Jio: Rocking 5G SA in the free world

  • Indian operator Jio claims to run the largest 5G SA network in the "free world"

  • The operator rolled out the network between October 2022 and December 2023

  • Jio's 5G SA vendors are Ericsson and Nokia

The sheer scale of the Reliance Jio mobile network may surprise – nay shock! – some American readers.

“We carry more traffic than every single mobile operator put together in the U.S,” Matthew Oommen, president of Indian mobile operator Jio, told Fierce in an interview at Mobile World Congress (MWC). He said that Jio has more than 470 million customers across India, and over 100 million of them were on Jio’s new 5G service.

That’s quite some network!

Oommen sat next to Nokia’s Tommi Uitto, president of mobile networks, in Nokia's booth to talk about Jio’s dizzying rollout of standalong 5G (5G SA) in India. Jio deployed 5G SA with both Ericsson and Nokia starting in October 2022, the rollout was completed by December 2023.

However, neither Uitto nor Oommen could be drawn in a conversation on which vendor had supplied the most 5G SA equipment to Jio.

When asked about Jio's strategy, Oommen said Jio decided on true 5G SA from the outset. The operator has deployed more than 1 million 5G cells for the network, meaning that Jio has deployed the largest mid-band 5G network in the world outside of China.

Jio solely rolled out 5G SA in India, whereas its rival Bharti Airtel has focused on 5G non-standalone (NSA), which is a 5G radio access network (RAN) with a 4G core underneath, meaning that an operator using NSA cannot support features like 5G voice and network slicing. The initial Indian 5G deployment operates in the 3.3 GHz band.

“During our peak deployment we were doing one cell every 10 seconds,” Oommen said. “In India, we can deploy 12,000 base stations in a month,” he added.

“We are the number one 5G SA deployment in the world in the free world,” he boasted.