India is a very price-sensitive market. The proliferation of low-cost 4G VoLTE phones drove the business of the telcos. The same needs to happen with 5G. There aren't devices under Rs 10000 that you can rely upon to consume 5G in India. Now while there is Lava, which is selling its 5G devices near the Rs 10k price range, that is still not enough for the quick growth of 5G. The telcos won't be worried very much at the moment as they know that it will also take them a few years to roll out 5G everywhere. In 2023, even the availability of affordable 5G phones is expected to increase.
One of the biggest issues right now for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) is the high cost of chipsets and components of smartphones. Due to the pandemic, companies all across the globe had to face the challenges of the supply chain. Shipment costs went up, and the demand for semiconductors shot up severely as the supply had dipped.
To make 5G a success amongst the masses, the average selling price (ASP) of the 5G phones needs to come down. The telcos would also want that to happen in the next one to two years. Jio's 5G SA and Airtel's 5G NSA are currently supported by many devices. But if you look at the list, there aren't many super affordable devices that support both.
Airtel and Jio Both Doing their Part to Drive Availability of Low-Cost 4G/5G Phones in India
Back in 2021, Airtel announced that it would be offering smartphones to consumers with cashback by partnering with OEMs. Many devices in the market today are available in partnership with Airtel, wherein if you make certain minimum recharges, you will get cashbacks from the company. This is the route that Airtel found to be most effective, while Jio, on the other hand, believes in manufacturing its own devices to drive the availability of low-cost smartphones which can support its networks.
Jio and Google are also working together to bring a new low-cost 5G phone to India. It isn't expected to be super affordable, but it would deliver something in the budget range for most consumers in India. 5G subscriptions in India are expected to grow rapidly in the next few years. By 2028, there will be more 5G subscriptions than 4G in the country (via Ericsson's Mobility Report).