While the world is going gaga over 5G at the ongoing MWC Barcelona, India is not even on the map for the technology's large-scale rollout this year, or even beyond. Although India is targeting 2020 for the 5G rollout, the country is yet to allocate 5G spectrum to operators even for the 5G trial of use cases. The entire 5G ecosystem, which involves original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), infrastructure, spectrum and edge devices, is currently missing and in such a scenario, various 5G-enabled devices that are now set to see the light of day are redundant for the Indian consumers.
"5G-enabled phones have come early mostly for the developed and mature markets such as South Korea, the US, Australia and Japan," said Neil Shah, Partner and Research Director at Counterpoint Research. "Initially, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will have multiple variants and India will get 4G ones for at least next two years," Shah told IANS.
In India, 5G trials are slowly picking up with Ericsson, Nokia, Intel and Huawei aiming to further invest towards 5G test beds in India. Huawei is leading the 5G race globally with its massive investments in R&D, but the Chinese giant is facing the heat from some Western countries, particularly the US which alleges that the Huawei 5G network could pose a national security threat.
According to Prabhu Ram, Head of Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CyberMedia Research (CMR), smartphone brands would look to pique market interest and attract early niche tech adopters in India with their 5G offerings.
"The 5G infrastructure in India is still in its infancy," Ram said, adding he believes it would see its commercial rollout by 2021. A recent Gartner report said that betting big on the Internet of Things (IoT)-based communications and video analytics/streaming, nearly two-thirds of organisations plan to deploy the 5G technology by 2020 but are wary of the lack of readiness of communications service providers (CSPs) in making 5G networks ready by then.
"One major issue that 5G users face is the lack of readiness of communications service providers (CSPs). Their 5G networks are not available or capable enough for the needs of organisations," lamented Sylvain Fabre, Senior Research Director at Gartner.
To fully exploit 5G, a new network topology is required, including new network elements such as edge computing, core network slicing and radio network densification. In the meantime, shipments of 5G-enabled smartphones is likely to exceed 140 million in India by 2025, says CMR.
With a barrage of 5G-enabled smartphones coming the consumers' way, Reliance Jio with its vast 4G network can double up as a 5G behemoth in months to come, say experts. The arrival of true 5G smartphones "will put pressure on Indian telcos to bring 5G quickly to differentiate. Jio especially will be keen to do that faster than others," said Shah.
"The players like Jio would herald India's arrival into the 5G era with meaningful adoption," added Ram. Currently, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and the US are leading with 5G large-scale mass deployment.
The US President Donald Trump has even asked the American companies to start 6G (nothing of this sort exists at the moment) but to his big worry, it is China which is expected to represent 40% of global 5G connections by 2025. India, for the moment, is just soaking in the 5G news coming from MWC Barcelona.