5G in Indiais getting closer and closer to reality as the Indian government plans to hold spectrum auctions in the coming weeks.
- There’s been a lot of noise around 5G in India, from telcos to big tech, but little effort has been made to address why exactly 5G makes sense for everyday folks like you and me.
- While 5G promises faster speeds and lower latency, is this what ordinary people need?
Indians have been talking about 5G for several years now. While certainly not new, it has caught on with Indian smartphone users, with 30 million 5G phones sold in the past year before even telco’s acquired 5G spectrum, with services far and wide.
Meanwhile, Indians have no shortage of fast internet. 4G coverage has crossed 99% of the country, making it a ubiquitous service and not just used by high-paying subscribers. In fact, the cost of 1 GB of 4G data in India is the cheapest in the world at just 7 per GB (about $0.09).
The case against 5G
Cheap, fast data combined with unlimited calls and texts makes 4G a very useful service that will be difficult to replace. To make matters worse for 5G, a 20-25% increase in 4G rates has resulted in a drop of 7.5 million subscribers as people cut out their second SIM and telcos chase ARPU growth.
There are two options as India enters the 5G era: either the telcos increase their 4G rates to a level where they can provide 5G services without raising prices, or they announce 5G rates at prices that are a notch higher. than 4G.
Regardless, consumers may have to pay slightly higher prices when 5G services are launched commercially.
Is there a need for speed?
According to the latest from Speedtest
report, the median 4G speeds in India are just over 14 Mbps, making India the 115th country in the world in this regard. The global average is 2x higher than India’s at 30 Mbps.
To put this into perspective, popular video streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and Amazon Prime recommend minimum speeds of 2 Mbps to 6 Mbps for HD content. For live streams, Disney+ Hostar recommends speeds of 8 Mbps.
For 4K HDR content, all services recommend a minimum speed of 25 Mbps.
Popular video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet work well at speeds between 1 and 3 Mbps.
During our testing, we found that WhatsApp works very well on video calls with an average of between 0.1 and 0.25 Mbps.
5G promises to offer an increase of anywhere from 10-100 times in terms of speeds compared to 4G. Considering that our 4G speeds are comfortably faster than the speeds needed for the most demanding use cases, do we really need 10x faster speeds?
5G promises lower latency compared to 4G, but even that is a solution for a small subset of users.
Availability of 5G phones
According to a report from IDC, shipments of 5G phones in India reached 30 million in 2021, of which more than 10 million are in active use. This is hardly a blip in terms of the total number of telecom users in India which stands at over 1.1 billion according to TRAI data.
However, an Ericsson report claims that the total number of 5G subscribers could reach a staggering 500 million by 2027. That number seems even more striking, as it says there will also be 700 million 4G subscribers – at 1.2 billion, that’s more than India’s total telecom subscriber base.
As things stand, with just over 10 million 5G phones active, the early years will be tough for telcos in terms of 5G subscribers.
Higher cost of 5G phones
According to a report from IDC, the average price of 5G phones hovers around $375 (about ₹29,300), and by the end of this year, the research firm estimates that all phones sold above $300 will be 5G compatible.
That’s still a horribly higher cost compared to the average retail price of 4G phones. For example, the average retail price of Xiaomi’s 5G phones is 2x that of its 4G phones.
As 5G phones become more common, the average retail price is likely to drop. But for now, they remain out of reach of millions of people.
What do the telcos think?
Also telecom companies seem to think that consumers are like you and I will not contribute much to 5G revenues, at least initially.
dr. SP Kochhar, the director general of COAI, an association of telcos, told https://cafe-madrid.com/ India that the telcos expect consumers to contribute only 30-40% of telcos’ 5G revenue. The telecom companies, on the other hand, expect companies to increase their revenues, with a share of 70%.
In summary, the lack of adequate use cases for consumers, the expected higher prices of 5G services, the lack of 5G smartphones and the overall higher cost of 5G phones mean that 5G for the
aam aadmi might not make much sense, for now.
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