India’s telecom operators prepare to roll out the fifth-generation wireless network to offer faster speeds for streaming and gaming to entertainment in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market.
The government will put 72 gigahertz of 5G spectrum for auction, which starts on July 26. The expected value of the spectrum is pegged at Rs 4.3 lakh crore if all bands are picked up by the three carriers—Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., Bharti Airtel Ltd., and Vodafone Idea Ltd.
The Department of Telecommunications has offered spectrum across all bands—700 and 3,300-3,670 megahertz, and millimeter wave. It has maintained the pricing recommended by the telecom regulator.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India cut the spectrum pricing by 40% across bands for the 20-year licence period, including the key 5G bands. The companies, however, argue that the pricing is still high.
The appeal of 5G technology is its ability to transmit data fast enough to download feature-length movies in seconds. It was first commercially launched in South Korea in April 2019, followed by China in October that year.
Currently 5G is operational in over 100 countries, and has over 680 million subscriptions. That’s because nearly 72% of the subscriptions are from China, where spectrum was provided to the state telecom companies at low to no cost.
In India, once the auction for 5G is completed, it’s projected to account for almost 40% of mobile subscriptions, or 500 million, by the end of 2027, according to a report of Ericsson-Arthur D Little.
Omdia World Cellular Information Series Data Service expects 5G to account for more than 20% of mobile users in India within three years compared to 4G which took five years to reach that level of penetration
Ericsson anticipates 56% of the total mobile data traffic in India region (including Nepal and Bhutan) to be carried on 5G networks by 2027.
By then, smartphone users in the region are forecasted to consume 50 GB of data every month on average, said the report released in June. Currently, the average data consumption is around 20 GB a month per subscriber. Data traffic, which has grown 15 times in the last five years, is expected to double in the next three years, the report said.
Success, however, depends upon the penetration of 5G-capable devices.
India had close to 50 million 5G smartphone base at the end of June, according to Counterpoint Research, with one in every four smartphones sold being 5G capable. It expects such devices to account for 38% of the total shipments in India by the end of 2022 and 52% by the end of 2023.