India is on the cusp of rolling out its first wide-scale 5G networks in the country, with major telecom players like Airtel and Reliance Jio expected to officially make announcements of the rollout later this month. This will push smartphone brands to launch more 5G-enabled handsets in the country.
However, a number of companies including Samsung, Motorola, Xiaomi, Realme and even new player Nothing, have all launched 5G smartphones in the country. Brands like OnePlus have launched phones with 5G support– pegged as being future-proof– for about two years now, with phones like the OnePlus Nord 5G and OnePlus 8 Pro 5G launching in 2020.
But how good are these older phones that claim 5G support when it actually comes down to it? India just completed its 5G spectrum auction where telcos like Airtel, Jio and Vi auctioned for multiple 5G bands (frequency ranges) to operate on. Now that the 5G auction has concluded, here’s a deeper look into what bands will be key and as a result, how well will your 5G smartphone perform in India.
Jio was the highest bidder in India during the 5G auction, acquiring a total of 24.7GHz of the spectrum for a sum of Rs 88,078 crores. Airtel and Vi followed with the acquisition of rights to many of the 12 major bands. The Adani group has also made an acquisition n258 mmWave band which will likely only be used in commercial B2B use-cases.
Here’s a quick table with the various major bands in India and which telco has the rights to use them.
|n3||1800MHz||Airtel, Jio, Vi|
|n78||3300MHz-3800MHz||Airtel, Jio, Vi|
|n77||3300MHz-4200MHz||Airtel, Jio, Vi|
|N258 (mmWave)||26GHZ (24.25GHZ to 27.5GHz)||Airtel, Jio, Vi, Adani|
As seen on the table above, the first three bands (n28, n5, n8) are low-spectrum bands and will offer wide coverage but with slow speeds. These speeds will be much slower than the advertised 5G speeds, but will still be faster than 4G data speeds.
The next five bands are the mid-spectrum bands (n3, n1, n41, n78, n77). These will offer a balance between fast speeds and long-range coverage.
The last band is the mmWave high-spectrum band. mmWave is very high on data speeds but it has a very limited range and hence is not very popular among Indian telcos right now. Although all three major Indian telcos as well as new player Adani have acquired rights for the n258 band, services in this frequency range will likely be used for commercial (B2B) purposes.
Ideally, a good 5G smartphone should support all the 12 major 5G bands, which ensures the best possible 5G coverage not only in India but wherever you may travel overseas. But in India, the eight bands mentioned above (n28, n5, n8, n3, n1, n41, n77, and n78) should cover most needs. Hence, any smartphone with a 5G chipset and support for these eight bands should work well with 5G in India.
Examples include the iPhone 13 series, the Nothing phone (1), the Realme GT2 Pro, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series and the OnePlus 10T, among many others.
There will also be a number of phones that support most of the eight bands, except for a few key ones like the n77 band or the n3, n5 and n8 bands. Depending on what bands are present on such devices, these phones will support 5G well in select regions but may struggle with a reception in other areas.
For instance, phones missing support for the n5 and/or n8 bands may work perfectly in major metro-cities and other Tier I, and Tier II areas, but may have problems with 5G coverage in remote areas.
Then there are some phones that miss out on a lot of the major bands. Examples include budget devices like the Vivo T1 and the Realme Narzo 30 5G, as well as the Vivo X70, the Oppo F19 Pro+ and the OnePlus 9 Pro. If your 5G phone is missing out on major bands like n28, n5, n8, n3, n1, n41 or n77, you may not have a very seamless experience with 5G.
For most Android and iOS devices, the number of 5G bands supported will be found on either the company’s product page or the retail box package, or both. If you’re checking for support for 5G bands of your phone and can’t find any information on the box, or you don’t have the box itself, simply go to the company’s website, look for the page on your specific model and navigate to the ‘Network’ section to see which bands are supported.