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Is India Ready for 5G

Saurav Jha

In several industrialized countries, leading telecom players have already started conducting field trials and testing the fifth-generation wireless communication network (5G). Most of these players aim to launch 5G networks commercially in 2020. But India is one of the countries where the telecom players are planning to field test 5G technology. Also, the Government of India is yet to allocate and auction the 5G spectrum. Is India ready for 5G? We have analyzed some facts and figures so that we can understand better.

Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts that 18% of mobile subscribers in India will switch from 4G to 5G by 2025. 

According to the Financial Express,

Even though India is yet to commence 5G services, Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson maintained that by 2025, 18% of the mobile subscriptions in the country would be 5G while 4G would continue to dominate with 64% share.

Many strategists and analysts believe that preparedness is the key to successful 5G deployment and commercial implementation. 

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has already formed a high-level forum with the objective to “Position India as a globally synchronised participant in the Design, Development and Manufacturing of 5G based technologies, products and applications.” But we can assess if India is ready for 5G based on the key information collected from diverse sources.

Is India Ready for 5G? Assessing India’s Preparedness to roll out 5G Networks

Government Delays Spectrum Auction

The DoT was expected to auction 5G spectrum in June 2020. But DoT has postponed the 5G spectrum auction to the October-December quarter of the fiscal year. 

According to the Telegraph India, “The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to push spectrum auctions to October-December quarter of the current fiscal due to the Covid-19 or coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown in the country.” 

However, many analysts believe that the DoT postponed the auction of the 5G spectrum due to financial stress experienced by the telecom industry.

Striking the Right 5G Partnerships

In addition to banning Huawei from 5G rollout, the DoT is reportedly phasing out Huawei equipment from its networks. After banning Huawei, the Government of India will exercise caution while partnering and collaborating with foreign companies for 5G rollout. The DoT has to choose a partner who addresses the data security concerns and keeps the cost low. India has to partner with companies from democratic countries to keep the 5G deployment process open and transparent. But the DoT will take some time to choose a partner who is reliable and trustworthy.

Jio Announced Its Own 5G Solutions

In July 2020, Mukesh Ambani announced Jio’s 5G solution which is ready for field trial and field deployment once the DoT allocates the 5G spectrum. Jio is one of the Indian telecom companies whose existing telecom network is ready for 5G. Also, Reliance Industries have adequate resources to set up an indigenous 5G infrastructure to upgrade its existing networks for 5G. Jio further plans to launch smartphones to compliment the commercial rollout of 5G. But Jio can conduct field trials of its 5G solution only after it purchases 5G spectrums in the third quarter of the fiscal year.

Airtel Collaborates with Non-Chinese Vendors to Launch 5G-Ready Network

In March, Bharti Airtel announced its collaboration with Cisco with the objective to launch India’s largest 5G-ready, 100G IP and optical integrated network. The collaboration will drive Airtel’s preparation for rolling out the 5G network by extending network capacity, availability, and scale. Cisco’s IP and optical solutions will help them to offer 5G services to rural communities at affordable prices. At the same time, Airtel is reportedly forming partnerships with European vendors like Nokia and Ericsson to start 5G field trials in Bangalore and Kolkata.

Tools and Solutions to Validate 5G Devices and Networks

In addition to being 10 times faster than 4G networks, 5G networks will be more complex. Also, telecom operators can leverage OpenRAN architecture to build 5G networks by integrating hardware and software components built by various vendors. They need next-generation test automation tools to validate the 5G networks.

We, at Simnovus , a Bangalore-based startup, help telecom operators to test and validate 5G networks by launching innovative solutions like UE Simulator and NW emulator. Such solutions will help network operators and device manufacturers to prepare for rapid 5G device testing and network testing.

Other Important Initiatives to Build 5G Ecosystem in India

A report prepared by Deloitte and sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) highlights some of the progressive steps taken by government agencies and private enterprises to build a 5G ecosystem in India. These steps help us understand how India is preparing to adopt and roll out 5G networks on a mass scale.

  • The DoT encourages research and development (R&D) through development to standard formulation, intellectual property rights, and proof of concepts.
  • The telecom companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should collaborate to conduct field trials and feasibility study of 5G together.
  • The DoT and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) have been working on introducing a fresh Spectrum Management Framework. The overhauled framework will focus extensively on 5G spectrum auction and allocation.
  • The Government of India aims to increase the country’s fiber backbone to 2.5 million kilometers by 2022. The strengthened fiber backbone will facilitate and accelerate commercial deployment of 5G on a mass scale.
  • The DoT plans to incentivize startups and businesses to collaborate and form partnerships to launch 5G-based products and services.

The Ericsson Mobility Reports predicts that 18% of mobile subscribers in India will switch from 4G to 5G by 2025. But India is yet to start 5G spectrum allocation and conduct 5G field trials. As preparedness is the key to successful 5G deployment, we must consider a variety of information to assess India’s preparedness for 5G deployment.

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