By Mehak Goyal

Imagine you’re spending your fine Sunday evening watching your favourite movie lying on a sofa. You are feeling very hungry but you’re very confused about what you should cook. You open your smart refrigerator and it recommends the recipes that can be cooked based on the ingredients in the refrigerator and depending on the calories your body needs, thanks to the smartwatch you’re wearing which is measuring your energy requirement. Bizarre, isn’t it? This is nothing but just a minuscule of what the upcoming world with 5G would offer us.

5G or fifth generation is the upcoming advancement in the field of cellular technology. To put it simply, it is the next-generation of the global wireless standard that is engineered with increased speed and responsiveness, thus connecting machines, people, devices, and businesses at a breakneck pace. 5G is currently present in about 30% of the world and more countries are adapting it to remain competitive in the world economy. Communication service providers around the world are battling each other to build out, validate, and deploy commercial 5G networks. While countries like the USA and China are slowly emerging as technology superpowers by controlling and spearheading the development of the said technology, India has also been on the tenterhooks struggling to kick start the technology for a year now. 

India has had a rather stop-start journey which is now picking up pace slowly. But what have been the reasons for the delay? Financial constraints and spectrum allocation are the two major hurdles faced by India under this 5G journey. As per the government and the Department of Telecom’s findings, the infrastructure facilities required for 5G are highly inadequate. The fiber network in India connects only 30% of the telecom towers. The 5G ecosystem is highly underdeveloped and is in its nascent stage right now. While the spectrum allocation process is in the pipeline, its costs are about 7 times higher than in UK, making it detrimental to the interests of India’s already debt-ridden & cash-strapped telcos.

Global availability and local manufacturing of 5G hardware is another popping issue. The Department of Telecommunication has tightened rules governing the procurement of telecom equipment due to concerns over national security. While most of our Customer service points (CSP) have been dependent on the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) of China, it has been alleged that the equipment sourced by China has loopholes that can be exploited to enable surveillance by the Chinese government. This has made the launch of this technology in India vulnerable to the 5G hardware requirements.

No doubt, 5G data waves can carry more data with higher performance, but they can’t carry it over long distances. So, it will use many small cells in the form of small versions of large towers and new tricks like beamforming to efficiently aim transmissions. Signal interference between 5G and airlines or the defense sector is another area of concern. The fear is that the signal emitted by 5G’s C-Band, the most suitable spectrum range for 5G as it provides faster connectivity than its predecessor 4G, will interfere with the signals given by the aircraft’s altimeter, thus impacting operations during low visibility and bad weather conditions. However, this concern is not specific to India as recently even the American aviation ministry had to cancel more than 25 flights due to the potential harm to its passengers because of the 5G transmissions. 

Even with the challenges and limitations that the new technology brings with it, 5G still has the potential to accentuate India’s growth story. When compared to the existing 4G technology, 5G offers three key abilities. The first is high bandwidth. While 4G could muster only 200 megabits per second of data, 5G extends beyond 1GB enabling the technology to open new ways of working in areas such as manufacturing, gaming, media, automotive, and healthcare, thus allowing both increased productivity and completely new user experiences. It would also facilitate VR and AR applications which would pave the way for a completely new virtual world, something along the lines of Metaverse. All the economic activities, entertainment or recreational activities in the form of theatres, concerts, hanging out with friends, going on a vacation, or the corporate world with big business houses, manufacturing setups, and shops, all of this would be available in the virtual world. This would be a revolutionary opportunity for the big corporations to monetise on the dynamic consumer demands and their preferences. Secondly, 5G reduces latency rate to a response delay of 1 millisecond, as against a 100 milliseconds of response delay in 4G technology. As a result, it would open a lot of new possibilities in the field of telemedicine, smart buildings, and automated factories. Facilitating cars to interact with each other, pedestrians, and traffic signals to prevent collisions and accidents through automation is another exciting offering of 5G. Lastly, 5G offers dense connections, so much so that it can manage ten times the number of devices that 4G could. This would thus transform the way individuals connect with everything and each other. It would also impact industries such as the focus on safer transportation and e-banking systems.

The coming of 5G to India is going to be a catalyst for the digital revolution in India. Today, everything is slowly moving towards Information technology-enabled services which makes the use of 5G indispensable. It is believed that India’s digital economy fueled by 5G would reach USD 1 trillion by the year 2025, driven by the increased proliferation of smartphones, increased internet penetration, growth of mobile broadband, growth of data, and social media. In addition to promoting ‘Digital India’, 5G would also benefit ‘The Make in India’ campaign as well as the ‘Self-Reliant India’ initiative. The ban on foreign OEMs would encourage and boost the local hardware manufacturing including fiber cables and towers.

The time for 5G has come. 5G wireless technology has the potential to change everything. While India took 6 and 4 years to launch 3G and 4G respectively after the global launch, India is just a year behind this time with 5G. How the future with 5G turns out to be is something that we all need to look forward to now!


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