How India’s 5G mobile networks will guide your next smartphone purchase

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The ball is finally on for India’s 5G mobile networks, with the spectrum auction now over after seven days of aggressive bidding. It is expected that after the rollout and testing, mobile service providers are expected to activate commercial 5G services in Indian telecom circles in the coming months. The government estimates this will happen as early as October, with phased rollouts to follow soon.

If you’ve been waiting to switch to theoretically much faster mobile data services, what does that mean for your current smartphone and next smartphone purchase?

Just as was the case with previous-generation network upgrades, your phone (or tablet or data card) should be able to connect to specific frequency bands under 5G or fifth-generation mobile networks. . Therefore, you may need to buy a new phone that supports 5G if your current phone doesn’t already, but it’s not that simple.

Understanding the 5G spectrum and your smartphones

It was expected that the three mobile service providers – Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vi – would acquire 5G spectrum. That’s exactly how it went, with Jio leading, followed by Airtel and Vi. Adani Data Networks, the fourth player in this race, will launch private networks on 5G with the spectrum they have acquired.

The specifics, since 5G consists of a variety of frequency bands, matter in the long run. Mobile phone companies have (in different, or even all, quantities for different circles), acquired from a plateau, including low frequency (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz), mid-frequency (3300 MHz) and high-frequency (26 GHz, also known as mmWave) bands.

“What you need to understand in the long term is that even though the 700MHz band might be considered expensive spectrum, it is designed to cover densely populated areas such as India who will really benefit from this band and will receive expanded 5G coverage,” Devroop Dhar, co-founder and board member of consulting firm Primus Partners, said.

Jio has acquired 24.740 GHz of 5G spectrum in telecom circles – this includes the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz bands. “The speed, scale and societal impact of Jio’s 4G rollout is unmatched anywhere in the world. Now, with greater ambition and stronger resolve, Jio is poised to lead India’s march towards the 5G era,” Akash M Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm, said in a statement.

Airtel will have 19.86 GHz spectrum for its 5G services, including 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz frequency bands. “5G technology is the revolution that can change India’s manufacturing, services and several other sectors,” said Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO of Bharti Airtel.

Vi, which has purchased 6.22 GHz of 5G spectrum, will work with the 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz frequency bands. “We have successfully acquired mid-band 5G spectrum (3300 MHz band) in our 17 priority circles and mmWave 5G spectrum (26 GHz band) in 16 circles,” Vi said in a statement.

Read also :Registration 1.5 crore lakh from the sale of 5G spectrum; Jio highest bidder

Do 5G ready smartphones support all 5G bands?

The simple answer is no, and that’s what you’ll need to be careful of. Some phone manufacturers will list frequencies, like we talked about above (in MHz and GHz), or you’ll see compatibility listed in the “N” range.

For frequencies that will be used by Jio, Airtel and Vi, here’s what that means – 600 MHz (N71; no bidders this time), 700 MHz (N28), 800 MHz (N20), 900 MHz (N8), 1800 MHz (N3), 2100 MHz (N1), 2300 MHz (N30/N40), 2500 MHz (N41), 3300 MHz (N78) and 26GHz (N258; mmWave), in different calibrations and configurations.

Take the example of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 11 Pro+ 5G phone (at the price 20999 and later), which supports N1/3/5/8/28/40/78 bands. When it comes to setting up our 5G networks, bands N1, N3, N8, N28, and N78 will allow you to connect seamlessly. A look at the Samsung Galaxy A73 5G phone (price approx. 41999) confirms support for bands N1, N3 and N28, in the Indian context (N5 and N7 are also supported).

Apple iPhone 13 series phones, the latest models at present, support brands N71, N28, N20, N8, N3, N1, N30, N41, N78 and N256 – one of the few phones supporting Support all bands which be used by Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vi. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra will work with the N1, N3, N8, N20 and N28 bands.

OnePlus phones have the widest 5G support. The OnePlus Nord 2T 5G (price around 28,999) supports Indian 5G bands N1, N3, N5, N28, N40, N41 and N78. By the way, it is the same as OnePlus 10R 5G, which is flagship in terms of specs and priced around 34,999.

And your next smartphone?

For phones that support 5G bands in India, users should be able to seamlessly switch to 5G services and not necessarily have to worry about buying another phone. However, it is not yet clear whether a SIM card change will be necessary or not. This may be necessary in some cases, but if yours is a newer SIM card, mobile service providers may be able to enable 5G on the same.

Not all phones have 5G capabilities. Many phones launched in the past couple of years have ignored speculative support to cut costs and control prices. Some of the most prominent examples include Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 11 Pro phone (at the price 18,999 and up). The recently announced Nokia C21 Plus ( 10,299 and following). But they are not the only ones.

With the contours of India’s 5G now clear, expect the next line of smartphones, and even successors to the current ones, to be better armed with support for the 5G frequency band. Especially in the Indian context. In a way, phone makers up until now have been basing the spec sheet decision to some extent on guesswork and global cues.

Currently, the most affordable 5G phones include the Samsung Galaxy M13 5G (priced around 13,999; there is also a non-5G variant), the Vivo T1 5G (costs around 15,990; it’s not the T1 model which doesn’t have 5G) and the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G (about 19,999).

The Next Steps: 600 MHz Support and Focus on Millimeter Waves

Since the auction brings us one step closer to commercial 5G networks in India, there seems to be an appetite for the 26GHz band, which the four bidders have acquired in different quantities – the only frequency among those put up for sale to have found a house in the four networks. This band, although offering a shorter range than the others, offers the widest bandwidth. There may be applications for mmWave 5G as alternatives to fiber broadband, with theoretical maximum speeds that can match or exceed wired broadband connectivity speeds.

“The launch of the 5G network will allow telecommunications operators to start providing a new generation of high-speed services to customers. 5G will enable businesses to embark on the ‘Industry 4.0’ journey and help accelerate digital transformation in manufacturing, retail, utilities, smart cities and more,” said Mahendra Nahata, general manager of telecommunications equipment manufacturing company HFCL.

While the 600 MHz band was auctioned, there were no takers. Indeed, the smartphone ecosystem still hasn’t embraced support for this band, but that will likely change in the coming years. This band can be important for larger coverage areas, especially in small towns, without having to increase physical network infrastructure.

The midband, 3300MHz frequency, can be critical for Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vi. This will provide the highest bandwidth on that side of mmWave. It may be useful to use it to extend the current 4G network capacity as well.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is technology editor for Hindustan Times. When he doesn’t understand technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.
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