Need for speed

5G is about 100 times faster than 4G, but might take a while to arrive


5G IS HERE. Well, maybe not. Though the government is planning a pan-India rollout in 2022, India's two largest mobile operators—Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel—are a bit hesitant about investing huge money because of their deteriorating financials and also the assumption that India is not ready for it. Together they account for about 65 per cent of India's mobile phone connections.

The third largest player, Reliance Jio, however, has a different plan. It says it will launch 5G services as early as 2020, and is even readying 5G handsets for a simultaneous launch.

There are not many 5G handsets around, and you will not be able to get 5G speed in an older phone (5G is 100 times faster than 4G). Many big phone makers are expected to introduce their first 5G phones at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in the last week of February. Chipmaker Qualcomm said some 30 5G devices would be launched in 2019. These include models from Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus, and probably an iPhone.

A global race is on for 5G leadership. South Korea, the US, China and Japan are testing or offering 5G. In November 2018, US carrier Verizon rolled out the world's first commercial 5G network in a small area. Many European countries have already completed auctions for the 5G band. India is likely to conduct the auction in the second half of 2019.

So, should you postpone your plans to buy a new phone and wait for a 5G capable handset? It will take at least six months for 5G phones to be available in the market. But then the network will not be fully functional until 2022. It is a long wait.