India's government will push Apple, Samsung, and other mobile phone manufacturers to prioritise rolling out software upgrades to support 5G in the country, amid concerns that many of their models are not ready for the recently launched high-speed service.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services on October 1 amid much fanfare, with leading telecom operator Reliance Jio saying it would make the service available in four cities and rival Bharti Airtel in eight. Both companies said the service would be expanded next year.
But Apple's iPhone models, including the latest iPhone 14, and many of Samsung's premier phones do not have software compatible with supporting 5G in India, according to three industry sources and Airtel's website.
Concerned by this, top bureaucrats from India's telecoms and IT departments will chair a meeting on Wednesday for early 5G adoption, asking smartphone executives from foreign companies Apple, Samsung, Vivo, and Xiaomi, as well as domestic telecom operators Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea to be present, according to a government document seen by Reuters.
The agenda includes holding talks "to prioritise" and release software upgrades for supporting the high-speed network, the notice for the closed-door meeting stated.
Apple, Samsung, Vivo, and Xiaomi, as well as the three domestic telecom operators, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The government's IT and telecom departments also did not respond.
India has said that the launch of 5G in the world's biggest mobile market - after China - will bring high-speed internet to consumers, with simultaneous socio-economic benefits in sectors like agriculture and health.
In August, Jio, India's biggest mobile carrier with more than 420 million customers, snapped up airwaves worth $11 billion (roughly Rs. 90,600 crore) in a $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1.6 lakh crore) 5G spectrum auction. Airtel spent more than $5 billion (roughly Rs. 41,000 crore), while Vodafone doled out above $2 billion (roughly Rs. 16,500 crore).
While telecom players and smartphone companies have been holding discussions with each other, ironing out compatibility issues between the specific 5G technology of telecom companies in India and phone software is taking time, one of the industry sources said.
Airtel's website on Tuesday showed "Apple yet to update software" for all of Apple iPhones' 12 to 14 models under its 5G compatible section. For Samsung too, many models were not ready, Airtel stated, while more than three dozen models of China's Xiaomi and Vivo were shown as ready for use with its 5G service.
"Apple has been taking a lot of time. Airtel has been concerned about this as many of their premium clients are on Apple devices," said a second industry source with direct knowledge of the situation, who added Apple and Airtel have been holding talks.
A third source with direct knowledge of the issue said Apple was in the process of testing and validating different 5G offerings from network providers in India.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
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