As yet a pipe dream
5G enabled phones have already hit the markets in India. However, there still is no trace of the 5G network.
Undoubtedly, 5G or the fifth-generation wireless network technology has been one of the global buzzwords for the past few years. While some Asian, American, and EU countries have been partially successful in adopting the 5G technology, much remains to be done in India.
The launch of the 5G network
For India, the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.17 billion, the 5G network continues to be a pie in the sky since the spectrum has not yet been auctioned, following which the infrastructure would then be rolled out.
The auction which was scheduled for April 2020 has been postponed and is unlikely to be held before August 2020 due to the financial health of the service providers.
The debt-ridden carriers, who have been struggling to pay the licensing fees and other penalties that the government claims are due, say that the spectrum prices are too high to be bought in the current circumstances. The operators collectively owe about 12.5 billion USD (INR 920 billion) in fees, penalties, and interest payments.
This has sent soaring the debt levels of both the leading telecom players, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, making it hard for them to participate in the auction. Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel has been quoted by the media as saying that the 5G prices in India are beyond their reach.
The operators also state that base prices suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are very high for 5G airwaves and do not match the industry figures. However, the Indian Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had clearly said last year that the government won’t reduce the 5G base prices as fixed by the telecom regulator, TRAI.
The launch of 5G Smartphones
US networking giant, Cisco, said in a recent report, the Annual Internet Report, forecasts that by 2023 India will have 67.2 million 5G connections yet; 5G won’t be a big money-maker, at least in the initial years, and no money-maker now when the network is miles away.
However, Chinese firms have already kick-started their 5G business in India by launching phones that come with a 5G enabled modem.
India’s second-largest phone vendor Vivo launched the iQoo 3, while Realme launched the X50 Pro 5G, both of which are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, the chip bundled with a 5G modem. Experts say that the judgment behind the launches reciprocates the need for future-ready devices. The prices for the phones fall within the range of USD 500-700.
While the users might be able to access the 5G network in countries that support the 5G connectivity since India has a long way to go and these phones might become outdated by then.
However, Indians tend to upgrade their phones quite soon as, the 91 mobiles Smartphone Buyer Insights Study 2019 shows that 2 out of 5 Indians replace their smartphones every 12 months. Hence, countering the argument of outdating and in turn profiting the firms in all ways.