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5G Technology in India

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    3rd Jan, 2022

Context

The Fifth Generation or 5G telecom services are set to be rolled out in selected cities in India in 2022.

  • The cities which are set to get the 5G telecom services in 2022 include Gurugram, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Jamnagar, Ahmadabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Pune, and Gandhinagar.

In countries like the USA and China, 5G has already started rolling out to the masses with South Korea being the first country to launch a large-scale 5G network.

Background

  • In 2018, India had planned to start 5G services, on par with the global players, as soon as possible, with an aim to capitalize on the better network speeds and strength that the technology promised.
  • However, the lack of flow of cash and adequate capital remained hurdles in the way.

Previous generation of mobile network

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.

Analysis

What is fifth-generation network?

  • The fifth-generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • The revolutionary features of 5G are:
    • ultra-low latency
    • super bandwidth per unit area
    • reliable connectivity
    • up to 100 percent coverage
    • capacity to connect more devices per unit
  • While 4G was a great leap forward, allowing people to stream music and video on the go, 5G is designed to connect many more types of devices than smartphones and offers far higher speed and capacity.
  • 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

Recent government initiatives in telecom sector

  • Increased FDI: Foreign direct investment (FDI) in telecom sector rose around 150 per cent between 2014-21 from Rs 62,386 crore in 2002 to 2014 to Rs 1,55,353 crore during 2014-21.
  • Indigenous 5G Test bed project: The Indigenous 5G Test bed project is the research project started in 2018 and is set to be completed by December 31, 2021.
    • Eight agencies - Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Madras, IIT Kanpur, Indian Institute of Science (IISC) Bangalore, Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research (SAMEER) and Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) - are involved in the project.
    • The project has been funded by the Department of Telecom.
    • The department has spent Rs224 crore on this project.
  • 6G 'Technology Innovation Group’: A 6G 'Technology Innovation Group', or TIG, has been constituted by DoT to co-create and participate in the development of the 6G technology ecosystem through increased participation in a capability description, standards development at global standard-setting bodies. 

Data usage:

  • India will clock the second-highest global consumption of mobile data per month by 2027 — that’ll be 50GB per month on average, up from a monthly average of 12GB in 2021.
  •  The US will lead the way, just about, with an estimated monthly average consumption of 52GB data. 

What are the benefits of 5G?

  • Faster connectivity: 5G is poised to transform human life by giving faster download speeds and connectivity for billions of devices.
  • Socio-economic multiplier: 5G will serve as a socio-economic multiplier for the Indian economy.
  • Improving tech system of industries: In the future, the technology will significantly impact industries such as the focus on safer transportation, banking systems, traffic control, remote healthcare, agriculture, digitized logistics and more.
  • Strengthened healthcare system: Beyond ultra-fast internet connectivity, 5G will support the Internet of Medical Things, enhanced mobile broadband, and mission-critical services to significantly strengthen healthcare experiences.
  • Support to new-age technologies: This ecosystem will support new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT).

What are disadvantage of immediate adoption of 5G technology?

  • Immediate Obsolescence:The transition to the 5G network will require devices that can support it; current 4G devices do not have this capability and will become immediately obsolete. 
  • Insufficient Infrastructure: For the 5G network to function properly will require a whole ambitious investment in infrastructure to increase bandwidth and expand coverage, and this is not cheap.
  • Risks in security and proper data handling: All of this requires optimal data management, and this is where the most conflictive part of the advantages versus disadvantages lies.

What are the bottlenecks?

  • Obsolete technology: The fact that unlike in the US and China, where most towers are backhauled using fibre, more than 75% of the towers in India still employ legacy microwave transmission systems.
  • Low fiberisation footprint: Its rollout will be slower in rural areas due to massive fibre requirements, rendering it uneconomical for relatively low data demand in those areas.
  • Restricted range: Since 5G works in high-frequency bands (also called millimeter waves), its range is restricted. That necessitates the deployment of dense networks—i.e. more than twice the number of towers needed today.
  • Lack of finance: There are stressed finances of Telecom sector to contend with.

Conclusion

5G is a reality that in a short time will touch our lives like previous technologies, and it would be better to look at it now to take advantage of its benefits and avoid its risks.

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