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The ongoing Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has underlined the importance of 5G, the technology mobile networks will ride on to provide services to millions of people. Where does India stand in this global race? Mint explains its importance and the roadmap:

Which countries have 5G networks?

5G is the latest telecommuni-cations network technology standard, which ensures ultra-high speeds of data flow. The need for high-speed data has risen exponentially during the pandemic when work from home, online education, and online shopping became the norm. Nearly 200 countries have deployed 5G, with nations such as China, Japan, South Korea, and the US taking the lead. The number of 5G connections globally is set to reach 1 billion in 2022, according to GSMA. From about 6% of total connections in 2021, 5G will account for around 25% of total mobile connections in the world by the end of 2025.

How far behind is India?

India is set to conduct its first 5G spectrum auctions in the first half of this year. The government plans to launch 5G services by 15 August, according to some reports. Indian carriers such as Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea have conducted 5G trials with various vendors; they are awaiting the telecom regulator’s recommendations on pricing of the 5G spectrum. Carriers want the 5G spectrum to be given at affordable prices, which will help them deploy pan-India 5G networks. Spectrum pricing as high as 50,000 crore for pan-India 5G airwaves for a single operator has kept carriers away from bidding for the spectrum in previous auctions.

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What about 5G-ready phones in India?

Most major smartphone players have launched 5G devices in India. A CMR report says 5G smartphone shipments may reach 64 million in India this year, after a 600% increase in adoption seen in 2021. Counterpoint Research estimated that 5G shipments registered 555% year-on-year growth in 2021, with Vivo having a 19% share in 5G smartphone shipments.

Will 5G device prices come down?

5G-enabled smartphones accounted for more than 40% of worldwide smartphone shipments in 2021, up from 18% in 2020. GSMA feels that the new wave of 5G roll-outs in large markets with modest income levels, such as Brazil, Indonesia, and India, will incentivize mass production of more affordable 5G devices. It could also drive the development of new 5G applications for consumers and enterprises in emerging markets. The average retail price for a 5G phone has fallen below $500.

What could be the economic impact?

Mobile technologies and services generated $4.5 trillion of economic value in 2021, according to the Global Mobile Economy Report by GSMA. The association expects this to grow to nearly $5 trillion by 2025. 5G is expected to benefit all sectors, with services and manufacturing experiencing the biggest impact. Mobile operators are expected to invest more than $600 billion worldwide between 2022 and 2025 in capital expenditure, of which 85% will be in 5G networks. This will boost job creation.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gulveen Aulakh

Gulveen Aulakh is Senior Assistant Editor at Mint, serving dual roles covering the disinvestment landscape out of New Delhi, and the telecom & IT sectors as part of the corporate bureau. She had been tracking several government ministries for the last ten years in her previous stint at The Economic Times. An IIM Calcutta alumnus, Gulveen is fluent in French, a keen learner of new languages and avid foodie.
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