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How will a 5G Network power the future? [Mains Article]

With over 300 million in the Indian middle class living in urban areas, a variety of 5G business models for new services are likely to be successful. However, the economically weaker sections of the population will need special help to benefit from 5G technologies.
By IT's Mains Articles Team
August 01, 2019


  • Introduction
  • What is 5G?
  • How is 5G different from previous generations?
  • Applications of 5G
  • 5G requirement
  • Priorities for India in 5G
  • How can 5G contribute to growth and development in India?
  • Challenges
  • Suggestions
  • Background
  • Way Ahead

How will a 5G Network power the future?

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  • The Union Communications Minister has announced that the government will be holding auction for spectrum, including airwaves that will be used to offer 5G or fifth-generation services in 2019.


What is 5G?

  • 5G is the fifth generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra-low latency.

How is 5G different from previous generations?


  • 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz, but 5G uses extremely high frequencies in the range of 30 GHz to 300 GHz range.
  • 5G is 20 times faster than 4G, from the peak speed perspective.
  • 5G has a minimum peak download speed of 20 Gbps while 4G has just 1 Gbps.
  • With 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabit per second (Gbps) while it is 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in 4G.

Applications of 5G

  • One of the primary applications of 5G will be implementation of sensor-embedded network.
  • Sensor-embedded network, will allow real time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
  • 5G will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
  • Lower latency and lesser outage scenarios for 5G would allow use cases such as automated driving and telemedicine to flourish.

5G requirement:

  • ITU-Radio, one of the three sectors of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), defined a series of requirements for 5G.
  • 3GPP has proposed three main technology categories and corresponding use cases for the 5G. 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) unites Seven telecommunications standard development organizations (including India).

5G requirement IASToppers

eMBB – Enhanced Mobile Broadband:

  • This category supports ultra-highspeed connection indoors and outdoors, with uniform quality of service, even at the cell edge. These services should also support high user mobility on highways, trains and aircraft.
  • Outdoor data rates up to 2 Gbps and indoor of up to 20 Gbps are envisaged.

mMTC – Massive Machine Type Communications:

  • The objective of this category is to provide very high density of connectivity where a single Base Station can support 10,000 or more devices.
  • This category offers many applications like smart cities, smart power grids, smart-farms to mention a few.

uRLLC – Ultra-reliable and Low Latency Communications:

  • This category has stringent requirements such as latency of less than one milli-second.
  • This technology opens a brand new dimension to the application of wireless networks such as tactile Internet, emergency response, intelligent transportation, etc.

Priorities for India in 5G:

The three priorities for India in 5G are

  • Deployment – rolling out early, efficient and pervasive 5G networks to maximize the value offered by this new technology
  • Technology – building India’s industrial and R&D capacity in the design and IP dimensions of 5G
  • Manufacturing – expanding the manufacturing base in 5G for both semiconductor fabrication as well as assembly & test plants.

How can 5G contribute to growth and development in India?


  • The 5G technology will extend the use of wireless technologies to new sectors of the economy from industrial to commercial, educational, health care, agricultural, financial and social sectors.
  • It is predicted that with 5G-enabled digitalisation revenue potential in India will be above $27 billion by 2026.
  • 5G is also expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035.

Smart Infrastructure:

  • 5G will offer leapfrog opportunities by providing ‘smart infrastructure’ that offers lower cost and faster infrastructure delivery. A good example of this leap frog effect, in the past, was in telephony.
  • A more recent example of a leapfrog effect is ride sharing made possible by wireless internet access on 4G smart phones. Shared ride hailing services have transformed the infrastructure efficiencies in utilization of shared cars, autos and motor cycles.

Vehicle Platooning:

  • 5G will enable ‘vehicle platooning’, a technology that exploits 5G’s low latency communication capability to pack vehicles into platoons with low inter-vehicle spacing despite travelling at high speeds. Platooning can double vehicle density in roads.


  • In manufacturing, 5G will enable use of robotics for precision manufacturing, particularly where humans cannot perform these functions safely or with the necessary precision.
  • 5G can also enable better logistics to track goods from raw materials to product delivery and improved sharing of expensive design and manufacturing resources across the country.


  • In agriculture, 5G can enable improvement in the entire value-chain, from precision farming, smart irrigation, improved soil and crop monitoring, to livestock management.

Energy sector:

  • In the energy sector, ‘smart grids’ and ‘smart metering’ can be efficiently supported enabling growth of alternate energy technologies.
  • With the rise of renewable and storage technologies, low latency communications will be critical to manage these grids.

Health care:

  • In health-care, 5G can enable more effective tele-medicine delivery, tele-control of surgical robotics and wireless monitoring of vital statistics.


5G Networks Are Limited in Range

  • Due to the type of signal a 5G cell tower transmits, its reach is severely limited to devices in close proximity.
  • 5G networks are operating on high radio frequencies called millimetre waves, and even though it has the benefit of being able to carry lots of data the network is limited in range.
  • Therefore, data transferred through these types of 5G networks is more easily blocked by common objects like trees and buildings.

