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Handset makers largely skip IMC, signal 5G is distant in India

Handset makers with 5G ready smartphones gave it a miss for IMC third edition as they believe India is still some time away from being 5G ready. Telecom secretary tried to play down the absence of device players saying there was a timing mismatch

, ET Bureau|
Oct 16, 2019, 09.22 PM IST
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“We hope to introduce our 5G devices in one of our biggest markets (India) as well very soon," said Vikas Agarwal, India head for OnePlus.
NEW DELHI: Handset makers with 5G ready smartphones gave the third edition of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) a miss, besides industry stalwarts and key government functionaries, suggesting that the rollout of the next gen technology in India is still some time away.

While no global handset makers had individual presence at the marquee event, Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi and LG showcased a 5G device each, which was available in the US or China. China’s OnePlus was the only brand that showcased live 5G cloud gaming and performance benchmark tests like throughput and latency on its OnePlus 7 Pro (5G) on Airtel’s network.

Telecom secretary Anshu Prakash tried to play down the absence of device players – a key part of the 5G ecosystem - saying there was a timing mismatch. “I think next time there will be a lot of mobile phone manufacturers. We discussed this with COAI and also the handset manufacturers. I think they came in a little late, and I'm told there was no space,” he said.

The only Indian handset maker present - Lava International - focused on showcasing its designing abilities for Make in India.

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already said the country is not ready for 5G and have sought a delay in the auction of next-gen airwaves till later this year or early next till the ecosystem, including handsets, develops.

“In India, we have to specifically figure out the use cases for 5G. If we look at devices, below $ 1000 (Rs 71,000 approx) 5G devices don't exist,” Vodafone Idea’s MD and CEO Ravinder Takkar said at the IMC, highlighting concerns around 5G adoption in the country. “The questions around who is going to use this technology and at what cost are yet to be answered.”

Telcos in India say India needs to have 5G devices at affordable prices for wider adoption, which will underline the business case for operators.

“When 3G smartphones were due for replacement, the market was flooded with 4G. Customers chose to take future proof devices and there was no major incremental cost. That's not the case now. Most of the known 5G smartphones are going to be in luxe category, north of Rs 50,000,” said Faisal Kawoosa, co-founder of research firm, TechArc.

At the IMC, Chinese system on chip maker Unisoc showcased their chipsets on smartphones, while its US rival Qualcomm showed 5G models from Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and LG that were available in the US and China.

“We hope to introduce our 5G devices in one of our biggest markets (India) as well very soon," said Vikas Agarwal, India head for OnePlus.

Vivo’s Nex 3 (5G) is expected to be available in India by February 2020, executives said, while Oppo India said on Wednesday it was working on providing 5G capabilities on all its premium mid-range smartphones next year. LG showed off its 5G device – LG V50 ThinQ – but did not reveal its availability plans for India. All these devices are in the premium or super premium segment

Reliance Jio’s chief technology officer of mobility, Shyam Mardikar, had earlier told ET that currently only 50-odd high-end 5G capable smartphones are expected to hit the market next year, which will be negligible compared to about 12,000 distinct smartphone models available in India today.

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