Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
The Roll-out of 5G telecommunication services in India starting from October 2022 and beyond is considered as one of the fastest in global standards. It took three to four years for 4G services to cover the entire nation. But major 5G service providers Jio and Airtel plan to complete the roll-out within 18 months.
Four telcos-Reliance Jio, Bharati Airtel, Vodaphone Idea and Adani Group purchased spectrum from the central government in August 2022. Jio and Airtel are ahead with unveiling their plan to roll-out the services beginning in October 2022. Jio has told to start the services in four metros Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to reach 5,600 towns, taluka, and tehsil within 18 months by April 2024. Similarly, Airtel has also fixed target to arrive at 5,000 locations by March 2024.
By the time of roll-out of 5G services in India, about 70 nations worldwide with 69 crore 80 lakh consumers were using the technology. As per projections by research agency OMDIA about 36 crore 90 lakh consumers will avail 5G services by 2026. India will be positioned in the third place after China and United States.
However, in the consideration of coverage in relation to its population 5G connections will be lower. GSM Association estimates only 30 percent of the population capable of availing 5G services by 2025 in the country, while the figures will reach 63 percent in United States, 52 percent in China and 44 percent in Europe. It signifies, though the number of consumers will be high, the reach will remain low in comparison to developed nations.
Roll-out of 2G, 3G and 4G services took a considerable period of time in our country after debut of the technologies in the international arena. But the fact that 5G services is scheduled to reach Indian consumers within a year and a half conforms to progress in the technological front. As a large number of tele-consumers use 2G and 3G technologies by the time of 5G roll-out, it is expected that some may elevate to 4G and others to 5G services. Indian telecom regulator TRAI’s report for July 2022 claimed 85.11 percent tele-density in the country.
Different reasons are put forth for expected fast roll-out of 5G services in India in comparison to earlier experiences. By the time 4G services were rolled-out, there was a scarcity of 4G capable smartphones. Jio had to negotiate with the manufacturers and vendors for distribution of handsets to consumers to roll-out its 4G services. But about 9.75 percent of smartphones are 5G enabled among the used devices during the time of 5G service roll-out. The share of 5G smartphones in the market is calculated around 30 to 40 percent.
Andhra Pradesh led the states on the highest number of 5G smartphone users followed by Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. It hammers upon the myth that newer technology is adopted by affluent urban consumers. A section of experts believes that a major portion of 2G feature phone users may directly leap to 5G services. Earlier experience in the behavior of consumers during the expansion of television broadcasting is an example.
Price of entry level 5G smartphones in India started from Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 during 2022. In an interview to the press Rajen Vagadia, president of chip maker Qualcomm expected that the price may come down to Rs 10,000 range within a year. In his estimate by 2023 about 50 percent of smartphones manufactured in the country will be 5G enabled. It is to be noted down that 5G smartphones entered world market in 2019 and during the following year in 2020 become available in India.
It is generally believed that Indian consumers prefer low-end smartphones for price consideration. But Rajan observed, “We are seeing that almost 30 percent of smartphones shopped today are based on 5G and consumers are buying those for many reasons: they are more capable, have become more affordable and more importantly, consumers want to future-proof their handsets.” Using 5G smartphones customers experience over 40 percent faster download speed in 4G networks.
Indian consumers may not have to spend more for subscription of 5G services. A group of experts claim that taking into consideration investment made in auction of spectrum, building infrastructure together with aiming at quicker and larger consumer figures, the subscription of 5G in comparison to 4G services may increase up to 10 to 12 per cent only. The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) was calculated to be Rs 200 per month by 2022 and with the roll-out of 5G it may go up to Rs 230. Other group of experts expect that the aggressive rolling-out may repeat the experience of shift over from 3G to 4G in the country where they paid less for the emerging technology. The subscription may not increase at all.
The introduction of 5G technology will bring three important transformations in the telecommunication ecosystem. First, an increase of speed in mobile broadband will result in speedier connection, download and upload along with an increase in capacity of network management. Second, low latency will make communication ultra-reliable and encourage mission-critical applications. For example, the user can depend on the network for working from a distance with uninterrupted and robust data exchange. A surgeon settled in an urban centre can venture for advising on a surgery conducted in a remote village operation theater etc. Third, 5G network would be used to connect to a large number of devices. For example Internet-of-Things can enable household digital services from locking the doors to managing robotic equipment to ease daily life.
One can expect the disruptive impact of the introduction of 5G technology in the media and entertainment industry. In India, traditional media platforms faced a host of problems within 5 to 7 years of penetration of 4G technology. It is reasonable to believe that increase of the speed and quality of the network will accelerate those problems. On the other hand use of virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will set to change the preference and behavior of consumers. For example, revenue loss in the film industry during the pandemic resulted in a fastest increase of revenue for digital gaming industry. It is certain that 5G technology will offer the readers, listeners and audience personalized media and entertainment products and immersive experiences. Such attractions signifies new equations in the field.
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on September 23, 2022. https://tinyletter.com/pradeepmahapatra/letters/message-268. It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Dasgupta. Surajeet. India’s 5G race in the fast lane. Business Standard (Bhubaneswar Edition) September 13, 2022
Surajeet Dasgupta’s interview with Rajen Vagadia. Get ready for 5G smartphones in Rs 10,000 range next year. Business Standard (Bhubaneswar Edition) August 13, 2022
What is 5G / Qualcomm
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