Why India Will Have to Wait Beyond 2019 To Use 5G Phones

5G equipment and devices are expected to launch in 2019, but India isn’t ready to adopt this technology yet.

Tech News
3 min read
5G rollout is expected to happen in 2019, but which phones will support it?

Processors for smartphones have been announced with support for 5G connectivity. OnePlus confirmed that it will launch a 5G smartphone for select markets in 2019. But people in India need a reality check about the availability of 5G, which honestly should be the least of our concerns right now, with basic network issues plaguing the country.

We got a glimpse of what 5G can bring to the table at the recent India Mobile Congress in the capital city, where telecom giants like Huawei and device makers like Samsung showcased their ready-to-use equipment.

Which is all good, but Indian users are better off knowing that though India will be making a quick switch from 4G to 5G, it won’t take off in 2019 at least. And we’ve got strong reasons to validate those claims. Here’s a look at some of them:


Telcos Ailing from Jio Onslaught

Reliance Jio’s entry in the past two years resulted in closure of multiple operators like Aircel and Telenor (the operations were bought by Airtel) and forced Vodafone to merge with Idea Cellular. Airtel also had to tackle the competition, by slashing its data prices, and offering voice calls for free, which hit its own revenues.

Add to that, you have players like Airtel and Idea who made big investment in 3G that doesn’t serve them anymore.

All this has ensured that none of the Indian telecom operators are in a position to buy spectrum required to run 5G networks, and thereby delaying the availability of the network for consumers.

Telcos in India are finding it hard to cut losses. 
Telcos in India are finding it hard to cut losses. 
(Photo: iStock)

As informed by Aruna Sundararajan, Telecom Secretary “the government expects to complete processes for 5G spectrum auction by August and the services will be rolled out by 2020.”

Out of the lot, Reliance Jio is the only telco right now that is capable of transitioning to 5G if asked, but the telecom ministry wouldn’t want to give a single player an undue advantage and it will wait for others to be prepared to take part in the 5G auction.

India Not Ready for 5G

Everybody has said that since the ecosystem is not ready, 5G will role out after July-August next year. This has been repeatedly stated by the telecom ministry this year.

Even Vodafone-Idea has urged the telecom department not to hold a spectrum auction till 2020, on the grounds that fresh need for quality radio waves will arise only once the 5G ecosystem is ready.

India Mobile Congress 2018 kicks off in Delhi.
India Mobile Congress 2018 kicks off in Delhi.
(Photo: The Quint)

The country is still playing catch up with 4G, and presence of 3G and even 2G in some pockets ensures that a nationwide release of 4G and then 5G will be a herculean task to accomplish in 2019. Hence, there’s no point fretting about a technology that is unlikely to hit the ground.


Not Many 5G Smartphones

All the aforementioned points bring us to the conclusion there’s no point of launching 5G smartphones in India in 2019. This is pretty much the same situation that phone makers had to go through when 4G was making its foray in the country.

With the spectrum for 5G network still being processed and auction set to take place in the later half of 2019, it would be safe to say that launching 5G-ready devices, just for the heck of it, before mid-2020 would be a bold, but pointless move. This explains the reason behind Apple deciding to stay away from 5G in 2019 for its iPhone.

Cristiano Amon, President, Qualcomm Inc. at the Qualcomm 4G/5G summit 
Cristiano Amon, President, Qualcomm Inc. at the Qualcomm 4G/5G summit 
(Photo IANS)

All this means one thing, mobile phone users are better off with their existing phones, using the 4G data network. In fact, 4G itself still has a lot of kinks that need to be fixed at the earliest.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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