Even as the 5G was poised over India, it may well turn out to be the moment of reckoning for the telcos. As it is, only the three existing telecom service spectrum providers participated in the 5G auctions — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and VodafoneIdea. (The fourth participant, the Adanis, is not a telco player, at least yet).
Among the three participants, Airtel and Jio have announced that they are ready to rollout 5G service in August itself (most likely August 15). The financially struggling VodafoneIdea has to quickly get its act together if it does not want to be left behind, as the Indian market seems very keen on 5G services.
According to a report (opens in new tab) by network intelligence and connectivity insights provider Ookla, 89% of consumers wish to upgrade to 5G network while 48% are even ready to switch service providers for upgrading to 5G.
Only 20% said they would wait for their service providers to upgrade to the 5G network. 14% of respondents intend to avail the services after upgrading to a 5G-enabled handset, and 7% would wait for their current contract period to end. Only 2% stated that they don’t intend to upgrade to 5G.
This clearly suggests that the Indian telecom industry, which suffered disruption with the arrival of Reliance Jio that offered mobile data at cheap rates, may be in for another round of churn. The message to the telecom players is simple: The fittest and the fastest will survive.
Ookla’s survey, commissioned among smartphone users aged 18 and above, across urban and rural areas of India, was to understand the current mobile behavior of Indian consumers.
Video streaming and gaming to increase with 5G
Sylwia Kechiche, Principal Analyst, Enterprise at Ookla said, “the promise of 5G is that it will unlock a world of possibilities beyond just a faster network connection. Now that operators have acquired 5G spectrum, they start their race to become the first operators to go to market with 5G.”
5G adoption is expected to boost video content streaming, gaming, and social messaging the most. And not surprisingly, Ookla’s survey said that if mobile internet connections were better, 70% of respondents would increase their use of video streaming, while 68% stated they would boost their mobile gaming.
Operators have acquired a total of 44,960 MHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz spectrum band (mmWave), which due to its high throughput, is particularly useful for streaming and gaming. Meanwhile, other consumer behaviors such as online shopping, mobile money, and watching esports aren’t impacted as much by high network speeds.
Fear over increased tariff for 5G
Airtel and Jio have splurged on C-band spectrum at auction, acquiring spectrum in all of the 22 telecom circles, while Vodafone acquired spectrum only in its priority circles. C-band spectrum is expected to offer higher data speed to customers. Around 42% of respondents believe that faster speeds on 5G would most improve service currently being provided to them.
In addition to faster speeds, 24% of respondents wanted a more reliable connection, while 21% hoped for better indoor coverage. According to the survey, almost half of respondents have a 5G ready handset. This operators offers an existing customer base that they can target from day one.
The issues that may affect 5G acceptance by consumers may be affordability, coverage, and consumer education. Many who don’t plan to upgrade said that they think the 5G tariff cost would be too expensive. As it stands now, India’s data charges are among the lowest in the world.