A battle for 5G supremacy in India ramped, with Bharti Airtel claiming coverage reached 500 cities after launching service in parts of an additional 41 urban areas across 16 states days after rival Reliance Jio stated its footprint covered 406 cities.

In a press release, Airtel said 5G service is available in every major city from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the far south.

CTO Randeep Sekhon noted it is adding 30 to 40 cities a day and expects to expand 5G coverage to all of urban India by September.

In early March, Airtel 5G subscribers topped 10 million nationwide, with the number in Mumbai surpassing 1 million. In the middle of the month it launched an unlimited data offer for prepaid customers on INR239 ($2.90) a month plans, ratcheting-up a price war to attract new users.

Jio hasn’t released 5G user figures. The Economic Times last week reported it deployed more than 50,000 base stations across India, while the Ministry of Communications had earlier stated the duo had more than 100,000 compatible sites combined.

The operator laid out plans in 2022 to invest $25 billion to deliver service to every town in the country by December 2023: it started rollouts in mid-October 2022.

With service in more than 400 cities, it is nearing the mid-point of its ambitious target of covering 1,000 cities in less than 18 months.

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