More than 40 telecom operators in the World have already launched 5G technologies. India being the 5th largest economy in the world has not yet launched the 5G technology. Is it high time to launch 5G services in India or India still have time to catch up with the technology?
Present Status of 5G in India:
Department of Telecommunication (DoT) in 2017 setup a 5G steering committee headed by AJ Paulraj. The committee submitted the report and suggest important steps. In 2018, India planned to start 5G services but it has not yet materialized.
All the private telecom players urged the DoT to lay out a road map of spectrum allocation and 5G frequency bands.
Reliance Jio plans to launch an indigenously built 5G network in the second half of 2021. And also, to be ready for deployment once the networks are in place.
The government for its part also working on creating a corpus of Rs 500 crore dedicated exclusively for the research and development of 5G technology in India.
Recently, The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought opinion about the sale and use of radiofrequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands from the experts.
Importance of 5G Technology:
5G will bring with High speed and ultra-low latency will revolutionise government effort in promoting digital India.
First, Minimum Government and Maximum Governance: Better speed and connectivity will reduce the red–tapism and enhance speedy and better implementation of projects and policies. This will various government missions such as smart cities mission, etc.
Second, Ultra-Low latency in 5G services (time taken by a network to respond) will help in improvement in the logistics and shipping sector and also reduces the overall cost of goods and services.
Third, Employment generation: 5G technology will open a new horizon of opportunity for new device manufacturers and application developers. Thus, more job opportunities will be created and it will help in the inclusive growth of the nation.
Fourth, Enhanced network coverage: This will enhance network performance and support during limited access or absence of mobile networks. The small cell concept used in 5G will have multiple advantages of maximum data transfer, better cell coverage, cloud access network and low power consumption etc. This will help in reducing the digital divide in India.
Fifth, 5G will provide enhanced Security: 5G will enhance security surveillance, better coordination among various agencies. The closed-circuit cameras will provide high–quality real-time video for security purposes.
Sixth, 5G will revolutionize Industrial Growth: The future of industries will greatly depend on smart technologies like 5G for efficient automation, safety, maintenance, tracking, smart packing, and energy management.
Seventh, 5G will improve Agricultural applications: 5g can be used for smart farming in the future. Such as combining smart RFID sensors and GPS technologies, farmers can track the location of livestock and manage them easily. Smart sensors can be used for irrigation control, access control and energy management.
Eighth, 5G will improve healthcare and mission–critical applications: Scientists are working on smart medical devices such as remote surgical machines, Smart medical devices, etc.
Challenges faced by India in introduction of 5G technologies:
First the major question of need and viability: Telecom operators are facing a financial crisis and have a combined debt of Rs 4 lakh crore. Apart from that, they are still trying to fully monetise 4G services. The introduction of 5G will involve a heavy upfront investment and have a long payback period. Thus, the viability of 5G after the introduction is a major challenge.
The Second challenge in the 5G deployment will be the pricing of the spectrum. DoT will price the spectrum but heavy upfront investment associated with 5G technologies will increase the price of the spectrum. But the telecom operators with a stressed balance sheet might not have that much capital to invest in the 5G technologies and spectrum.
Third challenge associated with 5G is the technological and operational challenges,
- Extensive fiberisation requirement: Most operators at present have about 20-25% fiberisation. But, a true 5G experience will require up to 80% fiberisation this also involves investment.
- The antennae need to be upgraded at every site and also require an entirely new orchestration layer to achieve the critical feature of 5G network slicing.
Fourth, the threat to national security: China is preparing to dominate the world by rolling out its 5G technology warfare across countries. By deploying the 5G in India without indigenisation of technology will make India vulnerable to China. This will make the data of individuals, groups or even security agencies at risk.
Lastly, diverting the traffic from 4G to a more efficient 5G is also a challenge. As the AJ Paulraj committee pointed out that older generation technologies will remain for almost 10 years after the 5G deployment.
Solutions for faster implementation of 5G technologies in India:
India needs to fast the pace of its 5G implementation as technology is critical to India’s digital ambitions.
First, India needs to introduce the spectrum policy: the policy should focus on incentivising heavy investment in 5G, including long-term support, and technology-neutral spectrum licences, instead of trying to look for reaping profits right away.
Second, India needs to create an ecosystem capable of leveraging 5G, Like skilled manpower, technology, R&D and investment, etc.
Third, India has to work on Indigenous 5G technology. IoT platforms not only for military applications but also for civilians to avoid any 5G warfare and data threat in the future.
Fourth, India has to Implement the recommendations of 5G steering committee. The important recommendations are:
- Three phased implementation of 5G technology in India
- Early adoption of 5G technologies to fast-track India’s embrace of 5G’s benefits.
- Setting up of Standing Committee with a five-year term to advice on building Spectrum Technology Infrastructure.
The shift from 4G to 5G is not incremental, but transformational. Skipping of 5G is not a choice India can afford. The economic impact of 5G in India is expected to be over $1 trillion by 2035 according to the report of KPMG. The Sooner the deployment of 5G in India is the better for India.