India's second largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Thursday launched Airtel 5G plus service in eight cities.

Customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur and Varanasi will start enjoying the cutting edge Airtel 5G Plus services in a phased manner as the company continues to construct its network and complete the roll out, the telco says in a statement.

Customers who have 5G smart phones will enjoy the high speed Airtel 5G Plus on their existing data plans until the roll out is more widespread, it adds.

This comes a day after rival Reliance Jio Infocomm rolled out a beta trial of its 5G service in four cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Varanasi.

Airtel promises between 20 and 30 times higher speeds on its 5G network compared with the existing 4G service.

"Airtel has been at the forefront of India's telecom revolution for the last 27 years. Today marks one more step in our journey as we build out the finest network to deliver the best experience for our customers…Our solution will therefore work on any 5G handset and the existing SIM that customers have," says Gopal Vittal, managing director and chief executive officer, Bharti Airtel.

Airtel says its 5G Plus service will bolster the entire portfolio of services that the company offers. In addition, it will allow superfast access to high definition video streaming, gaming, multiple chatting, instant uploading of photos and more.

"By December, we should have coverage in key metros. After that we will expand rapidly to cover the entire country. We expect to cover all of urban India by the end of 2023," Vittal had said in September.

Meanwhile, Akash Ambani-led Jio claims it is the only operator with the 700 MHz low-band spectrum that will ensure deep indoor coverage. The company also claims its 5G network has zero dependency on its existing 4G network.

The soft launch of 5G services by India's two biggest telecom operators follows spectrum auctions in which 51,236 MHz was allocated to telecom service providers. The cumulative economic impact of 5G on India is expected to reach $450 billion by 2035, according to the government.

To ensure a faster rollout of 5G, the Centre recently amended the Indian Telegraph Right of Way (RoW) Rules, 2016 to facilitate faster and easier deployment of telecom infrastructure for 5G rollout. The new rules put a ceiling for RoW charges for installation of 5G small cells and optical fibre cable on street furniture.

Earlier this week, Fortune India reported that the Centre has approved ₹26,000 crore to install new 25,000 mobile telecom towers in the next 500 days to utilise the universal service obligation fund.

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