Let’s just admit one simple fact, without any downplaying or sugarcoating: The 4G network speed in India sucks.

For a long time Indians have had to contend with frequent call drops and signal dead zones, blaming everything on sheer bad luck. But when your phone actually manages to connect and you finally see the 3G or 4G icon appearing on the screen of your phone, then data should flow smoothly, right? After all, you paid for the phone bills.

Well, if that is your expectation, prepare to be disappointed. YouTube videos stuttering midway through and Facebook Messenger failing to deliver texts have become an increasingly common sight, which is just terribly frustrating.

Indian Phone

So if you are wondering what’s happening, here's what: 2G is no more a fossil at this point, 3G is practically dead, and 4G is apparently on life support. Now, there're talks of the incredible 5G swooping in to save the day, magically driving all the problems away? Well, before you get too excited, let’s have a look at the reality real quick:

The 4G network in India is one of the worst

In term of growth, India may be the largest telecommunication market in the world right now. However, it also has possibly the worst network speed as well.

Statistic reported by OpenSignal in February last year put India in the last place among 88 surveyed countries when it comes to 4G download speed. Yes, the connection speed here is even worse than that of Pakistan and Algeria.

Another report on the same subject from Speedtest.net Ookla in July 2018 also shows that India ranks 109th out of 124 countries, lagging behind Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and many other nations.

Indian 4g

The numbers do not lie. They fully validate what all Indians have to deal with on an everyday basis.

Yes, the 4G network has spread to every corner of India, but unfortunately, that expansion doesn’t come with quality connection speed. Compared to the massive demand for 4G data in the country, the supply is, and has been, simply abysmal. Last year, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to express concern over issues such as Call drops and network interruption and urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to penalize service providers for excessive call drops. However, nothing has changed since then.

Will 5G solve all these problems?

Considering all these issues, can 5G actually deliver on its promises of bringing solutions? It’s skeptical, to say the least.

This year is surely going to witness numerous announcements of 5G phones. Basically every company in the phone industry is going to make one. However, what good are these phones without network connectivity.

So far TRAI has invited several companies like Samsung, Huawei, and others to perform 5G trials in India in the coming months. But “trials” is the word to stress here.  That’s all they are, laboratory experiments. The finalized 5G will not be finished until late 2019. Afterward, 5G will launch first in several other countries like Japan, South Korea, and the US in 2020. The earliest that full-blown 5G can arrive in India is 2021, which is still two years away.

Indian 5g

TRAI Chairman Ram Sewak Sharma has stated that India won't be a front-runner in 5G deployment unless the fiber connectivity infrastructure in the nation is bolstered quickly. However, as inadequate as it is right now, improvement would require massive investments.

Right now, only 22% of mobile towers in India are connected by fiber, while the remaining 78% are completely wireless. This pales in comparison to countries such as China where 80% of network connectivity is over fiber and the only 20% is through wireless. This means Indians will not be seeing 5G isn't anytime soon and will have to continue to endure the horrible 4G for the time being.

So as we get further into 2019, you will hear a lot about 5G. Of course, you have every right to be excited, but it’s best not to get too carried away. Looking at things from a more realistic perspective will probably spare you a lot of disappointment.