5G services to be rolled out next year
- Fifth generation wireless technology (5G), which will allow faster and more responsiveness Internet services, will be rolled out in the four metros and other big cities next year, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said on Monday.
- 5G spectrum auctions will be held ahead of the rollout.
- Earlier, DoT had in September sought recommendations from the telecom sector regulator TRAI on various aspects including the reserve price, band plan, block size, and the quantum of spectrum to be auctioned.
- 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
- 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.
- While the low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of Internet and data exchange, the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
- This means that while telcos can use and install it for commercial cellphone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed Internet, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialised needs of the industry.
- The mid-band spectrum, on the other hand, offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
- Telcos and companies that have taken the lead on 5G have indicated this band may be used by industries and specialised factory units for building captive networks.
- High-band offers the highest speed among the three, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength. Speeds in this spectrum have been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), while in most cases, the maximum Internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps
India’s stand in terms of trials and launch of 5G
- Although the government has said the auction of 5G spectrum would take place in March or April next year, some experts say it could be delayed by at least one quarter as telecom service providers are yet to complete their trials and test various aspects.
- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is in the final stages of stakeholder consultations, and is likely to submit its recommendations to the DoT early next year.
- Bharti Airtel has conducted trials in partnership with Ericsson for mobile phones already in the market, Vi has conducted some for enterprise and business solutions, and Reliance Jio Infocomm has completed building its indigenous 5G network and is now conducting trials of connected drones, speed test and other aspects.
Global progress on 5G
- More than governments, global telecom companies have started building 5G networks and rolling it out to their customers on a trial basis.
- In countries like the US, companies such as AT&T, T-mobile, and Verizon have taken the lead when it comes to rolling out commercial 5G for their users.
- While some such as AT&T had started testing and deploying the technology as early as 2018, other companies such as Verizon have followed suit, expanding their 5G ultra-wide broadband services to as many as 60 cities by the end of 2020.
- In other countries such as China, some of the telcos such as China Unicom had started 5G trials as early as 2018, and have since rolled out the commercial services for users.
- South Korean company Samsung, which had started researching on 5G technology way back in 2011, has taken the lead when it comes to building the hardware for 5G networks for several companies
Reason for launching in select metro cities only
- The three private telecom service providers, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, and Vodafone Idea, have been working with telecom equipment makers such as Ericsson and Nokia, and conducting trials at test sites in these cities.
- One of the reasons why the bigger cities were chosen for these trials is their telecom services penetration, making it easier to convince more people to upgrade from 4G.
- Also, industry experts said, since the costs for 5G services are initially going to be on the higher side, it would be wise to test the service in areas where more consumers would find them affordable.
- A third reason is that cities provide all kinds of locations, such as walled complexes and open spaces, that are suitable for testing of various 5G bands.