India to have 31 mn 5G users by Dec-end


The early-phase rollout of 5G services by telecom operators in the country is expected to create a market of 31 million 5G users by the end of this year, said Swedish networking and telecommunications services firm Ericsson’s November 2022 Mobility Report on Wednesday.

India is presently in an early phase of adoption of consumer 5G services, which is projected to reach 690 million subscribers — around 55% of India’s total mobile phone user base — by the end of calendar year 2028, the report said.

The rise of 5G uses in India

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The rise of 5G uses in India

The report added that factors such as “aggressive 5G deployments by service providers”, and “growing affordability and availability of 5G smartphones” as the key factors that would fuel consumer adoption of 5G networks in the country.

“Initially, enhanced mobile broadband will be the main use case in India. Meanwhile, 4G continues to be the dominant subscription type driving connectivity growth. 4G subscriptions are expected to peak in India in 2024 at around 930 million, and from there will decline to an estimated 570 million by the year 2028,” the report also stated.

The adoption of 5G is also tipped to increase the amount of data consumed by users. According to the Ericsson report, the volume of data consumed by every user per month is tipped to grow at 14% annually to 54GB at the end of 2028 — up from 25GB in India right now.

After the spectrum auction in July this year, the initial phase of rollout of 5G services in the country commenced in October. Since then, telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have commenced rolling out 5G connectivity across various regions in the country, while Vodafone Idea and Adani Data Networks, the two other telcos that also purchased spectrum during the auction phase, are yet to announce their rollout plans.

Experts stated that even the projected figure of 31 million subscribers of 5G networks could be a steep target.

“Given that the network rollout has just begun, reaching 31 million 5G subscribers in the country by the end of this year seems to be a very difficult target to achieve for telcos. Availability of networks and the right device ecosystem will continue to be challenges, and India will likely take longer to reach such a benchmark in terms of 5G users in the country,” said Prashant Kumar Singhal, emerging markets leader for technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) at EY Global.

Tarun Pathak, research director at market research firm Counterpoint India, said that a rushed rollout of the initial phase of 5G services, coupled with lack of nationwide availability and the longevity and relevance of 4G connectivity in the country, have likely prevented 5G networks from becoming ubiquitously adopted so far.

“Issues with software updates required to enable 5G on phones have haltered adoption of 5G, and lack of clarity on pricing combined with this has also affected 5G usage adoption in India,” Pathak said. He added that by the end of the year, the number of 5G devices that have been sold to users in the country is expected to be around 80-85 million units — nearly 2.7x the number of users who would be using 5G on their phones by this time frame.

While Pathak added that enterprises are likely to be faster 5G adopters, Singhal said that even with enterprise networks counted, 31 million active 5G subscribers in the country could be a steep figure for calendar year 2022.

Alongside 5G, the relevance of 4G networks is also likely to remain in the market for longer in comparison to the jump from 3G to 4G, which in turn could halt widespread, ubiquitous adoption of 5G networks in the immediate future, experts stated.

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