India has about 2 million active 5G devices in use, says Nokia

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February 12, 2021 8:32 AM

As per Finnish telecom gear maker Nokia, India has 2 million active 5G devices in use across the country.

A total 2,251 MHz of spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore at reserve price in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands is being put up for sale.As per Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, though the 5G ecosystem is still nascent in the country, the devices coming into India now (as on December), about 4% to 5% of device shipments are already 5G compatible.

Even though 5G is yet to be launched in India, the device ecosystem has already started to build up. As per Finnish telecom gear maker Nokia, India has 2 million active 5G devices in use across the country. What it means is that the devices are 5G enabled and can access services if offered by the telecom operators.

Although 2 million looks miniscule when compared to 700 million 4G subscribers in the country but given the fact that more and more smartphone shipments coming into the country are now 5G enabled, the device ecosystem will soon be in place for a full-fledged rollout.

As per Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, though the 5G ecosystem is still nascent in the country, the devices coming into India now (as on December), about 4% to 5% of device shipments are already 5G compatible. The 5G enabled device shipments stood at 2% in October and if compared with September, it was almost nothing.

“So there has been a change in some of the shipments coming in. Having said that, the use cases are still nascent, but the fact is that some of these handsets are now beginning to show up. And I would say, in the next 12 months, you should start seeing more and more shipments potentially coming in the 5G,” Vittal said during a recent call with analysts.

Nokia said that the 2 million active 5G devices are more or less equally spread out among the three operators — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea. Airtel has already demonstrated its live 5G commercial network in Hyderabad. “So, whether it’s our radio network, our radios are on the mid-band are all ready for 5G,” Vittal said.
Jio is also working on a home-made 5G solution and plans to rollout its network in the second half of this year. The only stumbling block in rolling out 5G in India could be the lack of spectrum, particularly in 3.5 GHz band. The government is not auctioning the 3.5 Ghz band in the upcoming auction, scheduled to start from March 1.

Apart from 5G, Nokia also shared insights about 4G and data usage by users in the country through its Mobile Broadband India Traffic Index (MBiT) 2021 report. The report said data traffic in India grew approximately 60 times over the last five years which is amongst the highest globally.

In 2020, the data traffic grew by 36% year-on-year, primarily due to rise in 4G data consumption as 4G subscribers surpassed 700 million with 100 million new additions during the year. “4G alone constituted nearly 99% of the total data traffic consumed across the country,” the report said.

According to the study, the average monthly data usage per user reached 13.5 GB in December 2020, growing over 20% annually owing to an increase in data subscribers and mobile video consumption.

Regarding smartphones, Nokia said a double-digit growth is expected in 2021 for the industry as people embrace hybrid work models, e-learning, and consume content over OTT platforms. The launch of low-cost 4G smartphones will provide the necessary headroom for data growth with a significant number of 2G/3G subscribers potentially upgrading to a 4G smartphone.

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