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5G Debate

Published: 5th Aug, 2019

The Union Communications Minister announced that the government will be holding auction for spectrum, which includes airwaves that will be used to offer 5G or fifth-generation services.


The Union Communications Minister announced that the government will be holding auction for spectrum, which includes airwaves that will be used to offer 5G or fifth-generation services.


Timeline: Evolution from 1G to 5G

  • 1G: Launched in the 1980s. Analog radio signals and supported only voice calls.
  • 2G: Launched in the 1990s. Uses digital radio signals and supported both voice and data transmission with a BandWidth(BW) of 64 Kbps.
  • 3G: Launched in the 2000s. With a speed of 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps it has the ability to transmit telephone signal including digitised voice, video calls and conferencing.
  • 4G: With a peak speed of 100 Mbps-1 Gbps it also enables 3D virtual reality.
  • 5G: with a speed of more than 1Gbps,it is capable of connecting entire world without limits.

5th Generation

  • 5G is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra low latency.
  • A government panel report points out that with 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabit per second (Gbps).
  • This is in contrast to 4G link speeds in averaging 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.
  • In April, South Korea and the U.S. became the first countries to commercially launch 5G services.

Benefits of 5G

  • Faster Download: With 5G technology, consumers will be able to download data heavy content such as 8K movies and games with better graphics in just a few seconds.
  • Emerging Technologies: The ultra low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for emerging technologies, including driverless vehicles, tele-surgery and real time data analytics, sensor-embedded network that will allow real time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
  • Transport: 5G can also help to make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart because it will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Thus, making driverless cars, a reality.
  • Economic Impact: 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, according to a report by a government-appointed panel. Moreover, 5G-enabled digitalisation revenue potential in India will be above $27 billion by 2026. Spectrum auctions are a major revenue earner for the government. In the last auction, held in October 2016, it fetched the government over ?65,000 crore.


  • Cost Factor: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended a pan-India reserve price of about ?492 crore per MHz for unpaired spectrum. But, Telcos have pointed out that the reserve price of these airwaves is very high. Moreover, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has also expressed concerns about the financial health of the sector amid intense competition and recent phase of consolidation. Currently, the industry’s cumulative debt is pegged at around ?7 lakh crore.
  • Infrastructural Issues: The first major challenge is that the users will be required to change their current devices in favour of 5G-enabled ones. Another challenge is that these new frequencies offer huge potential in regard to capacity, but the use of these frequencies is challenging due to limited propagation and penetration. Also, there are currently no India-specific use cases for deployment of 5G.
  • Cyber Security: In the 5G world, cybersecurity challenges and risks will continue to grow as more data pours in and is processed faster than ever before. It is evident by the recently recorded data breaches of 2017 and 2018, as well as the predictions of advanced forms of breaches for 2019.
  • Technical Issues: There is no unified, rigorously defined standard to guarantee interoperability, nor a methodology to assure continuous and consistent performance.

Steps Taken

  • The government launched a three-year programme that started in March 2018 to advance innovation and research in 5G with a budget of ?224 crore.
  • Ericsson has also installed a 5G test bed at IIT Delhi for developing applications in the broadband and low latency areas

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI)

  • COAI was constituted in 1995 as a registered, non-governmental society. The Association is dedicated to the advancement of modern communication through the establishment of world-class mobile infrastructure, products and services and to delivering the benefits of innovative and affordable mobile communication services to the people of India.
  • Over the years COAI has emerged as the official voice for the Indian telecom industry and interacts directly with Ministries, Policy Makers, Regulators, Financial Institutions and Technical Bodies. It provides a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas between these bodies and the Service Providers, who share a common interest in the development of mobile telephony in the country.
  • COAI’s core membership includes private cellular operators, namely - Aircel Ltd., Bharti Airtel Ltd., Idea Cellular Ltd., Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, Telenor (India) Communications Private Limited, Videocon Telecom and Vodafone India Ltd. operating across the whole country.


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