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The Promise of 5G

Niranjan Bhombe

16 January 2022

Niranjan Bhombe

Department of Telecommunication has confirmed that 13 cities in Bharat will get 5G services this year.

What is 5G?

5G stands for the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. 5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users. Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connects new industries.

How does 5G work?

5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave. Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles. However, the new 5G NR air interface can further enhance OFDM to deliver a much higher degree of flexibility and scalability. This could provide more 5G access to more people and things for a variety of different use cases.

5G will bring wider bandwidths by expanding the usage of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz used in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond. 5G can operate in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) as well as mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and up), which will bring extreme capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency.

When is it coming to Bharat?

Department of Telecommunication has confirmed that 13 cities in Bharat will get 5G services this year. The 5G trials will be conducted in these cities, and hence these cities will get it first. The list of cities includes Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Gurugram, Lucknow, Gandhinagar and Jamnnagar. The DoT hasn’t yet conducted the auction for the 5G spectrum, the auction is expected to take place in July-August. If the DoT completes the auction process, then we can expect the 5G rollout by the end of 2022. However 5G will be available to limited consumers at first.

According to an Analyst who talked to India Today, the prices to 5G might be similar to 4G at first to increase the customer base. However Data operators will eventually charge a premium once they establish data speeds and a large customer base. Interestingly, an Ericsson report titled 'Five Ways to a Better 5G' reveals that users in Bharat are ready to pay 50 per cent more for 5G plans with bundled digital services, compared to just 10 per cent premium for 5G connectivity. So it will be interesting to see how these telecom operators will encourage people to shift to 5G and establish it more broadly.

The Challenges to 5G

To establish 5G network, the Internet service providers are going to have to build a completely new infrastructure, install new equipment. The 5G standard uses millimeter waves, which are a lot shorter than the wavelengths 4G uses. The shorter wavelength means 5G can carry a lot of data much faster than 4G, but it also means a much shorter range. 4G wavelengths have a range of about 10 miles. 5G wavelengths have a range of about 1,000 feet, not even 2% of 4G's range. So to ensure a reliable 5G signal, there needs to be a lot of 5G cell towers and antennas everywhere. There needs to be a 5G antenna on every streetlight, lamppost and traffic light because even trees can block 5G signal.

Bharat should be very excited for 5G, but it is going to take a long time to establish the proper infrastructure and attain the low latency gigabyte internet speeds that 5G promises.

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