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Does 5G change anything for you?

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India’s 5G auctions have concluded, but when do we get to use these high-speed services? What does 5G offer users, and how much do they have to pay for opting for the new technology? Mint provides an insight into the Indian 5G landscape:

When and where will 5G be rolled out?

Indians can expect 5G services as early as this month. Reliance Jio Infocomm’s chairman Akash Ambani said his company would celebrate India’s Independence Day with 5G rollouts. India’s largest telecom services provider said earlier this month that it would launch 5G services in the nine cities -- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Lucknow, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata -- in the first phase. Bharti Airtel said it would soon begin offering 5G in key cities, likely to be Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Most services are likely to be launched in the latter half of this year.

Are there enough 5G devices in India?

Counterpoint Research says India’s 5G device numbers crossed 50 million in June, which was about 12% of overall 600 million smartphones. This is not a high number but considering that 29% of overall shipments of about 37 million units in the quarter were 5G devices, the highest so far, the scales are clearly tilting towards 5G. Xiaomi, Samsung, Realme, Vivo, OnePlus and Apple are among the key players offering 5G devices in India. The average price of the devices still remains quite high – at 15,000 a piece – but when it falls below 10,000, the critical mass of 5G users will begin developing.

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Are telecom operators ready with infrastructure?

Telcos have conducted 5G trials with equipment partners such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung and, in Reliance Jio’s case, its own 5G stack. However, trials are a micro version of the full network layout. Therefore, they will have to sign up vendors, procure equipment from vendors and set up networks, which sector experts said will take a couple of months.

How will 5G services be priced?

The government has kept tariffs under forbearance, meaning telcos can price services as they want. Experts said that 5G plans may be priced at the same level as 4G so that users choose the ultrafast service. While some may want to peg 5G tariffs at a premium to boost profitability, factors such as staggered rollouts, which means 5G will not be available pan-India, to begin with, lack of affordable 5G devices and the absence of global precedents of charging a premium for 5G, may prod carriers to keep tariffs unchanged.

What are the use cases as of now for 5G?

For consumers, the use cases are related to high speed and low latency on video streaming, cloud gaming, and immersive experiences using virtual reality. 5G’s ability to support higher bandwidth and speeds will make it suitable for live broadcasting sports, live events, etc. Companies in sectors such as energy, utilities, manufacturing, e-commerce, and retail will benefit from using 5G through private networks, fixed wireless access and network slicing, according to a research paper by UK-based Omdia.

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