Technology has made our life so easy and provided us with many amenities that we could never have imagined before. It has not only improved the standard of living, but there have been revolutionary changes in the field of development of the world. Also Read - 5G spectrum prices should be kept much lower: Industry body to TRAI
5G is one such technology emerging as the robust broadband cellular network. The fifth-generation cellular technology has not just increased the speed of downloading and uploading over mobile networks. But also delivered higher rates of up to 20 Gbps than 4G’s 1 Gbps (Gigabits per second). Also Read - Forget 5G, India is set to get 6G technology by 2023, Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnav says
At present, 58 countries have 5G networks as of June 2021, according to a GSA report. India is not among them. The question here arises where do we stand in terms of 5G implementation at the moment? India is yet to debut in 5G technology when almost all the well-known smartphone manufacturers have already unveiled the 5G enabled smartphones. However, none of the smartphones for 5G in India support the mmWave 5G spectrum and are limited to sub-6 GHz bands which only offer improved connection speeds over 4G LTE. Also Read - 5G auctions delayed by 6 months: Here’s what it means for India
Union Minister for Communication Ashwini Vaishnaw recently said, “6G development has already started which will be seen somewhere in the time frame 2024 or 2023-end.”
Really? I don’t think so!
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We are barely making any moves towards 5G technology in the country, and therefore the idea of 6G this early surely doesn’t make any sense. So, what’s taking so long for India to roll out 5G?
4G vs. 5G: The battle of price
Let’s go back to when Airtel launched 4G services using TD-LTE technology in Kolkata in 2012. Bharti Airtel’s chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal then said high-speed wireless broadband had “the potential to transform India.” And it did take India towards the future of technology advancements.
But the company that actually revolutionized the telecom sector was Reliance Jio by bringing cheap 4G services that changed the way Indian users consumed data. Before Reliance Jio entered the telecom market, the data was extremely expensive. The highlight of Jio’s launch was that it offered free data to consumers, with 4GB of high-speed data per day.
With Reliance Jio offering free data, India witnessed the rise of online content. Reliance Jio claimed that data consumption went from 20 crores GB to 120 crores GB in six months. It all happened due to the low tariff plans that Jio offered.
However, with 5G, this is not the case. The high base price of the 5G spectrum in India, marked at Rs 492 crore per unit, is one of the primary reasons for the delay in 5G. The Cellular Operators Association of India also warned the government that the high price for 5G frequencies would make it difficult for the local carrier to participate in the 5G auction.
Delay in auction
Another reason for the delay in the 5G launching is the delay in the auction. The three telecom giants Reliance, Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, are in the process of conducting trials. But all the High-Level Commitments made in 2018 couldn’t seem to be working in 2021.
Telecommunication companies including Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone-Idea requested the Department of Telecom (DoT) to increase the time limit of 5G trials in the country. The extension came in after the permit given to the telcos ended on November 26.
Make in India hardware challenge
The Make in India hardware challenge is yet another reason for the delay in bringing the 5G network to India. The supply chain disruption has forced service providers to get homegrown infrastructure strategies to find the right equipment for 5G. In comparison, the ministry granted Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung permission to conduct the trial of 5G technology. Huawei and ZTE have been locked out of the development in 5G in India. However, Huawei has denied claims that it poses a threat to the country’s national security. But Indian government so far has not granted permission for the 5G trials.
Mobile operators in India have claimed that excluding Huawei from the network could increase the price and slow down India’s rollout.
The tussle between 5G and 5Gi
The Indian government has not auctioned the spectrum that would be required to provide 5G signals. The version of 5G itself is 5Gi, which is different from the 5G standard used by networks globally. 5Gi is manufactured by India, jointly produced by IIT Hyderabad and IIT Madras.
ITU has approved only 3 standards in the world so far, one of which is Indian 5G. This technology will work on the same bands and spectrum 5G works. Additionally, 5G will run on the same frequency a regular 5G will work. As per some reports, millimeter-wave technology can also be implemented in 5Gi.
Along with the cost, the lack of technology compatibility between 5G and 5Gi is also a big problem. Upgrading to 5G as of now prevents it from working with 5G. SP Kochhar, DG, COAI, i.e., Cellular Operations Association of India, says that the 5Gi standard cannot run with 5G with 3GPP. However, it is expected that the technology will be upgraded to make it capable in the coming time.
Telecom companies like Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea present in the country had opposed it when the Indian government talked about implementing 5Gi. Companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and Qualcomm are making equipment for 5G in collaboration with telcos. In addition, they have already invested a considerable amount towards this joint venture. However, Jio said that if Indian 5G can provide facilities like international 5G at a lower cost, the company is ready to invest in 5Gi.