January , 2019
Is India ready for 5G?
13:02 pm

Aniket Panja

The world is changing rapidly with new scientific and technological breakthroughs being made almost every day.

Now chipmakers and smartphone companies are talking about the 5G wave that is going to hit the globe in 2019.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation cellular technology that will not only increase the downloading and uploading speeds over the mobile network from 45mbps to 1Gbps but also reduce the latency, which is the time taken by a network to respond, thereby increasing energy efficiency and offering more stable network connections. Since 5G will have a wider area in the frequency spectrum, which is the range of frequencies where technologies such as LTE, Bluetooth, 4G, 3G work, it will ensure that there is reduced network congestion.

Frontrunners of the 5G spectrum in India

Samsung and OnePlus have already announced that their 5G-enabled phones will be available in the market in 2019. The Korean electronics giant Samsung is currently working with American and Korean telecom operators to deploy 5G technology commercially. It had recently helped Verizon to launch commercial 5G services in the US. Samsung will con-duct 5G field trials in New Delhi in the first half of the next year. According to Srini Sundarajan, Head, Network Business Division, Samsung

India, Reliance Jio is going to be the prime telecom operator partner for these trials next year. Reliance Jio had previously told the media that it can launch 5G services within six months of the spectrum auctions.

Finnish telecom gear maker Nokia has started manufacturing 5G equipment in India. According to Sanjay Malik, Senior Vice President and Head of the India Market, Nokia, “We are now pioneering 5G manufacturing in the country, making India and the world ready for 5G.”

Scenario in India

The switch from 4G to 5G will be infrastructure intensive, which means mobile service providers will have to upgrade their underlying hardware countrywide in order to provide 5G speeds. Since this can't happen overnight, they would use the 4G LTE infrastructure to eventually migrate to 5G. So even when 5G is deployed it will take telecom players at least a couple of years to achieve the speed 5G promises.

India has traditionally been a late adopter of advanced technologies. The Indian telecom sector is still struggling to achieve the desired speed of the 4G network. In fact, 4G speeds in India are some of the worst in the world. It is highly unlikely that we will witness any major developments in the coming year and TRAI Secretary SK Gupta predicted that the telecom sector will be not be able to switch to 5G services before 2022.

Is 5G feasible?

Bharti Airtel is unlikely to pitch for the expensive 5G airwaves in any potential early spectrum sale as it feels deployment of this ultra-fast wireless technology is three to four years away in India. Airtel's top management feels the telecom industry balance sheet, already weighed down by nearly Rs. 7 lakh crore debts cannot support 5G spectrum bids at this point and does not expect the 5G auction to happen any time soon. The Airtel management also feels that, “5G will not completely replace 4G as a technology since 5G use cases such as remote surgery to driverless cars which are not practical in the Indian context.” The government, on its part, has not yet signalled any defined auction timelines. Aruna Sundararajan, Telecom Secretary, Government of India has only stated that the 5G spectrum sale is likely to take place in the second half of 2019.

According to rating agency, CARE Ratings, “The government is very keen on early adoption of 5G technology but it appears very unlikely that telcos, with their present financial difficulties, will opt for a spectrum auction that the government plans to roll out in the near future, especially since a high-level 5G forum has said cost of spectrum in India, relative to per capita GDP, is much higher than most countries.”


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