5G is expected to enhance internet speeds and give an impetus to new technology absorption.

India ready to introduce 5G: All you need to know

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The Union Cabinet approved a proposal of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to conduct the 5G spectrum auction on Wednesday (June 15).

As per the government, now 80 crore subscribers have access to broadband compared to 10 crore subscribers in 2014, and as per the information provided by the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), 4G mobile coverage has been provided to 98% of the population of India.

5G trials

“The 5G test bed setup in eight top technology institutes of India is speeding up the launch of domestic 5G technology in India. The time is not far away when India is going to emerge as a leading country in the field of 5G technology and the upcoming 6G technology,” the ministry said.

Also read: 5G allocation to bulk users would be coal scam redux

A total of 72097.85 MHz of spectrum with a validity period of 20 years will be put to auction to be held by the end of July. The auction will be held for spectrum in various Low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), Mid (3300 MHz) and High (26 GHz) frequency bands.

In March, the Minister of State for Communications, Devusinh Chauhan informed the Rajya Sabha about the 5G trials in India.

“Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) are conducting 5G trials in Delhi, Mumbai, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Gurgaon, Gandhinagar, Chandigarh, Pune and Varanasi, including urban, semi-urban and rural areas. It is prerogative of TSPs to launch 5G service in different cities as per their business/network plans,” he had said.

In April, the DoT said, during 5G trials, a peak data speed of 4 Gbps was achieved at the Mahatma Mandir VIL 5G test site of Gandhinagar, Gujarat. In November last, the DoT team had checked the data speed at the same 5G site and found it to be about 1.5 Gbps – almost 100 times faster than 4G. The speed test was done on non-standalone 5G mode.

In May 2021, the DoT had approved permissions to TSPs for conducting trials for use and applications of 5G technology.

A gamechanger

“Compared to the relatively incremental shift from 3G to 4G, 5G is a gamechanger. 5G is an innovation platform, which will only be limited by imagination,” says Ericsson, one of the leading providers of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to service providers.

Ericsson has predicted that in 2026, 5G networks will carry more than half of the world’s mobile data traffic (growing by a factor of 4.5 by the end of 2026 compared to today).

“In 5G, latency will decrease – the time it takes between performing an action and getting a response – and there will be more capacity in our mobile network. It will also allow data to be processed at the ‘network edge’ or closer to where it is needed so it can power some of the most exciting and innovative emerging technologies. 5G will see billions of connected devices gather and share information in real-time, transforming the way we run our societies and industries. Equipped with these capabilities, 5G will bring new opportunities for our businesses and our society,” according to Ericsson.

Also read: No biz case for 5G roll-out if concerns on private captive networks not addressed: Telcos body

5G technology will have an extremely low latency rate – 1 millisecond (1ms). A millisecond is 1/1000 of a second. It is 200 milliseconds for 4G.

5G has the potential to be the cornerstone of the economic recovery boosting enterprise, as well as opening up huge opportunities in healthcare, utilities, culture and more. The automotive, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing sectors are among the sectors projected to benefit the most, Ericsson said.

5G technologies are expected to contribute $13.2 trillion to the global economy by 2035, according to industry analysts IHS Markit.

5G key features

The technology will be fast – up to 100 times faster data rates (10 Gbps – gigabits per second) and users will experience less network downtime due to the combined use of high, mid-, and low frequencies, according to Ericsson.

According to Thales Group, a French company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for the aerospace, defence, transportation and security markets, 5G technology is driven by eight specification requirements, “Up to 10Gbps data rate – 10 to 100x speed improvement over 4G and 4.5G networks; 1-millisecond latency; 1000x bandwidth per unit area; Up to 100x number of connected devices per unit area (compared with 4G LTE); 99.999% availability; 100% coverage; 90% reduction in network energy usage; Up to 10-year battery life for low power Internet of Things (IoT) device.”

Also read: PM Modi launches India’s first 5G testbed; promises 6G too

5G works in three bands —low, mid and high-frequency spectrum. The low band spectrum offers coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, but this is capped at 100 Mbps. While sufficient for individual users who use their phones for very basic requirements, it would not cater to commercial use.

The mid-band offers greater speeds but its coverage area and penetration of signals are limited. However, industries and specialised factory units can use it to build captive networks. The high band offers excellent speed — up to 20 Gbps — but again its coverage and signal penetration strength are limited.

Who will get 5G first?

Those living in Delhi, Gurugram, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune will be the first to get 5G services in India. Apart from these cities, telcos have established 5G trials sites in Chandigarh, Jamnagar, Chennai, Lucknow, and Gandhinagar.

