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

Bharti Airtel announced earlier this week that it will begin 5G services in India before the end of the month. Rival telecom company Reliance Jio is also rumored to be making an announcement on August 15 regarding its forthcoming 5G network. With operators finally on the verge of launching the next-generation 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?

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

5G speeds can be up to 100X faster than 4G speeds, allowing users to download feature-length movies in seconds and take advantage of more deeply connected technologies like augmented reality gaming.

5G Networks: mmWave and Sub-6GHz

There are two types of 5G networks that differ significantly. mmWave 5G is super fast and has the lowest latency, but its network is often limited to a small area. On the other hand, sub-6 GHz 5G networks are slower (though still very fast compared to 4G networks) but have wider 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 requires 5G, although it’s superior to users being in close proximity to 5G signal towers. This also means that many more masts are required for extensive mmWave coverage, which is not feasible for all areas.

5G bands: what are they and how many do you need?

Smartphones that have launched with 5G support in recent years have all mentioned the number of 5G bands they will support, with newer smartphones supporting as many as 9 or 12 bands. But what are these bands and why are they important?

The 5G network operates on a range of frequencies. These are classified across several smaller frequency ranges called frequency bands. While some bands receive low frequencies (broad coverage, slow speed), others receive medium frequencies and some bands receive high frequencies (high speed, limited coverage).

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

With 5G smartphones, a higher number of 5G bands is important, but what bands the phones support is even more important. The most usable bands in India in rolling out 5G networks will likely be mid-range bands like the n78 band. If you have some mid-range bands that cover the mid-range spectrum, your phone can use 5G over a larger portion of the spectrum.

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

We have yet to find out for sure which frequency bands different telcos in India will be operating in. For now, if your smartphone supports 3-4 bands or more, you should be able to easily access 5G networks 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 in the Hardware section. If you have one of the chips mentioned below, your phone supports 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: All 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 is a list of all popular brands’ smartphones 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 models, M Series.

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

poko – Poco F4 5G, Poco M4 5G, Poco M4 Pro 5G

oppo – Reno 8 series, Reno 7 series, Reno 6 series, select Oppo A series, K series, F series phones

live – 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

Rich – 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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