4G, 5G or 6G, all need wireless backhaul

News: The recent Parliamentary Committee report titled, “India’s Preparedness for 5G” states that while 59 countries had deployed 5G, India had not done so.

In this regard, the Parliamentary Committee has highlighted the issues/challenges that are hampering India’s transition towards 5G technology.

What are the issues/challenges highlighted by the Parliamentary Committee?

– Inadequate spectrum, with only 50 MHz per operator, half the global average. For 4G, average spectrum per operator was even less, at a quarter of the global average.

Exorbitant spectrum prices

Insufficient development of 5G use cases

Low fibre network availability

Deficient backhaul capacity

What are the solutions to address the above challenges?

To increase accessibility, there is a need to increase investments in wireless backhaul (backhaul generally refers to the side of the network that communicates with the global Internet). India has many urban and rural sites where fibre is not feasible, because of factors such as congestion, distance, limited commercial potential etc. Wireless backhaul can fill in where fibre is not accessible or affordable.

To overcome the issue of inadequate spectrum, India should start using the E and V bands for backhaul, similar to other countries like Japan and South Korea. Also, wireless V and E bands are now reasonable alternatives for distances of about 1 km, and 3-4 km or more.

To improve coverage, reduce costs, and for faster deployment, India can consider an active network sharing model. For instance, A McKinsey report in 2018 cited network sharing had reduced the total cost of ownership by 30%, while improving network quality.

India should plan for a mix of technologies going forward as 4G continues to evolve over the next decade. Policies that result in full 4G coverage of good quality is the need of the hour.

To ensure better outcomes, coordination across government departments and consultation with industry as stipulated in National telecom Policy needs to be adhered.

Source: This post is based on the article “4G, 5G or 6G, all need wireless backhaul” published in Business standard on 2nd Dec 2021.

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