Phone sales

Focus on 5G phone sales, but no service in sight

There are more 5G smartphones sold than 4G smartphones in the world now. Ironic, given that 5G services are nowhere on the horizon in India, one of the biggest telecom markets in the world.

This, given that almost one in five smartphones sold in India last year was a 5G-enabled smartphone, with sales of 5G phones expected to surpass 50% by this year’s festive season once prices stabilize. .

But the jury is still out on when these phones will actually get a 5G signal, although insiders say it could well be delayed until next year.

The auction of 5G spectrum to telecom operators has been repeatedly delayed over the past two years. July is the new date being talked about, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to be keen to launch, or at least announce the launch, of 5G mobile services in the country for the general public in time for the day of the independence.

Smartphone sales, tabulated by Counterpoint Research’s Global Monthly Handset Model Sales Tracker, revealed that a few weeks ago, the sales penetration of 5G-enabled smartphones reached 51% globally, surpassing that of 4G smartphones for the first time.

China, North America and Western Europe have been the main drivers of this growth, with Apple, whose models have been 5G-ready since the iPhone 12 in 2020, dominating in these latter markets. However, the highest penetration is in China, at 84% in January, helped by the local cellphone maker’s drive to provide competitively priced 5G smartphones to consumers.

Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America are expected to be the next focus area for 5G phone makers, 5G Android smartphones, which were originally priced high, are now coming down.

However, in India, although 5G smartphones are selling fast in the market, especially iPhones, they are not very useful, with high chances that we may not see a nationwide rollout until 2023. While officially, the government says auctions will take place in the summer (April-May), the reality on the ground indicates that once the difference of opinion between the government, the regulator (TRAI) and the operators on everything from high auction prices to the most ideal frequency band, it could well extend to July, or even beyond. With operators saying they would need around six months after the spectrum was awarded, this could mean India will have to wait until next year for 5G services.

Leading carriers like Airtel and Vi have been testing their 5G readiness in cities like Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Ahmedabad. Chances are that, with the Prime Minister wanting a quicker rollout, at least some cities will see a partial rollout by August 15. Earlier, the telecommunications ministry announced that 5G would initially be rolled out in 13 cities, including all four metros.