Samsung and Apple will upgrade the software for their 5G-enabled phones in India in November-December as the government has pushed smartphone manufacturers to quickly roll over to the high-speed network.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 1 launched 5G services amid much fanfare, with leading telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio outlining plans for rollout of the services in a select few cities. But most users in those select cities haven’t yet got the 5G services due to patchy networks and agonising delay in smartphone companies pushing out required software patches over-the-air.
With 5G not just enabling faster internet but also holding promise of rapid economic progress and boosting job creation, the government wants the companies to get cracking now.
And many companies have started falling in line. Apple in a statement said it will start rolling out 5G software updates for iPhone users in December.
The upgrade will include models, including the iPhone 14, 13, 12 and iPhone SE. “5G will be enabled via a software update and will start rolling out to iPhone users in December,” Apple said.
Apple said it is working with carrier partners in India to bring the best 5G experience to iPhone users as soon as network validation and testing for quality and performance is completed.
Korean handset maker Samsung on Wednesday pledged its commitment to rolling out over-the-air updates across all its 5G devices by mid-November, to enable Indian consumers experience the high speed services seamlessly.
“We are working closely with our operator partners and are committed to rolling out OTA updates across all our 5G devices by mid-November 2022, enabling Indian consumers to experience 5G seamlessly,” a Samsung India spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that Samsung has pioneered 5G technology development since 2009 and took the leading role in standardising 5G technology globally. “In India, Samsung has the widest portfolio of 5G devices,” the spokesperson added.
Behind the scenes, telecom operators squarely blame handset manufacturers for the delay in rolling out the crucial software updates and patches, arguing that the frequencies and the spectrum auction and allotment timelines were clearly evident to smartphone players well in advance.
Handset manufacturers, however, contend that the 5G network itself is not widely available, and that joint trials between telcos and smartphone companies are necessary for smooth consumer experience.
With millions of subscribers in India having 5G-ready phones, but unable to access services satisfactorily, senior officials of the telecom department and IT ministry on Wednesday held a meeting with smartphone companies and telecom operators to iron out issues related to providing smooth access to 5G services.
Sources said the handset manufacturers were firmly asked to prioritise the rollout of software patches, although no firm deadline has been given to them.
Another meeting of operators and smartphone companies alongwith their respective associations will be held in two weeks, sources added.
Bharti Airtel is the only company to have commercially launched 5G services while Jio has started beta trials.
Bharti Airtel has started rolling 5G in eight cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur and Varanasi while Jio has started beta trials in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Varanasi.
The 5G services will progressively cover the entire country over the next couple of years — Jio promises to do that by December 2023 and Bharti Airtel by March 2024.
According to an Ericsson report, over the past two years, India has witnessed three times increase in smartphone users who own a 5G handset.
The study reveals that over 100 million users with 5G-ready smartphones wish to upgrade to a 5G subscription in 2023 while more than half of them are open to upgrading to a higher data tier plan in the next 12 months.
For 5G services, smartphone manufacturers need to push out a software update to enable high-speed services on most phones. This is despite the fact that 5G smartphones have been sold in the country for some time now.
The primary reason for this, according to industry sources, is that the frequency bands supporting 5G were not available. And now, OEMs need to release an update to enable and optimize the radio frequencies for 5G. Some phones may need a change in the settings section to enable 5G. More than 128 models of 5G phones are available in the market. P