The Department of Telecommunications has recently given permissions to Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to conduct trials for use of 5G technology. The TSPs have been advised to test 5G technology throughout the country including rural and semi-urban areas. 5G technology will supposedly improve user experience in terms of downloading rates (10 times more than 4G), up to three times greater spectrum efficiency, and ultra-low latency.
According to latest reports, Bharti Airtel is working with TATA Group to develop a 5G technology, Reliance Jio has also joined forces with Google Cloud for its 5G solutions. Jio is working to develop 5G trials in Mumbai and Airtel was able to deliver an output of over 1 Gbps speed in Hyderabad.
In the coming few months, the Telecom Regulatory authority of India is likely to hold auctions for the 5G spectrum in India. The Standing Committee on Information Technology was informed that 5G will come out in India to some extent for specified purposes only, by December 2021 or early 2022.
- Lack of Government Incentives: It is expected that the Government will not be providing great incentives and subsidies, given the ongoing fiscal deficits and history of the government to set high reserve prices at spectrum auctions.
- Technological disparity: 5G will create technological disparity among the rural and urban areas in the short term as it will not be easily available in rural areas.
- Limited use of 5G: 5G will be a niche function unlike 3G and 4G which were extensive services. It will get prevalent over a comparatively longer period of time. The introduction of 5G technology will be different from the one seen in 4G as it will be introduced in certain specified sectors and areas only.
- Destabilized 4G Network: The consumers are still coping with basic network issues like interrupted calls and data services. There are still regions where 4G networks have not completely stabilised causing frequent disturbances in internet services. It is important for telecom companies to match the quality of service parameters of existing 4G networks before introducing a new 5G platform.
- Expensive Infrastructure: 5G will require a significant change to the core functionality of the communication system. As per reports, it is understood that 5G technology cannot carry information over long distances.Hence, extensive renovation of the existing infrastructure is required to set up a stable network for 5G internet, which is likely to take huge investment from the telecom companies. Most of the telecom companies are still struggling to recover the investment made in 4G technology, and with the government giving negligible incentives to set up 5G network, it does not make much financial sense for telecom service providers to make such huge investment in 5G technology.
- Difficulty in transition: The transition from 4G to 5G technology will require the consumer to upgrade to the latest cellular technology, thereby creating financial liability on consumers and giving them lesser motivation to switch to 5G.
Harmonious Way Forward
- Balancing rural areas: As per reports, 5G can be installed at different bandwidths. Telecom companies can deploy low band spectrum which goes much longer distances than high band spectrum allowing rural areas to participate in the growth of 5G technology.
- Control prices: The government has complete control over the inputs. One of the key inputs of 5G is the band spectrum. By managing the design of the spectrums, the government can control the price to be paid by the people. The government should support the telecom companies to introduce networks which are sustainable and affordable for the public.
- Exorbitant prices: The government recently had two failed 5G spectrum auctions. Both the auctions failed to attract any bids in the 5G spectrum. The current proposals of the government for the reserving price clearly indicate the need to change the prices in order to conduct a successful auction. The pricing will have to be determined keeping in mind the financial viability in the sector and accessibility of services.
- Domestic telecommunication: As 5G starts taking shape in India, it is important to strengthen its domestic telecommunication manufacturing market so that it is not only the users of 5G in India, but also the manufacturers and providers of these technologies who will be able to make a mark in the global arena.
- Viable Technology from Consumers’ Perspective: For widespread 5G installation, it needs to become financially viable otherwise rural integration will remain a dream. The 5G technology has to be viable to the telecom operators too.