The Ministry of Telecommunications (DoT) said on Monday that Gurugram, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jamnagar, Ahmadabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Pune and Gandhi Nagar would be among the first cities to get 5G services in 2022.
Why will these cities be among the first?
The three private telecommunications service providers, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, and Vodafone Idea, have worked with telecommunications equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson and Nokia and have conducted trials at test sites in these cities.
One of the reasons why the larger cities were chosen for these trials is the penetration of their telecommunications services, which makes it easier to convince more people to switch from 4G.
Additionally, industry experts have said that since the costs of 5G services will initially be higher, it would be wise to test the service in areas where more consumers find them affordable. A third reason is that cities offer all kinds of locations, such as walled complexes and open spaces, which are suitable for testing various 5G bands.
What is 5G technology?
5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade to Long Term Evolution mobile broadband (LTE) networks. It mainly operates in three bands – low, medium and high frequencies – which all have their uses as well as their limitations.
While the low-band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage, the maximum internet speed is limited to 100 Mbps (megabits per second). This means that while telecom operators can use and install it for commercial cell phone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed internet, low band spectrum may not. be optimal for the specialized needs of industries.
The mid-band spectrum offers higher speeds than the low-band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and signal penetration. Telecom operators and companies that have taken the lead in 5G have indicated that this band could be used by industries and specialized factory units for building captive networks.
The high band offers the highest speed of the three, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength. Speeds in this spectrum have been tested to reach 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), while in most cases the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.
Where is India in terms of testing and launch?
Although the government has said the 5G spectrum auction will take place in March or April of next year, some experts say it could be delayed by at least a quarter as telecommunications service providers no ‘have not yet completed their trials and tested various aspects.
That said, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is in the final stages of stakeholder consultations and is expected to submit its recommendations to the DoT early next year.
Bharti Airtel has partnered trials with Ericsson for mobile phones already in the market, Vi has conducted a few for enterprise and business solutions, and Reliance Jio Infocomm has completed construction of its native 5G network and is currently conducting connected drone testing, speed testing and other aspects. In early 2019, Jio announced its intention to launch a locally built 5G network as early as September 2020.
Are other countries and global companies ahead of India?
More than governments, global telecom companies have started building 5G networks and deploying them to customers on a trial basis. In the United States, companies such as AT&T, T-mobile and Verizon have taken the lead. While some like AT&T had started testing and deploying the technology as early as 2018, others like Verizon have followed suit, expanding their 5G ultra-high-speed services to 60 cities by the end of 2020. In China, some operators like China Unicom had started 5G trials in 2018 and has since rolled out commercial services to users.
South Korean company Samsung, which started researching 5G technology in 2011, has taken the lead in building hardware for 5G networks for several companies.
What changes for consumers?
One of the major changes will be in terms of rich experiences on their phones and other connected devices. For example, users will be able to stream videos with multiple camera angles during sports matches or even play immersive video games using VR headsets or other accessories.
This next-generation telecommunications network will also enable a network of connected devices and services compatible with the Internet of Things (IoT) with a zero failure rate, as in the case of connected cars. 5G could also spawn mobile broadband connectivity to replace existing broadband services, especially in places where these services are limited, provided there isn’t a huge price difference.
When it comes to commercial smartphones, there are some newer devices on the market that claim to be 5G compatible. OEMs like Ericsson believe that within 5 years India will have 500 million 5G subscriptions.
Contributions by Nandagopal Rajan