5G phones are already available in India but building the 5G networks they will work with is going to take time: The network operators must test the technology, acquire the necessary radio spectrum from India’s government in an auction, then invest in and build out the network infrastructure before they’re ready to offer service.
First of all, what is 5G?
When 5G mobile networks come to India, they will use a new radio technology and a different network architecture to deliver higher bandwidth and lower latency than 4G (LTE) and 3G networks we have today. 5G promises peak data speeds of up to 10 Gbps – up to 100 times faster than the 100 Mbps of 4G. Latency, a measure of the time it takes data to travel from the phone to the distant server, could be less than a millisecond in 5G networks, or 60-120 times better than 4G. (Real-world performance is likely to be substantially lower, however.)
To make the most of this high bandwidth and low latency will require computing resources close to the mobile device, so 5G could also be a contributing factor to the growth of the edge computing market. The ability of private 5G networks to coexist alongside private ones – or for public networks to be “sliced” into multiple virtual private networks – also makes the technology attractive in an enterprise context.
5G in India?
To explore how 5G networks will perform in the real world, and to gain experience in building and operating them, India’s network operators have applied to the government for permission to conduct field trials and selected one or more equipment vendors with which to collaborate. They are also enhancing their network cores to prepare for the additional traffic loads that 5G radio interfaces will carry.
Reliance Jio was the first to approach the Indian government to conduct 5G mobile network trials. Strategy head Anshuman Thakur said in September 2019 that Jio is ready for 5G and has the network and backhaul in place, needing only to make investments in spectrum and equipment. The company is also looking at startups to build its entire ‘suite of 5G offerings’ which includes smartphones and set-top boxes. Jio is also the only operator with all-IP network, an important requirement for launching 5G services, enabling the company to implement 5G smoothly. It will conduct 5G trials with Samsung, the supplier of its 4G network, and has said it will extend its partnerships for 5G trials to include Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia.
Airtel has said it will work with Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia on its trials. It has deployed 100 hops of 5G technology transmission equipment supplied by Huawei, improving its backhaul capacity by a factor of four, and has struck deals with Cisco and Ericsson to speed up its core network in readiness for 5G service.
Vodafone Idea will conduct its trials with Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia, and is already using 5G AI technology from Huawei to boost the capabilities of its 4G network.