While the inaugural launch for 5G commenced on October 1, 2022, only two out of the three operators have commenced the initial launch of 5G services.

Reliance Jio’s 5G network was made available on October 5 as part of a beta trial. In four cities -- Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, and Kolkata -- Jio is inviting select users to connect to its 5G network. Airtel’s 5G services became live in six cities on October 6, -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur, and Varanasi. Airtel is deploying the 5G network in a phased manner in these cities, but it has been made available to every Airtel user, who is within the 5G network area and has a 5G-enabled smartphone. Vodafone Idea has not announced its launch date yet.

What is the difference between Pure5G by Jio and 5G Plus by Airtel?

Jio has named its network as True 5G to emphasise that Jio is losing the latest “standalone” model to deploy the 5G network. Jio was able to do so because it won 700MHz in the 5G spectrum auctions and was the only operator to do so. To counter Jio’s marketing play, Airtel is calling its non-standalone network deployment “5G Plus.”

For consumers so far, there is no discernible difference between Reliance’s True 5G and Airtel’s 5G Plus. The network deployment for both of the operators is at a nascent stage and both operators are offering similar voice and data services.

In fact, Jio’s standalone network deployment actually puts their True 5G network at a disadvantage initially, since currently there is only a limited handset ecosystem that supports their network. This is why, unlike Airtel, Jio has not published a list of handsets that are compatible with its network yet. But according to experts, in the next six months, the new handsets will be compatible with Jio’s network.

How have the 5G services been priced, will the user need to change the SIM to utilise 5G?

Both operators are yet to launch 5G tariffs. Currently 5G networks in select geographies are available for customers. The operators will launch their tariff plans soon and all indications suggest that initially 5G plans will be made affordable, and no premium will be charged over the existing 4G rates. In order to upgrade to a 5G plan, users will not have to change their SIM and they can digitally upgrade to a new plan.

Why are software upgrades needed on smartphones to access 5G?

Smartphone makers have been selling premium 5G-enabled phones since 2020, long before the launch of 5G services. This means that the existing premium handsets are not necessarily compatible with the 5G network being deployed by the operators since OEMs were not aware of the exact spectrum bands which operators will utilise to deploy the network until recently.

This means that the band plans of these devices must align with the telco operators which can happen only through a software upgrade. Therefore, handset manufacturers are now updating the software.

Which are the phones compatible with 5G services? 

Reliance Jio has not officially listed any specific models or brands on its website or app. It, however, it would soon add a device compatibility checker on its MyJio smartphone app for the users to check whether their smartphones can use Jio 5G service or not. Airtel has published a list of devices that are compatible with 5G services.

According to the list, select Samsung models and all of Apple’s models will only become compatible once these companies launch a software update for these devices.

Apple has announced that its software update will be made available in December and Samsung said it will launch a software update in November.

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