For example, Mumbai user Gaurav Hasnabis complained about high data consumption in games, social media and streaming apps even though its usage patterns remained the same. For example, 10 minutes of browsing Instagram on 5G consumed 207MB of data, while on 4G it was around 120MB.
That’s because these and other similar apps load content in higher quality in areas with extensive 5G coverage. Once metaverse apps, cloud gaming, and 4K and 8K streaming come into the picture, data consumption will grow even more, an industry executive said.
A typical speed check showed download speeds of up to 500 Mbps, and sometimes 800 Mbps, for a user in Delhi. But this means that more than 1 GB of data was consumed in less than a minute, forcing it to buy additional data packages.
Currently, Jio, under its beta trials, allows the use of unlimited data limit to recharge with a minimum of Rs 230. For Airtel users, 5G services are offered at the current 4G rates and with daily data limits.
Operators are expected to roll out specific plans for 5G once coverage is expanded to most parts of India, an industry executive familiar with the matter said. Vodafone Idea has not started offering 5G services yet.
“Carriers expect data usage to rise at least 2.5 times, if not more, to roughly 40-50GB, once they start becoming a 5G consumer,” said a telecoms industry executive. He pointed out that data consumption in the era of the fourth generation is about 17 gigabytes per user per month, compared to 300 megabytes in the era of the third generation.
Sweden’s Ericsson expects data consumption in India to rise to 50GB per user per month by the end of 2027, when 5G is expected to account for nearly 40 percent of mobile subscriptions.
In markets where 5G networks already operate with a large user base, such as the United States and South Korea, data consumption has already risen as much as 2.7 times, according to a 2021 report by OpenSignal. Consumers in markets like Taiwan were consuming 47.3GB of data per month, especially during the COVID-19 period.
The sudden increase in data consumption will be an educational exercise for consumers who need to learn how to control data usage by turning off nonessential items on their devices, said Prashant Singhal, communications analyst at Ernst and Young.
An analyst at a multinational brokerage, who wished to remain anonymous, added that in the initial phase, telecoms companies may allow users to deplete their data packets faster to encourage them to buy more data, preparing them to increase the costs of using 5G services.
With data consumption rising in the 5G era, carriers may see a rise in average revenue per user (ARPU) over time, Singhal said. The average ARPU in the industry is now around Rs 165.
Bharti Airtel has launched 5G services in eight cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Varanasi and Siliguri. Jio’s pilot trials are in operation in New Delhi, Nathdwara, Varanasi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru.
Airtel said its 5G service will start in all major urban centers by March 2023 and most urban and rural areas by March 2023. Reliance Jio said it will be able to complete operation on major metros by December 2022 and cover all of India by the end of 2023.
In the midst of 5G rollouts, a survey conducted by Electronic Media Research (CMR) shows that Indian youth want a better experience by using higher specifications for content creation, consumption and gaming. This is a trigger for shipments of premium smartphones priced at Rs 25,000-30,000 up 9% year-on-year in the third quarter ending in September, while the range of uber premium smartphones priced at Rs 50,000 – Rs 1,000 jumped by 39% over a year, CMR said.
The 5G phone user base, although still in its infancy stage, is rising strongly every quarter. 5G smartphone shipments in the third quarter grew 30% year-on-year in the quarter ending September 2022. Most of the Chinese mobile phone brands, which make up nearly 85% of the market, have rolled out updates to support 5G networks in India.