Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

5G network in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : 5G and its comparison to 4G and 3G

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Recently the Union Communications Minister has announced that the government will be holding an auction for spectrum, which includes airwaves that will be used to offer 5G or fifth-generation services.
  • While some countries such as South Korea and the U.S. have begun rolling out commercial 5G services, India is yet to begin trials for.
  • India is targeting 2020 as the launch year for 5G in the country.

What is 5G?

  • It is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra low latency.
  • A government panel report points out that with 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabits per second (Gbps).
  • This is in contrast to 4G link speeds in averaging 6-7 Megabits per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.
  • Once 5G becomes commercial, users will be required to change their current devices in favour of 5G-enabled ones.
  • However, it is likely that the primary use of the technology will go beyond delivery of services on personal mobiles devices.

Utility of 5G

  • 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine communications.
  • It would be supporting a much larger range of applications and services, including driverless vehicles, tele-surgery and real time data analytics.
  • One of the primary applications of 5G will be implementation of sensor-embedded network that will allow real time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
  • 5G can also help make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart.
  • 5G will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
  • The ultra low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases. Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.

Economic impact

  • 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, according to a report by a government-appointed panel.
  • According to a separate report by telecom gear maker Ericsson, 5G-enabled digitalization revenue potential in India will be above $27 billion by 2026.
  • Additionally, global telecom industry GSMA has forecast that India will have about 70 million 5G connections by 2025.

What about spectrum auction?

  • The government plans to undertake spectrum auction in the current calendar year.
  • In a first step towards preparing for these auctions, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had in August last year recommended that entire available spectrum be put to auction in the forthcoming sale.
  • As a result a total of 8,644 MHz of spectrum will be put on sale, making it the largest ever such auction.
  • For 5G spectrum, i.e. the spectrum in 3300-3600 MHz which will be put out for bids for the first time, the regulator has recommended a pan-India reserve price of about Rs. 492 crore per MHz for unpaired spectrum.

Needs infrastructural revamp

  • Besides the spectrum, 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system.
  • Simply upgrading the existing Long Term Evolution core will not be able to support the various requirements of all 5G use cases.
  • A report on 5G by Deloitte stated that it is anticipated that the industry might require an additional investment of $60-70 billion to seamlessly implement 5G networks.
  • With the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies (2G, 3G and 4G) will continue to remain in use and that it may take 10 or more years to phase them out.

Way forward

  • It is widely accepted that 5G’s value for India may be even higher than in advanced countries because of the lower levels of investments in physical infrastructure.
  • 5G may offer ‘leapfrog’ opportunities by providing ‘smart infrastructure’ that offers lower cost and faster infrastructure delivery.
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