China’s Realme said that it will ‘massify’ 5G technology by bringing sub-Rs 10,000 (sub-$135) 5G smartphones to the users in India next year to take on the likes of Samsung and Xiaomi.
Realme said that it is working with chipset manufacturers like Mediatek and other industry partners to bring affordable 5G smartphones.
“5G is poised to be the ultimate democratizer bridging the digital divide. Realme aims to be the 5G leader and believes that every Indian deserves a 5G phone from 2021 onwards. We are spearheading 5G’s democratization in India and globally,” Madhav Sheth, Vice President of Realme and Chief Executive Officer of Realme India and Europe, said during an industry event on Wednesday.
Realme, the fastest-growing smartphone brand in India, launched its first 5G smartphone last year in the mid-to-premium segment and brought six 5G phones starting at $230.
Sheth said that all Realme smartphones priced above Rs 15,000 ($200) would be 5G-enabled in the second half of 2021.
Sheth revealed that the company would establish seven R&D centres around the world in 2021, dedicated to exploring innovative 5G technologies and products. In the next two years, Realme will invest $300 million globally in 5G technology research and product development, as well as in promoting global 5G popularization.
“At present, 90% of Realme’s R&D resources have been converted to 5G technology and products,” he revealed.
There are already five million 5G smartphones active on telecom operators’ networks in India, as GSM telco body the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).
Notably, India’s top telco, Reliance Jio, is also planning to launch an ultra-affordable 5G smartphone next year. It has already launched its JioPhone Next in partnership with Google, which will be available to customers in September this year.
In May 2021, almost 14% of the smartphones sold in May were the 5G devices, per market tracker Counterpoint Research. The agency said that India, being the second largest market globally, is still not saturated and has almost 50% in terms of potential penetration.
“There are a number of market and technology factors which will make the transition from 4G to 5G the fastest amongst all generations. There is the anticipation of massive performance boosts in download speeds and step-change feature set improvements across imaging, processors and battery life. But at the same time, we’re also seeing very accessible price points across mid and lower-tier devices. The combination of these factors makes a very strong case for record growth,” Tarun Pathak, Research Director, Counterpoint Research, said at the same virtual event.
The Indian telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already started 5G field trials across various cities in the mid and mm-wave bands in partnership with Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. Jio is also piloting its own 5G radio and core technologies in Navi Mumbai.
In March this year, all three private telcos asked the telecom department to start fresh consultation on pricing and quantum for 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 37 GHz or mm wavebands in the upcoming 5G spectrum sale. They had said that these bands are crucial for the success of 5G services in India as they will enable various industrial and enterprise use cases. The Indian government hasn’t shared a timeline for the next round of spectrum auctions. However, spectrum auction is expected to be held during the first quarter of next fiscal.