5G or the fifth-generation network technology is soon going to be a part of India. Upon the dawn of 2022, it is important that everyone who is inclined towards a digital way of living life understand what 5G is. While many know that 5G is a network technology and it will be an upgrade over 4G, it is also important to know why and how is it an upgrade.
5G is the latest wireless standard of network connectivity that is designed to connect everyone virtually. This includes machines, objects, and other devices. 5G stands to change the way everyone connects. It is something that a lot of people haven’t even been able to comprehend yet.
With 5G, multiple-Gigabytes of data throughput, ultra-low-latency, massive network capacity, and a more uniform experience for the users can be promised. Due to these possibilities, 5G enables the evolution of next-gen technology.
No One Owns 5G
Understand that 5G isn’t a unique invention, and no one owns it. It is just a wireless connectivity standard. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is an industry organisation that is followed by almost every country when it comes to 5G and other wireless network connectivity standards.
Underlying Technology that Makes 5G
Note that 5G is based on Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). OFDM is a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels for reducing interference.
5G is not very different in principle from 4G. It uses the same mobile network principles as 4G, but the only difference is, 5G New Radio (NR) air interface can enhance OFDM for delivering a much higher degree of scalability and flexibility.
5G also brings higher bandwidth spectrum frequencies into play. The spectrum in the millimetre wavelength bands and sub-6 GHz bands will be used for 5G services which will be the first time such high-frequency airwaves will be used for rolling out mobile network services.
This enables 5G to be way different than 4G when it comes to the use cases and its applications. The mobile ecosystem will touch upon new realms with 5G, which wasn’t possible with the previous generation technologies.
Just comparing with 4G networks, 5G is faster, has more capacity, delivers significantly lower latency, is a more unified platform than 4G, and uses a higher frequency spectrum better than 4G would have ever been able to.
5G is designed to support more mission-critical applications and communications and also bring the massive Internet-of-Things (IoT) to the table. Even the deployment of 5G would be done in new ways.
It would be the first time we might see street furniture such as electricity poles and more holding small cells, which would enhance network coverage for 5G services in the high-spectrum bands.
Where Will 5G be Used?
5G will be used in multiple areas for enhancing user experience. Firstly, 5G will enable enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), due to which immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will become possible. Then there are mission-critical communications that 5G will enable, such as communication between vehicles, smart healthcare, and more.
Massive IoT is also an exciting possibility with 5G as there would be ultra-low latency connections with high data throughputs for enabling real-time communication between sensors.
5G Is Not Just for Normal Consumers
Up until now, mobile networks have been only seen as a tool made for normal consumers. But 5G is not just going to be reserved for normal consumers. It is made for a bigger ecosystem which, as mentioned above, includes massive IoT, enhanced mobile broadband, and mission-critical communications.
Enterprises would want a chunk of 5G network for their manufacturing facilities or offices; thus, the role of private 5G networks and network slicing would become evident. 5G would be very different from 4G, and it would open up multiple new revenue streams for the telecom companies. So many new businesses, applications, and use-cases would emerge with the power of 5G networks.
Why is 5G Not Coming to Every City?
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently said that 5G would be first launched in select cities of the country. These cities are those where the trials are ongoing. Places such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Gandhinagar, Pune and more would see 5G first than the rest of India.
The reason behind this is the network deployment cost. Investments that 5G would entail won’t be cheap. The telecom operators will have to spend a lot on the 5G spectrum and upgrading the existing sites along with the deployment of small cells on electric poles and whatnot.
It will be a phased rollout, but the good thing with 5G on a non-standalone architecture (NSA) network is that the telcos can use technologies such as dynamic spectrum sharing and roll out 5G services using a 4G core.
Which Spectrum Bands Will be Used for 5G Services?
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is currently working on the fresh reserve pricing for the spectrum bands that will be on offer during the 5G spectrum auctions. This time around, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has decided that spectrum in the 600 MHz band will be on offer to the telcos as well.
But the only issue is, the base pricing of the spectrum in several bands needs to be feasible for the telcos. If the telcos find the pricing too expensive, they will have no other option but to ignore the spectrum on offer from the government.
The spectrum bands which will be used for 5G are — 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 3.5 GHz, 26 GHz, and possibly 28 GHz.
Spectrum is an area where the telcos and the satellite communications companies are at a difference of opinion. The satcom companies want the government to leave the frequencies in the 28 GHz band for satellite broadband, but the telcos feel like they need the airwaves in the 28 GHz band as well.
Not just this, but there is also the question of how will the government allocate this spectrum. Satcom companies are geared towards the opinion that the government should administratively allocate the spectrum depending on the requirements, while the telcos are of the opinion that the government should only auction the spectrum, which will help in maintaining transparency.
Indian Market Getting Ripe for 5G Services
One thing that the telcos will appreciate is that the Indian market is ready for the launch of 5G services. This is because it has happened for the first time that people already have smartphones that support network technology which hasn’t even been launched yet. There are millions of Indians who carry 5G enabled smartphones today.
This will help the telecom operators in maximising their revenues and reach the break-even point earlier than anticipated. Further, the enterprises are also in huge need of digital services and use cases that 5G would enable. Be it healthcare, education, or the online gaming industry; every industry would require 5G services.
With legacy networks, the telcos would first launch the service, then educate the customers about the need and benefits of those services, then smartphones supporting those services would arrive in the market, and only then the telcos would get an opportunity to earn revenues. This involves education costs to the customers, to the enterprises, as well as time costs for the companies. But with 5G, that won’t be the case.
Users already have a huge interest in 5G smartphones, and thus the Indian market will be more than ready to consume 5G services as and when they launch.
5G vs 5Gi
So India had come out with its own 5G standard, namely 5Gi. While 5Gi was made to enhance rural connectivity, it also posed certain significant problems. With 5Gi, the smartphone companies, as well as telecom gear vendors, faced the threat of rising costs. Indian consumers would have to pay more to get these 5Gi supported devices.
This was because 5Gi products would need to be tailored specially for India. The vendors and manufacturers would have to make products on a very low scale, especially for the Indian market, and the other markets would be getting 3GPP’s 5G supported products. This would have contributed to the rising costs for Indian consumers. It would have further locked out India from the rest of the world.
If a 5Gi supportive smartphone was in a foreign environment such as the United States (U.S.), it wouldn’t have been able to connect with the 5G network present there as it is a 5Gi supportive device.
However, according to a recent statement from the 3GPP, it has been confirmed that 5Gi is being merged with the 5G standard of 3GPP. A plan of action for the same has already been confirmed. So people who are worried about India making the mistake of going ahead with 5Gi can rest easy as it won’t happen anymore.
When Will 5G be Available in India?
5G should launch in the second half of 2022. The spectrum auctions are likely to happen during May or June 2022 as the telcos are still in the trial phase. Even TRAI hasn’t come up with fresh base pricing as of yet.
There could be more delays and unseen challenges. But if things stay on course and everything goes the way it has been assumed it will, India might see the first 5G network going live during August 15, 2022.
The government wants the telcos to try and make an effort to launch 5G by August 15, 2022. It is a very special day for the country as August 15 is India’s official Independence Day, the launch of the 5G network on that particular day would hold a lot of significance.
But again, it will take a few years before it reaches everyone in India. PAN-India 5G coverage is expected by 2025 or 2026 by the latest. This is because the telcos would have to incur huge amounts of money to deploy new equipment and upgrade existing technology to ensure a smooth 5G network service is delivered.