India to push Apple and Samsung for faster 5G software upgrades in phones

NEW DELHI, Oct 11 (Reuters) – The Indian government will push Apple, Samsung and other cellphone makers to prioritize rolling out software upgrades to support 5G in the country, as many of their models are not ready for high-speed service.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services on Oct. 1 to much fanfare, with telecom major Reliance ( RELI.NS ) Jio saying it would make the service available in four cities and rival Bharti Airtel ( BRTI.NS ) 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 high-end phones do not have compatible software to support 5G in India, according to three industry sources and the Airtel website.

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Concerned about this, senior bureaucrats from India’s telecom and IT departments will chair a meeting on Wednesday for early adoption of 5G, asking smartphone executives from overseas firms Apple, Samsung, Vivo and Xiaomi, as well as national telecom operators Reliance, Airtel and Vodafone Idea ( VODA.NS) will be present, according to a government document seen by Reuters.

The agenda includes holding discussions “to prioritize” and release software upgrades to support the high-speed network, the notice to the closed meeting said.

Apple Inc ( AAPL.O ) Samsung Electronics ( 005930.KS ) Vivo, Xiaomi Corp ( 1810.HK ), as well as the three national telcos, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The state’s IT and telecommunications services did not respond either.

India said the launch of 5G in the world’s largest mobile market – after China – will bring high-speed internet to consumers with concomitant socio-economic benefits in sectors such as agriculture and health. .

In August, Jio, India’s largest mobile operator with more than 420 million customers, scooped up $11 billion worth of airwaves in a $19 billion 5G spectrum auction. Airtel spent over $5 billion while Vodafone spent over $2 billion.

While telecom players and smartphone companies have been having discussions with each other, it is taking time to resolve compatibility issues between the telcos’ specific 5G technology in India and phone software, one of the sources said. industry.

Airtel’s website on Tuesday showed “Apple has not yet updated the software” for all 12 to 14 Apple iPhone models in its 5G-capable section. Also for Samsung, many models were not ready, Airtel said, while more than three dozen Chinese Xiaomi and Vivo models were shown as ready to go with their 5G service.

“Apple took a long time. Airtel was concerned about this because many of its premium customers use Apple devices,” said another industry source with direct knowledge of the situation, adding that Apple and Airtel were in talks.

A third source with direct knowledge of the issue said Apple was testing and validating various 5G offerings from network providers in India.

The lack of 5G software upgrades has already irked users.

On Sunday, the chief executive of Indian digital payments company Paytm, backed by SoftBank ( PAYT.NS ) Vijay Shekhar Sharma, tagged Airtel in a tweet for saying he bought a Google Pixel 6a phone only to use 5G, but he did not show networks as an option in New Delhi. He later asked Google for a software upgrade in a tweet.

In response, Twitter user Mudit Mathur posted screenshots showing his interactions with Google’s support team, who told him the company was working with Indian telcos to enable 5G functionality on its phones. “as soon as possible”, targeting a December calendar.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

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Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan & Simon Cameron-Moore

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