5G and how prepared is India to adapt to this tech?
Q. Why is this in news?
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought inputs from tele-companies and other industry experts on the sale and use of radio frequency spectrum over the next 10 years, including the 5G bands.
Q. What is 5G technology and how is it different?
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, which have taken the lead on 5G, have indicated that this band may be used by industries and specialised factory units for building captive networks that can be moulded into the needs of that particular industry.
The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength. Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (giga bits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.
Q. What are the differences between the previous generations of mobile networks and 5G?
The previous generations of mobile networks are 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G.
First generation - 1G
1980s: 1G delivered analog voice.
Second generation - 2G
Early 1990s: 2G introduced digital voice (e.g. CDMA- Code Division Multiple Access).
Third generation - 3G
Early 2000s: 3G brought mobile data (e.g. CDMA2000).
Fourth generation - 4G LTE
2010s: 4G LTE ushered in the era of mobile broadband.
1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G all led to 5G, which is designed to provide more connectivity than was ever available before.
5G is a unified, more capable air interface. It has been designed with an extended capacity to enable next-generation user experiences, empower new deployment models and deliver new services.
With high speeds, superior reliability and negligible latency, 5G will expand the mobile ecosystem into new realms. 5G will impact every industry, making safer transportation, remote healthcare, precision agriculture, digitized logistics — and more — a reality.
Q. What are its uses?
5G opens cutting-edge ways of improving safety and sustainability.
Smarter electricity grids for greatly reduced carbon emissions
More connected vehicles sharing data to prevent road collisions
Faster deployment of emergency services to accidents
Connected sensors that can detect and warn of natural disasters early
Drones becoming a key tool to accelerate and support emergency situation response
Remote expertise with specialists smoothly consulting/diagnosing patients elsewhere
5G is the foundation for flexible, efficient and responsible business.
Production lines autonomously reacting to supply and demand
Digital replicas that can warn about real machinery faults ahead of time
Logistic networks autonomously routing goods based on real-world conditions
Full traceability down to the individual item at warehouses and ports
Remote access to powerful robots and vehicles for improved safety in risky environments
Increased use of IoT in agriculture to efficiently grow crops
5G sets the stage for more immersive entertainment and more engaging education.
Greater realism in VR, AR and extended reality (XR) with lighter devices
Delivering sensory experiences, like touch, through devices
More engaging methods of teaching through immersive content
Immersive virtual meetings to boost remote team productivity
Stable and reliable connectivity in crowded spaces
New angles and interactions for live and remote event spectators
It is further used across three main types of connected services, including enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical communications, and the massive IoT.
Enhanced mobile broadband
In addition to making our smartphones better, 5G mobile technology can usher in new immersive experiences such as VR and AR with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost-per-bit.
5G can enable new services that can transform industries with ultra-reliable, available, low-latency links like remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.
5G is meant to seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power, and mobility—providing extremely lean and low-cost connectivity solutions.
Q. Where does India stand in the 5G technology race?
On par with the global players, India had, in 2018, planned to start 5G services as soon as possible, with an aim to capitalise on the better network speeds and strength that the technology promised.
All the three private telecom players, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vi, have been urging the DoT to lay out a clear road map of spectrum allocation and 5G frequency bands, so that they would be able to plan the roll out of their services accordingly. One big hurdle, however, is the lack of flow of cash and adequate capital with at least two of the three players, namely Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
On the other hand, Reliance Jio plans to launch an indigenously built 5G network for the country as early as the second half of this year. The company is said to have a complete end-to-end 5G solution prepared by the company itself that is ready for deployment once the networks are in place. This solution can also be deployed by other telecom operators as a complete managed service.
Q. What is the 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, on the other hand, taken the lead when it comes to building the hardware for 5G networks for several companies.
Q. What are the challenges ahead?
Expensive Enabling Infrastructure: Besides the spectrum, 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system. The major flaw of data transfer using 5G is that it can't carry data over longer distances. Hence, 5G needs to be augmented to enable infrastructure.
5G-A Critical Infrastructure: 5G due to its expansive applications forms the part of critical infrastructure. This makes the consequences of the networks failing or being deliberately sabotaged in a cyber-attack significantly more serious.
Financial Hurdles: Telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has also expressed concerns about the financial health of the telecom sector (AGR issue).
Also, one of the major challenges is standardising an approach and bringing all of the major technology partners on board
Q. What is the way forward?
A government panel on 5G says the technology will extend the use of wireless technologies — for the first time — across completely new sectors of the economy from industrial to commercial, educational, health care, agricultural, financial and social sectors.
Recently as per the ‘The Ericsson Mobility Report 2020,’ 5G subscriptions forecast to reach 3.5 billion in India by 2026 with First connection likely in 2021, India needs to invest in research and development in technologies related to critical infrastructure and strive to indigenize them as soon as possible.