The 5G testbed project was funded by DoT, and eight implementing bodies participated in it — IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Hyderabad, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kanpur, IISC-Bangalore, SAMEER and CEWiT. These institutions have been working on the project for around three years.

The DoT also granted permission to telcos and handset manufacturers Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT for six-month trials. RJio and Airtel reported a peak speed of 1 Gbps each.

5G in India vs the world

Across the world, telecom firms, as well as governments, have been working at breakneck speed to expand 5G coverage. By 2020-end, the US, where telcos AT&T and Verizon have taken the lead — had 5G deployment in 60 cities. China has been a pioneer, too, with China Unicom and other players launching 5G trials in 2018; commercial rollouts came soon after that.

Among equipment makers, South Korean conglomerate Samsung has taken a leadership role in 5G, building the hardware for various global companies.

5G is more energy efficient

A study in 2020 by Finland’s mobile phone manufacturer Nokia and Spain-based multinational mobile service provider Telefonica found that 5G networks are up to 90% more energy efficient per traffic unit than legacy 4G networks.

The research, which was conducted over a three-month period, focused on the power consumption of the Radio Access Network (RAN) in Telefonica’s network.

“Extensive testing examined 11 different pre-defined traffic load scenarios that measured the energy consumed per Mbps based on the traffic load distribution. The results highlighted that 5G RAN technology is significantly more efficient than legacy technologies when it comes to energy consumption per data traffic capacity with several hardware and software features that help to save energy,” the companies said.

The study, which utilised Nokia’s AirScale portfolio, including AirScale Base Stations and AirScale Massive MIMO Active Antenna solutions, combined actual on-site base station energy consumption readings in different traffic load scenarios, ranging from 0% to 100%, as well as remote monitoring of actual power consumption through the network management systems.

“5G is a natively greener technology with more data bits per kilowatt of energy than any previous wireless technology generation. However, 5G networks require further action to enhance energy efficiency and minimize CO2 emissions that will come with exponentially increased data traffic. There are several energy-saving features at the radio base station and network levels, such as 5G power-saving features, small cell deployments and new 5G architecture and protocols, which can be combined to significantly improve the energy efficiency of wireless networks,” they said.

Ericsson, in its ‘Connectivity and climate change’ report in 2020, said, “Today’s 5G technology can break the energy curve, and thus accelerate the path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions… Governments need to focus on connectivity and 5G to benefit from its ability to help achieve the shared goals of a transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable economy, and there are a number of policy initiatives that would have a big impact on bringing this about.”

“Digitisation and connectivity will directly enable the transition to a greener, lower-carbon future and play a role in helping to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” it added.

No link between 5G and spread of COVID

In May 2021, the DoT and the Ministry of Communications said that several misleading messages were circulated on various social media platforms claiming that the second wave of coronavirus had been caused by the testing of the 5G mobile towers. However, DoT dismissed those messages as “false and absolutely not correct”.

It stated that there is no link between 5G technology and the spread of COVID-19 and they were urged not to be misguided by the false information and rumours.

“The claims linking the 5G technology with the COVID-19 pandemic are false and have no scientific basis. Moreover, it is informed that the testing of the 5G network has not yet started anywhere in India. Hence, the claim that 5G trials or networks are causing coronavirus in India is baseless and false,” it added.

It further said, “Mobile towers emit non-ionizing Radio frequencies having very minuscule power and are incapable of causing any kind of damage to living cells, including human beings. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has prescribed norms for exposure limit for the Radio Frequency Field (i.e. Base Station Emissions), which are 10 times more stringent than the safe limits prescribed by International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and recommended by WHO.”

Highlights of 5G spectrum auction

Spectrum being auctioned: All the available spectrum in 600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3300 MHz, and 26 GHz bands is part of the auction.

Technology: Spectrum allotted through this auction can be used for 5G (IMT-2020) or any other technology within the scope of Access Service License.

Process of auction: The auction shall be a Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA) e-auction.

Quantum: Total of 72097.85 MHz of spectrum has been put to auction.

Duration of spectrum: Spectrum will be assigned for a period of twenty (20) years.

Payment: Successful bidders will be allowed to make payments in 20 equal annual instalments, duly protecting the NPV at the interest rate of 7.2%.

Surrender of spectrum: Spectrum acquired through this auction can be surrendered after a minimum period of ten years.

Spectrum usage charge: There will be no Spectrum Usage Charges (SUC) for spectrum acquired in this auction.

Bank guarantees: The requirement for a successful bidder to submit a Financial Bank Guarantee (FBG) and Performance Bank Guarantee (PBG) has been dispensed with.

Captive Non-Public Network: Licensees can set up isolated captive non-public network(s) for industries using the spectrum acquired through this auction.

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