In a major relief, 5G-enabled Apple iPhone users will be able to try out the services, wherever available publicly in the country, from next week, both on standalone (Reliance Jio) and non-standalone networks (Bharti Airtel).
Airtel and Jio customers who download the iOS 16 Beta software update can try out the service and send feedback to the company as part of its “Apple Beta Software Program”. The final updated software will be available sometime in December.
The Apple Beta Software Program lets users try out pre-release software and experience the latest features before the software becomes publicly available. Users can also provide feedback to Apple on quality and usability, which helps Apple identify issues, fix them, and make Apple software even better.
Apple Inc made the commitment at a meeting of key mobile device makers called by the DoT on Wednesday to discuss the progress of the 5G rollout in the country.
All the other mobile device makers have also committed that their respective 5G phones would be enabled to receive 5G by the middle of November (which includes some with beta software) both on stand-alone and non-stand-alone networks.
This is much earlier than their initial plan to enable all phones by December. Over 160 models of 5G handsets are available in the country, and more than 70-80 million 5G handset users.
The device makers also raised concerns that the operators are rolling out the network very slowly, which could lead to numerous complaints from customers using the service.
Apple shared details of its beta software program. Users with 5G-enabled iPhones can become part of the Apple Beta Software Program by enrolling their devices on the Apple website and accessing the latest beta release and subsequent updates. This includes the software update, which will be available to Airtel and Jio customers from next week.
In an official statement in October, Apple Inc shared a timeline and said, “We are working with our carrier partners in India to bring the best 5G experience to iPhone users as soon as network validation and testing for quality and performance is completed. 5G will be enabled via a software update and will start rolling out to iPhone users in December.”
Handset makers, however, remain concerned about the slow pace of the 5G rollout. The minister of communications, Ashwini Vaishnaw, had tried to address this issue in October when he urged telcos to increase the pace of the 5G rollout in the country. He said that telcos need to raise the number of 5G towers installed weekly to at least 10,000 per week, up from the current 2,500 per week.
However, operators and vendors have a different story to tell. “With very stiff safety measures and also a lot of specialised labour going home during the festivities, the movement has been slow. Also, 5G radios whose orders have been made recently will take time to be imported, so there is going to be an initial challenge,” said one of the vendors involved in the process.
Operators say that it is unfair to push them to a number as they would be rolling out according to their plan, and they have agreed to rollout commitments of 5G in any case.
“One will see a push from January, which will become even faster by June-July and by October, one can see a substantial amount of 5G coverage in the country,” said a senior executive at a telco.