NEW DELHI: Smartphone makers say that they are bringing out smartphones in India supporting 5G bands which are relevant for India but launching devices which support all global 5G frequencies at this stage will increase the prices for consumers.
“5G bands on 8 and 9 series have been decided based on Indian priority. N78 band is emerging as the priority band in India. The 5G message is very strong. Users will enjoy 5G in India and globally. Our intent for the Indian market is to provide 5G bands support across the product line,” Navnit Nakra, vice president, chief strategy officer of OnePlus India told ET.
Madhav Sheth, chief executive officer of Realme India said that the brand is ensuring C-band support, including N77 and N78 across its 5G portfolio along with various other 5G bands.
“Across various price categories, we have support for multiple 5G bands, starting from our most affordable 5G smartphone. Realme 8 5G supports up to five 5G bands which are already more than what many 5G flagships in this country provide,” Sheth said.
N77 and N78 bands operate within 3.2GHz to 4.2GHz frequency range.
Realme has claimed that it will massify 5G technology in India and will bring smartphones in the Rs 10,000 price category. OnePlus has also decided to launch only 5G smartphones in India.
Currently, 5G phones are available at a price of Rs 15,000 in the market.
Nakra said that n78 will be one of the most commonly adopted bands worldwide. Research shows that the majority of commercial 5G networks will rely on the mid-band – 3.3-3.8GHz range, which typically tends to offer a balance of coverage and speed.
“…we will keep working closely with Indian operators to monitor regional developments and continue driving our field-testing efforts with local operators,” Nakra added.
Sheth said that Realme is constantly working with top telecom partners on 5G testing. “…since we have one of the highest numbers of 5G smartphones in the market, we are able to provide them with 5G devices, across a big variety of feature sets, and price categories,” he added.
An executive with a leading Chinese brand said that brands are conscious about pricing of their 5G smartphones hence there are limited band availability in some of the models foreseeing no use in near future.
“Over the last one year, we have launched multiple 5G devices in the Indian market. With 5G networks being tested across the country and spectrum allocations in process, we are closely monitoring the developments to ensure all relevant bands can be made available as and when 5G gets launched in India,” a Xiaomi spokesperson told ET. “We are closely working with Indian Telcos to ensure that we launch devices in-line to the 5G roadmap.”
Samsung, Oppo, and Vivo didn’t respond to ET’s queries.
Indian telecom operators have spectrum in the 2G, 3G and 4G bands which can be refarmed and used for 5G NSA or 5G SA and also use Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) for fast deployment. They want OEMs to support all existing spectrum bands like 1800/2100/2300 MHz and sub-GHz bands 800/900 Mhz.
Bharti Airtel had recently urged the Department of Telecommunications to bring uniform guidelines to develop the 5G smartphone ecosystem. It recommended that any new 5G handset sold in India must support all existing bands in India for 5G, including the mmwave bands.
“If they [telcos] launch 5G on these bands, devices should be there to support these bands. The chipsets are already supporting most of these bands and it’s up to the OEMs to provide the band support. Adding these bands makes RF more complex and adds to BoM,” said Tarun Pathak, Research Director at Counterpoint.
Navkendar Singh, research director at IDC seconded his views and said that brands can bring support to any band but clarity will come only when they know which bands are being picked up by operators.
Pathak said that adding mmWave bands will add more to the BoM so it might be limited to premium to mid-end devices for now. “But for sub-6Ghz the band support can be added to the low-mid end phones. Also, OEMs are very innovative with BoM and can adjust the price delta without significantly changing the final cost,” he added.
As per Counterpoint analysis, India may have an installed base of 30-40 million of 5G smartphones by the time the first commercial network goes live in the country. “…this has never happened in any tech transition. This is the first time when the devices ecosystem is preceding network deployment by this much gap,” Pathak said.
Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already started 5G field trials across various cities in the mid and mmwave bands in partnership with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. Jio is also piloting its own 5G radio and core technologies in Navi Mumbai.