to clear outstanding dues without its pending fundraising.
Vodafone Idea accounts for around 40% of Indus’s revenue. Its total dues to Indus are estimated at around 70 billion rupees (about US$854 million).