While 5G subscribers in the country are currently minuscule and services patchy, estimates from Ericsson suggest 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 compatible smartphones.
Out of the total 1.3 billion subscribers in 2028, 5G subscribers are expected to be around 630 million, according to Ericsson Mobility Report, which also expects 31 million users to be on 5G by end of 2022. Besides, 4G subscribers are expected to decline to 570 million by 2028 after reaching the peak at around 930 million in 2024, the report said.
Two months ago, telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio started the roll out of 5G services in the country. Till date, the telecom operators have launched the services in about 14 cities including parts of Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Varanasi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune. In addition, Reliance Jio has launched its 5G-trial services in all 33 districts of Gujarat.
Both Jio and Airtel are targeting to roll out 5G services pan-India by 2023 and 2024, respectively. In a recent update, Airtel said that its 5G user base has crossed 1 million within a month of the launch of the services, whereas Jio, too, said that lakhs of users were using its 5G services.
While 5G is seen as best suited technology for enterprise offerings, some experts also see it has an alternate to fixed or wired broadband which in a way has been slow in increasing fast-speed internet penetration in the far-flung or rural areas across the country.
“Enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access are expected to be the early use-cases for 5G in India which will help address the concern of the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in the country and improve the data experience while on the move,” said Nitin Bansal, head of Ericsson India.
After the auction of 5G spectrum in August, Reliance Jio was the first among the telecom operators which had talked about its plan to revolutionise the home broadband market with fifth generation wireless services in the same way it upended the mobile data market with 4G services. Post that, Jio launched its fixed wireless access offering JioAirFiber, with which it aims to target 100 million households. Lately, Bharti Airtel also talked about its plans to enter the fixed wireless access space, leveraging the 5G technology.
At present, the companies provide home broadband services largely by laying fibre. However, owing to higher costs and other administrative issues at the local level, progress on this front has been relatively slow.
Globally, the fixed wireless access services are expected to grow at 19% year-on-year through 2022-2028, and top 300 million connections by the end of 2028, largely contributed by its growth in India, the report said.
On the back of increase in smartphone users and growing demand for internet services, the average data traffic per smartphone in the country in expected to grow to 54 GB per month in 2028 from 25 GB per month in 2022, Ericsson said.