Spectrum Needs to Be Auctioned or Purchased

  • Before a telecom provider can pay for a section of the spectrum, international authorities have to agree on which parts of the spectrum can be used for mobile communications.
  • The complete process of auctioning and purchasing of spectrum in India will take time.

India’s defence and space departments claim large part of 5G airwaves



  • In India, the only band identified for 5G spectrum is under the 3.3-3.6GHz band, which has 300MHz of airwaves available.
  • India’s defence and space departments have together sought 125MHz out of the 300MHz marked for 5G services.
  • This will reduce the spectrum available for commercial use and potentially driving up auction prices.
  • According to The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), without adequate spectrum at reasonable prices, the auction will fail to garner industry interest.

Debt-laden industry will be burdened

  • Auctioning insufficient spectrum will only further burden the already debt-laden industry with higher costs as it will create artificial scarcity causing the prices to rise.
  • Indian operators have far less spectrum in comparison to international operators which will increase their cost of operations.


Large number of Spectrum Bands:

  • The Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC) Wing, department of telecom should make available a large number of spectrum bands and large parts of spectrum per operator which is a requirement of 5G within this band.
  • Harmonizing these bands globally would allow Indian operators to exploit the benefits of lower cost of equipment.

Cheap Spectrum Bands

  • The cost of spectrum relative to per capita GDP is high. It is important that India builds a more favourable spectrum policy in the 5G era.
  • The WPC should refrain spectrum from those government departments and ministries that are currently not using it for future applications.
  • To mitigate the effects of high auction prices, innovative licensing arrangements, including mechanisms to share spectrum, should be worked out in the Indian context.

Mandatory switch-over

  • A mandatory switch-over from analogue to digital transmission for all users will lead to lower spectrum usage for existing applications and this will increase the amount of available spectrum.

Delicensing new bands

  • In addition to making more spectrum available in the licensed bands, there is a need to make spectrum available by delicensing new bands. Delicensing is possible for applications that are designed for low power emissions and, thus, reduce interference.
  • Because delicensed band is free, greater innovation and low cost delivery are possible, Wi-Fi is an example of such an application in the delicensed band.
  • The adopted road map for 5G should ensure that the existing and near-future investments in 4G can be leveraged, since 5G roll-outs are likely even before 4G is extensively deployed.

Technology Demonstration and Major Trials

  • The major global Original Equipment Manufacturers should be invited to conduct major 5G trials in India in collaboration with local partners.

Education and Awareness Promotion Program

  • There is a need to Attract global 5G conference events to India, set up national 5G events and create a comprehensive skills development program.

Applications and Use Case Labs

  • Since 5G will support many applications, deeper and faster deployment in India can greatly benefit from the setting up of Applications and Use Case Labs.

Participation in International Standards

  • Short term initiatives like setting up ‘Standards Project Teams’ should be taken along with consistent participation to participate in standards activities in Telecommunication systems.

Implementation and Oversight

  • There is need to create Committee recommends creating a 5G Program Office within DoT and an Oversight Committee.


  • Wireless-technology-evolution IASToppers
  • In India, the first experimental wireless telegraphy links were demonstrated as early as 1902.
  • A Department of Wireless Telegraph was created soon thereafter, and wireless telegraphy came into routine use in Calcutta in 1908.
  • The first mobile phone service was launched in 1985 on a non-commercial basis, but it was only in 1995 that commercial service was started.
  • The initial subscriber growth was modest, however new policy initiatives, beginning 2007, spurred rapid growth with the subscriber base reaching 560 million in 2009 and well over a billion by 2017.
  • Early deployment of mobile networks was based on 2G technology, with 3G technology entering service in 2010 and 4G in 2016.
  • All mobile services from 2G to 4G offered services based on increasingly advanced phones, with smart phones arriving about a decade ago.
  • 2G and the early 3G networks primarily offered voice services, but beginning with later 3G and now 4G technologies, the networks provide internet based services like video, email, and social media.
  • 4G networks now serve 240 million subscribers in urban areas across the country.
  • Long-Term Evolution (LTE) coverage in rural areas remains a challenge. 4G link speeds in India are picking up, averaging 6-7 Mbps as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.

Way Ahead

  • The ever evolving generations of technology and forthcoming 5G require a supportive policy and regulatory environment thus the diverse requirements of 5G also calls for significant changes in the national spectrum policy and regulation.
  • 5G may have only limited commercial viability in the short term, as 4G penetration is still low in India.
  • The role of wired infrastructure, especially fibre optic cables, is critical and complementary to growth of wireless, because very large capacities are required in the backhaul to cater to applications enabled through 5G.
  • This would entail accelerating the BharatNet programme for deploying fibre optic cables to gram panchayats and increasing the involvement of the private sector to exploit complementarities and efficiencies of the private sector.


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