5G Rollout In India And The Expected Increase In Broadband Speed

Bhaswati Guha Majumder

Aug 13, 2021, 05:22 PM | Updated 05:22 PM IST

5G network
5G network
  • Based on Speedtest data findings from other Asian markets, a network analyst firm Ookla said 5G launch could enhance median download speeds in India up to 10 times from present levels when compared to 4G-LTE.
  • As Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have already tested their 5G networks in India, the country is now gearing up for the launch of this faster cellular network. Now, Ookla, which is a network analyst firm, said that the 5G launch has the potential to enhance median download speeds in the country up to 10 times from present levels when compared to 4G-LTE.

    The findings are based on Speedtest data from other Asian markets, including Thailand and the Philippines, that have recently introduced 5G—both countries introduced 5G in the first and second quarters of 2020, respectively.

    According to the survey, as of June 2021, 64.5 per cent of 4G users in India may expect download speeds over 5 Mbps that is required to stream HD video content, up from 52 per cent in March.

    But as per Ookla, given the ambiguity surrounding actual spectrum allocations and rollout plans, it is now impossible to say how fast 5G will be for the ordinary Indian user. This includes the radio access network as well as backhaul and transport network enhancements. But it is also believed that 5G will significantly increase overall speeds in the country.

    Since March 2021, according to Ookla's data, Jio's performance has improved, as the median download speeds have increased from 5.96 megabits per second in March 2021 to 13.08 megabits per second in June 2021.

    Additionally, its upload speeds have also increased, as has its "Consistency Score"—the percentage of samples that exceed 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Even Net Promoter Score or the NPS score, which measures customer's satisfaction, became -25.93 in June from -46.37 in March this year.

    However, reports stated that Sunil Mittal's company has already announced plans to pilot and deploy Tata's OpenRAN technology as part of its 5G rollout plans in India.

    5G Rollout In India

    In terms of the 5G debut in India, some early reports claimed that the spectrum auction is expected to be pushed back from this year to early 2022, which means that it will postpone the launch of 5G services until at least the second half of 2022 or early 2023.

    According to a June report, a government official told BusinessLine, "The 5G network would start around August next year and the PM may launch it officially on 15 August."

    The official also stated that "the major surprise of the launch will be that you will find a lot of Indian technology—be it in hardware or software—in it. As you are aware, India is very strong in software, so many technologies will be dependent on our local software companies", who will emerge as the backbone.

    He claims that businesses like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm are already manufacturing hardware in India and that many more global corporations will collaborate to make 5G successful in India.

    Instead of using equipment from Chinese gear makers like ZTE or Huawei, the official said that there are other companies that are developing 5G technology for the world and "many local players are also capable" of doing the same.

    Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), said: "As 5G starts taking shape in India, one thing that we would like to enable is manufacturing in India so that it is not only the users of 5G in India but also the manufacturers and providers of these technologies who can make a mark in the global arena."

    However, in terms of speed, India currently lags behind markets that have already begun 5G deployments, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. But as per Ookla, all operators have been working behind the scenes in recent months to help drive 5G commercialisation. They are running 5G trials and have demonstrated impressive 5G speeds, the firm said.

    It also added that the operators would benefit from the postponement in the 5G rollout because they will be able to purchase network equipment at a lower cost.

    The firm said: "The adoption of Open RAN system by the Indian operators will further aid in bringing down the overall cost of 5G rollout."

    The report claimed that the prices of 5G smartphones have already begun to fall, and this trend will continue, aided in India by partnerships such as Jio Platform with Google. Ookla stated that it has been witnessing a growing number of Speedtest results running on 5G capable devices in the country, "which indicates that there will be a pre-installed user base that operators can target from day one of launch".

    According to International Data Corporation (IDC), India came in fourth place, behind China, the United States and Japan, in terms of 5G shipments of 5 million units, with the lowest average selling price of $410. Analysts told Economic Times that by the end of the 2021 calendar year, handset makers are projected to ship up to 32 to 40 million 5G handsets, with an influx of more affordable 5G devices priced under $200.

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