Context: 5G technology in telecommunication.
Evolution of mobile communication networks: Mobile communication has become more popular in last few years due to fast reform from 1G to 5G in mobile technology. Generation refers change in nature of service compatible transmission technology and new frequency bands. In 1980 the mobile cellular era had started, and since then mobile communications have undergone considerable changes and experienced massive growth.
- First Generation, 1G: These phones were the first mobile phones to be used, which was introduced in 1982 and completed in early 1990. It was used for voice services
- Second Generation, 2G: is based on GSM, introduced in India in 1995. It uses digital signals for voice transmission. Main focus of this technology was on digital signals and provides services to deliver text and picture message at low speed (in kbps).
- Third Generation, 3G: is based on GSM and was launched in India in 2008. The aim of this technology was to offer high speed data. The original technology was improved to allow data up to 14 Mbps. It uses Wide Band Wireless Network with which clarity is increased.
- Fourth Generation, 4G: offers a downloading speed of 100Mbps. 4G provides same feature as 3G and additional services like Multi-Media Newspapers, to watch T.V programs with more clarity and send Data much faster than previous generations. LTE (Long Term Evolution) is considered as 4G technology.
- Fifth Generation, 5G: The 5G standards envisage various types of wireless services – high speed links with peak rates of 2 to 20 Gbps, low speed links but with high connection density 16 (one million per Sq. Km.) for sensing and actuating devices (IoT), and a completely new class of links that achieve both low latency (less than 1 millisecond round trip time) and high connection reliability.
Need of 5G in India: Digital infrastructure and services are increasingly emerging as key enablers and critical determinants of a country’s growth and well-being.
- About 850 million, constituting about 65% of India’s population, is in the age group of 18 to 35. India is likely to have the world’s largest workforce by 2027, with a billion people aged between 15 and 64. To harness the potential of such huge workforce in a productive way, India needs to provide them with skills which make introduction of 5G important.
- According to the report of Oxfam, the literacy rate of women in India is increasing but the women’s labour force participation is one of the lowest in world. Women comprise half of Indian population but make up less than a quarter of labour force. With the introduction of 5G, the opportunities for women would grow manifold.
- With the technological changes in the developed countries towards artificial intelligence and Internet of Thing (IoT), India being a service provider needs to follow up in technology demands.
- 5G offers multiple opportunities by providing smart infrastructure that offers low cost and faster infrastructure delivery. For example, ride sharing, shared ride hailing services have transformed the infrastructure efficiencies in utilization of shared cars, autos and motorcycles (like Ola, Uber). Though still early in its growth, with the introduction of 5G, vehicle sharing looks promising.
- Indian government has set an aggressive target of increasing the manufacturing share to 25% of GDP by 2025. So to realize this target, 5G introduction is required to enable use of robotics for precision manufacturing. 5G can also enable better logistics to track goods from raw materials to product delivery and improved sharing of expensive design and manufacturing resources across the country.
- In agriculture, 5G can enable improvement in the entire value-chain, from precision farming, smart irrigation, improved soil and crop monitoring, to livestock management. Thus, it will help in achieving the target of doubling farmer’s income by 2022.
- In the energy sector, ‘smart grids’ and ‘smart metering’ can be efficiently supported enabling growth of alternate energy technologies. With the rise of renewable and storage technologies, low latency communications will be critical to manage these grids.
- The government drive, ‘Health for all’ (Ayushman Bharat), will be boosted with 5G, as it can enable more effective tele-medicine delivery, tele-control of surgical robotics and wireless monitoring of vital statistics.
5G initiatives in India:
- The Government has launched a program titled ‘Building an End-to-End 5G Test Bed’ to advance innovation and research in 5G. This three year program began in March 2018, with a budget authorization of Rs 2,240 million. The program has been awarded to IIT Madras, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Delhi, IIT Kanpur, CEWIT, SAMEER and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. The program envisages close collaboration between the universities and small technology companies.
- Ericsson has installed the first public access 5G test bed at IIT Delhi in July 2018 for developing applications in the broadband and low latency areas providing access to the industry and institutions to work on India specific usage scenarios and applications. The industry is encouraged to take lead and establish more public test beds in the country.
- On the standards front, DoT and TSDSI in collaboration with the IITs have been successful in getting the Large Cell Low Mobility (LMLC) use case accepted in the IMT 2020 requirements. LMLC reflects the needs of rural India and other similar countries. TSDSI is currently working with 3GPP to include specifications in Release 15 standard that support the LMLC use case.
Hurdles before 5G deployment:
- A 5G High Level Forum was set up by the Government in September 2017 to articulate the Vision for 5G in India and to recommend policy initiatives and three priority areas for India in 5G are Deployment, Technology and Manufacturing. Looking at the above mentioned three priority areas, India has vast ground to cover before the world-wide commercial launch of 5G in 2020. An early roll-out means heavy capital expenditure. Given the weak balance sheets of telecom service providers, an early roll-out would further increase their debt burden. Moreover, the technical requirements for 5G call for significant changes in the National Spectrum Policy and regulation as well as policies related to infrastructure development. Low optical fibre penetration is a major infrastructure short coming.
- The telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended measures to bring imports to ‘net zero’ by 2022, for both economic and security reasons.
- At present, India imports 90% of the telecom equipments. India is not a key player is technology development or manufacturer of telecommunication equipment. Like its predecessors, 5G is also likely to rest upon either technology inputs or equipments made by foreign vendors in India. So 5G introduction will further increase the net imports of telecom equipments.
Measures to overcome hurdles of 5G deployment:
- At present, the cost of spectrum, relative to per capita GDP is much higher than most countries. So the government of India should bring a New Spectrum Policy where the license fee and the spectrum cost should be brought down.
- Indian telecom equipment market is estimated to grow from $20 billion in 2016 to $30 billion by 2020. Government should work towards creating an ecosystem for startups to participate in design, development and manufacturing of telecom equipments.
- Under Bharat-Net project, government of India is making major investment in laying optical fibre cable to link 6 lakh gram panchayats of India. Government should take measures to expedite to implement Bharat-Net project and also provide back-end infrastructure to telecom service providers (towers).
With significant capabilities in both telecommunications and software, India needs to catalyse the economic growth and development, and to generating new- age jobs and livelihoods, and ensuring access to next generation services for its citizens. Thus the introduction of 5G in India becomes more important.