5G user experience improves, coverage pace depends on handset penetration | The Financial Express

5G user experience improves, coverage pace depends on handset penetration

“We had asked both telcos and handset makers to solve the issues around 5G user experience by December. The department of telecommunications (DoT) will meet both telcos and handset makers in the month end to take an update on the issue,” a government official said.

5G user experience improves, coverage pace depends on handset penetration
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Two months back when 5G services were launched in some parts of the country, all was not well in terms of quality and user experience of the services. However, with software upgrades in majority of the 5G handsets and increase in 5G base stations, the experience for early 5G adopters seems to have improved now.

According to analysts, about 2 million 5G subscribers are expected to be using the 5G services of Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio in about 15 cities and across all 33 districts of Gujarat where only Jio has launched its beta trials. While there have not been any real use cases of 5G for retail consumers, high network speed for gaming and streaming video is the only factor which is prompting people to use 5G.

Currently, telecom operators are deploying about 4,000 sites a week for 5G rollout, up from 2,500 per week two months back. In a bid to increase the coverage of 5G services, communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had also asked the telecom operators to increase the 5G base stations sites to 10,000 per week.

While telcos are working to meet the target for 10,000 sites per week in about 3-4 months, issues with regards to availability of equipments could keep the pace of sites rollout flat in months to come, according to industry sources.

“Our coverage plan also depends on the availability of 5G smartphones in a particular circle,” an official of Reliance Jio said, adding that the company will keep on increasing the sites as it sees more value.

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According to Counterpoint Research, as of October-end, India had about close to 70 million 5G-enabled smartphones and that number is expected to touch 80 million by the end of 2022.

“Since the 5G handsets in the country are low, telcos are also taking calibrated approach in deploying 5G radios as at the end of the day they are not getting any additional ROI (return on investments) currently,” an executive said.

Back to user experience, while 5G users are satisfied with the network speeds compared to 4G, absence of key software upgrades in iPhones, Google Pixel phones, and some 5G-enabled handsets of other companies is disappointing the potential 5G users.

“We had asked both telcos and handset makers to solve the issues around 5G user experience by December. The department of telecommunications (DoT) will meet both telcos and handset makers in the month end to take an update on the issue,” a government official said.

In reply to a question in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, minister of state for communications Devusinh Chauhan said that the telecom companies have not reported any complaints or feedback regarding the difficulties faced by 5G users wherever the 5G network is available.

A report by analytics company Opensignal suggests that average 5G download speeds at 241.2 Mbps in India are 16.5 times faster than average 4G speeds of 14.7 Mbps. The peak 5G download speeds were seen at 690.6 Mbps, which is 11.6 times faster than its 4G peak download speed. The average upload speed of 21.2 Mbps in 5G were 5 times faster than 4G, the research report said.

“Looking at the experience of our smartphone users when streaming video over mobile connections, we found that our users in India enjoyed a Very Good (65-75 out of 100) video experience when connected to 5G. In contrast, 4G Video Experience rated Fair (40-55) — two categories lower than 5G,” said Hardik Khatri, data analyst at Opensignal. Similarly, the mobile gaming experience of users has been significantly better compared to 4G network.

While the two telecom operators are deploying huge capital expenditure for 5G launch, some experts believe that penetration of 5G going further will depend on the launch of 5G tariff plans by the companies.

“Majority of the people will go for 5G when they will see a real value. We believe that it would take around 2 years to reach that stage where people would think of switching to 5G as by that time there will be clarity on the tariff plans and quality of 4G networks,” an industry official said.

According to a recent report by Ericsson, over half of the total mobile subscribers in the country will be on 5G by 2028 owing to factors like growing affordability and availability of 5G smartphones.

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First published on: 10-12-2022 at 00:45 IST