Tech InDepth: 5G in India, 5G bands and supported phones

By | August 4, 2022

Bharti Airtel announced earlier this week that it will begin 5G services in India before the end of the month. Rival telco Reliance Jio is also rumoured to make an announcement regarding its upcoming 5G network on August 15. With operators finally close to launch the next-gen cellular network in India, here’s a quick look at everything you need to know about 5G in India.

What is 5G? How is it different from 4G networks?

The fifth generation mobile network, 5G is a global standard for wireless networks that improves on the capabilities of 4G. 5G not only brings much faster connectivity speeds but also opens new use-cases in gaming, entertainment and other aspects thanks to its high bandwidth and low latency.

5G speeds can be up to 100 times faster than 4G speeds, allowing users to download feature-length movies in seconds and make use of more deeply connected technologies like Augmented Reality gaming.

5G networks: mmWave and sub-6GHz 

There are two kinds of 5G networks, and they differ significantly. mmWave 5G is super fast and has the least latency, but its network is often limited to a small area. On the other hand, sub-6GHz 5G networks are slower (still very fast compared to 4G networks, though) but have more widespread network coverage.

The 5G network will likely focus on sub-6GHz 5G, like many other countries. Sub-6GHz networks are ideal because of their long range and the network is easier to set up. Meanwhile, mmWave 5G, while superior requires users to be in close proximity of 5G signal towers. This also means that for widespread mmWave coverage, a lot more towers will be needed, which is not feasible for all areas.

5G Bands: What are they and how many do you need?

Smartphones that have been launching with 5G support over the past couple of years have all mentioned the number of 5G bands they will support, with newer smartphones even supporting 9 or 12 bands. But what are these bands and why are they important?

The 5G network works on a range of frequencies. These are classified across multiple smaller frequency ranges called frequency bands. While some bands receive low frequencies (wide coverage, slow speed), others receive mid-range frequencies and some bands receive high-range frequencies (high speed, limited coverage).

The number of bands that your phone has defines the various frequencies of a 5G network that it will be able to receive. That should mean that a phone with more frequency bands should be able to get better 5G reception than one with lesser bands, right? Well, the answer is yes, but also, no.

A higher number of 5G bands is important on 5G smartphones, but what’s more important is which bands the phones support. The most usable bands in India when 5G networks rollout will likely be mid-range bands like the n78 band. If you have a few mid-range bands that cover the mid-range spectrum, your phone will be capable of using 5G across a larger portion of the spectrum.

More bands that target the lower end and higher end will, however, determine how well your device can handle the 5G network under extreme conditions. In theory, if you’re in the range of a high-frequency network, while your phone doesn’t support high-frequency bands, you’d be missing out on the fastest speeds. Similarly, if you’re in a remote area where only low-frequency bands have some amount of coverage, you may miss network reception altogether.

We are yet to find out for sure what spectrum bands various telcos will operate in, in India. For now, if your smartphone supports 3-4 bands or more, you should be able to access 5G networks comfortably in most regions.

Which smartphones support 5G?

To support 5G, a phone must have a 5G compatible processor. You can check if your device has a 5G processor by navigating to Settings/ About phone and checking the processor under the Hardware section. If you have a chip mentioned below, your phone will support 5G networks.

Qualcomm: Snapdragon 865, Snapdragon 865+, Snapdragon 870, Snapdragon 888, Snapdragon 888+, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1
Snapdragon 695, Snapdragon 765/765G, Snapdragon 750/750G, Snapdragon 768/768G, Snapdragon 778/778G/778+

MediaTek: Entire MediaTek Dimensity series from Dimensity 700 to Dimensity 9000. MediaTek Helio-series and other series chipsets do not support 5G.

Samsung: Exynos 9820, Exynos 9825, Exynos 990, Exynos 2100, Exynos 2200

Here’s a list of all smartphones from the popular brands that support 5G networks, ahead of the rollout in India.

Apple – iPhone 12 series, iPhone 13 series, iPhone SE 2022

Samsung – Galaxy S-series (S20 and above), Galaxy S20 FE 5G, Galaxy S21 FE 5G, Select A-series, M-series models.

OnePlus – OnePlus 8-series, OnePlus 9 series, OnePlus 10-series, OnePlus Nord-series

Xiaomi – Xiaomi 12-series, Xiaomi 11-series, Mi 10-series, Redmi Note 11 Pro+, Redmi Note 11T, Redmi Note 10T,

Oppo – Reno 8 series, Reno 7 series, Reno 6 series, Select Oppo A-series, K-series, F-series phones

Vivo – V21, V21e, V23-series, T1-series, X60-series, X70-series, X80-series

iQOO – iQOO 9 series, iQOO 7-series, iQOO Z5, iQOO Z6, iQOO Z6 Pro

Realme – Realme GT series, Realme GT 2 series, Realme X7, Realme X7 Max, Realme X7 Pro, Realme Narzo 50 5G, Realme Narzo 30 5G, Realme 8/8s/8 Pro 5G, Realme 9/ 9 Pro 5G

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