At least 40 million smartphone users in India could jump on the 5G bandwagon in the first year, according to a new report from Ericsson ConsumerLab. The report also states that Indian users could be willing to pay as much as 50 per cent more for 5G plans, provided they are bundled with new services.
Jasmeet Singh Sethi, who heads the Ericsson ConsumerLab and is based in Stockholm, says 22 per cent of smartphone users in urban India already own a 5G-ready smartphone, mostly Android devices from big brands and even some domestic brands. “So there is a great foundation for the 5G launch available in India… but, of course, we need to show them a reason to go ahead and upgrade,” he tells indianexpress.com, adding that this is where better marketing, education and awareness is going to be the key in India.
Interestingly, the Ericsson study shows that India has the biggest jump in intention to upgrade to 5G with 67 per cent of users expressing the desire to take up 5G once it is available, an increase of 14 percentage points over 2019. This despite the uncertainty clouding the 5G rollout in India. The Indian government finally gave the go-ahead for 5G trails earlier this month.
Sethi says India already has around 38 million 5G smartphone users based on shipments and this number could go up to 40 million if we consider the demographics and income patterns. But he says this transition won’t be as easy as it sounds. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to reach that 40 million,” he warns, adding that for instance “once you improve the perception of 5G availability, the adoption might increase by five times”.
“So if consumers start believing they have coverage where they work and live, they are much more likely to kind of take up a 5G plan. So one part is the perception of availability, which is how much time they are going to be on the 5G network,” he explains, adding that it won’t help if this percentage Is 10 per cent or so.
The other part, he says, is marketing.” Yes, there is a lot of appetite for speed and better performance, but we have also seen that there is a lot of appetite for new services,” he says, underlining the need to offer more bundled services. The report shows that 5G-ready smartphone users in India already spend more time on enhanced video and multiplayer mobile gaming and these users are expecting to spend upwards of 7.5 hours a week on XR (extended reality) apps by 2025. But then the availability of these services will be crucial in ensuring the adoption of 5G services.
“For example, in the US, South Korea, UK and other European markets, we see that 5G early adopters are very happy with speeds but they are extremely dissatisfied with the bundling of innovative services. At the end of the day, all that you are getting is better speeds and maybe a bigger data plan,” he adds.
Sethi says one of the big reasons for the fast adoption of 5G in India will be the present state of fixed broadband infrastructure in the country. He says Indians are looking at mobile broadband as they are “struggling with DSL, cable and WiFi not able to keep up with our home broadband needs, whether that’s schooling, working, entertainment or gaming”. “5G is going to fill that gap”.