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5G launch done but users await services

19-year-old Delhi University student Ravish, recently bought a premium smartphone handset in anticipation of the rollout of 5G services in India. “I made the splurge ahead of the much-anticipated 5G launch since I wanted to be amongst the first users to experience 5G in Delhi,” Ravish told businessline. However, a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 5G services at the India Mobile Congress in Delhi, Ravish along with many other enthusiastic technophiles residing in major Indian metropolitans have been left confused regarding where and on which handsets can users connect to the 5G network.

Since October 1, when 5G services became live in India for the first time, social media sites such as Twitter have been flooded with complaints from users who note that they cannot connect to the 5G network. Although nearly every smartphone sold over ₹15,000 in India since 2020 has a 5G chipset as per the OEM’s claims- users are still left wondering whether their handsets support the specific frequency bands that operators are utilising to deploy the 5G network.

Software update
Handset makers have been selling premium smartphones outfitted with a 5G chipset since 2020, long before the 5G auctions-where clarity emerged regarding which spectrum bands operators will be utilising to deploy 5G services. This means that users might be carrying handsets that OEMs marketed as 5G enabled, which might not support the spectral frequencies that operators are utlising currently. In some cases, certain handset makers have not deployed a software update that will allow the smartphone to connect to the 5G network. These OEMs are still testing devices, before these updates are pushed out.

More clarity came later in the week when Reliance Jio clarified that the operator will begin beta trial for 5G services in 4 cities-Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Varanasi from October 5. For now, Jio is deploying a welcome offer that will enable invited customers to experience Jio’s 5G offering on a trial basis. The operator did not issue any clarification regarding which handsets will support Jio’s standalone 5G network, even though its rival Airtel claims the present handset ecosystem does not support the standalone network which Jio wants to deploy.

Handset list
Airtel has published a list of handsets that are “5G ready,” and can be utilised to connect to Airtel’s 5G network. While experts such as Faisal Kawoosa, Chief Analyst at Techarc note that the most popular and recent devices have been covered- other experts counter that some of the earliest handsets marketed as 5G ready in 2020- early 2021 have not been covered in the list. Moreover, all of Apple’s handsets including the latest iPhone 14, are yet to update their software. The same is the case for Samsung, where the earlier models will also require a software update.

Airtel inaugurated its 5G network in eight cities, namely Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur, and Varanasi on October 6. However, the operator is rolling out its 5G network in a phased manner, which means that the network is only available in certain parts of these cities- the operator did not clarify which parts of the city the network is presently available in. Users with the right handsets on existing 4G plans can upgrade to a 5G network, in case they enter the network area.

Vodafone Idea has not made an announcement about the cities where the operator will be deploying 5G services first. The Hindu BusinessLine

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