Sunday, August 2, 2020

5G Technology for Next-Gen Revolution And Current India’s Telco Situation

Evolution to 5G :

Every new generation delivers faster communication and more functionality to wireless mobile phones. 1G brought to us the first cell phone which was completely analog and voice based communication only.

The first digital communication technology was 2G that enabled us to text for the first time. 3G brought internet connectivity to the phones for the first time which made us online. The more and more demand for data brought the next generation which is 4G delivering high speed data that we enjoy today.

5G Revolution In India

Introduction to Wireless:

First we must understand that in wireless, the resources that a wireless communication user uses for communication are the frequency carriers(or frequency bands).The frequency bands can be imagined as roads and the data or the voice communication can be imagined as traffic flow through those roads. Wider the frequency band more the data can flow and at high speed. 

Each mobile  user or the application user utilizes a specific band for uplink (Upload) or downlink(Download) communication with the network. However as more users come online, 4G is now becoming just capable of handling such a huge traffic. Now not only mobile devices but also other devices (IoT applications) are becoming prevalent to connect to the Internet. The applications on the mobile phones are generating huge amounts of data traffic by various OTT applications and hence the spectrum is becoming more and more crowded. We all might have heard the term “Data is the new Oil”. Yes that’s true is true. The companies and the organisations are now becoming more data-driven to drive their business. Thus the traditional voice business of the telco-operators is now getting less importance over the period of time.   

Need for next-gen 5G technology business:

5G is becoming a necessity for now as we need to open spectrum in order to cater the needs of increasing data demands from wireless traffic.  The 5G is projected to be upto 10 times faster than the current 4G/LTE network. In simple terms we can imagine that in 4G we need 7 min to download a HD movie, then in case of 5G it would just require upto 6-7 seconds. Also the latency or the time to connect to the network will be as fast as 1 millisecond for 5G.  It is often described as ultra reliable low latency communication (URLLC) technology.

Mobile data usage:

The global total mobile data traffic is projected to reach around 38 exabytes per month by the end of 2020 and is projected to grow 4 times per month in 2025. It is predicted that over 6 billion people will consume data using smartphones, laptops and a series of new IoT devices in the next 5 to 6 years from now. By 2025, 500 million additional smartphone users are expected in India. In the recent past, the average monthly data usage per user equipment has seen an extraordinary increase becoming highest in the world. This is because of the low prices for the mobile broadband services, affordable smartphones and users viewing habits in India. 

Source: TRAI Mobile Data Usage

Spectrum utilization

4G is characterised by the LTE or Long term evolution of network architecture which is the first flat IP architecture and packet switched network. However 5G technology will follow the same pattern but it is known for NR(New Radio) i.e the new range of spectrum that is to be opened up for various applications and use cases. As discussed previously, there is a dire need for new spectrum to be made available as more and more devices are on boarded to the network. In simple terms,5G deployment is an evolution of 4G that builds on spectrum assets. 5G is broadly divided into two spectrum regions:

5G Revolution
5G Revolution: Spectrum Regions

1)FR1 (sub6Ghz) or <6 Ghz : The maximum channel bandwidth is defined to be 100 Mhz in this band as this range is overcrowded by various existing ongoing technologies and its traffic. It has been decided to auction 3.3-4.4 Ghz of this band for 5G use. 

2)FR2(mmWave) or >24Ghz : This is the most underutilized band and the researchers are currently in the process to maximize the potential for this range. This range has been defined by 3GPP (Third generation Partnership Project) , a standardization body for telecom generations as a millimetre wave(mmWave) range. This band has the potential to carry huge data traffic with extremely low latency and high throughput.

So, here comes a question, if millimetre wave frequency is able to deliver huge data rates then why still use sub-6Ghz for 5G communications ?  The answer to the question is quite simple. The high frequency waves do  not carry long distances. These frequencies can be absorbed merely by any obstacle like trees, buildings etc. These frequency ranges are capable for short range communication and to establish communication for a particular geographical area, large numbers of antennas need to be installed at very short distances which would increase capital expenditure.  

The 5G services will be a good mixture of coverage and capacity for the end users. The 5G will utilize sub 6 Ghz frequency for traditional mobile communication. Also it will open the opportunities of mmWave range frequency for the other potential applications and use cases like Autonomous vehicles, wearable device communication, IoT applications etc. 

5G Use Cases

With the rapid development in standardization of 5G  technology, companies have already started to explore the business opportunities in various sectors. Due to immense opportunities that could be opened by 5G, it is projected that Telecom companies will earn 70% of their net revenue from these opportunities and only 30% from their traditional business. Following are the few use cases that can be explored in various sectors with the help of 5G:

Autonomous vehicles : With the advent of high speed data connectivity in 5G, vehicles could be connected to one another , interact with traffic signals, see around corners and accordingly make decisions autonomously without human interventions. There is a standard that is being widely discussed called ,CV2X (Cellular vehicle to everything) communication that will eventually use 5G technology for this purpose. China has made progress in giving dedicated 5G bands for this purpose. However western countries like the US/UK are still in progress about this opportunity. The 1milli-second delay of 5G, which is extremely low plays a crucial role for this to happen which is about 30-40 milliseconds for the existing 4G.

Home Automation : With the help of smart connected in-house devices through IoT, we can leverage maximum potential for automation in 5G. The smartly connected home appliances can be monitored and be controlled using mobile applications remotely. For that each appliance needs to be connected to the 5G network.

Industry Automation or Industry 4.0 : The current manufacturing industry is in immense pressure to improve product quality, efficiency , safety, security and sustainability and to stay ahead in the market in terms of profitability and revenue. The 5G enabled with IoT would help in autonomous regulation , flood the processes with sensors and actuators that require ultra low latency and reliable wireless connection to drive RPA(Robotic Process Automation) processes and reduce human labour in repetitive tasks.

Connected Wearables: The 5G technology will fuel the future of wearable devices by connecting them to each other. In wearables, 5G will bring real-time tracking, more precision and accuracy, data driven analytics into our health and goals. With 5G connectivity, wearables will be able to compute more, require less monitoring, and constantly add more features to their devices by leveraging automation and AI capabilities.  

Healthcare: With the help of high speed connectivity, the doctors and the nurses would be able to perform remote robotic surgery and monitor patient’s health in real time. This requires very high precision which could be made possible in future with the help of 5G ultra-reliable low latency communication technology. Also, if something unusual happens to a patient's health like sudden drop in blood pressure, body not responding to the prescribed dose of medication, the connected wearables could inform everyone involved in his/her medical treatment in real time.

5G in India

5G networks were expected to be launched in India by late 2020 but now due to various factors it is delayed and could  be launched by mid or end of 2021. The telecom regulatory authority of India(TRAI) ,regulatory body for telecommunications in India, has recommended that the spectrum available for 5G services would be 3300 to 3400 Mhz and 3425 to 3600 Mhz bands for mid band range. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended a base price of 5G airwaves at Rs 492 crore per Mhz of spectrum and has proposed a sale of a minimum 20 MHz blocks. This means that a telco operator would be spending close to Rs 10K crore for 20MHz. The Telecom operators lack the cash flow for such a high auction price. Moreover the telecom companies have previous spectrum liabilities and the fees that need to be recovered. Owing to these reasons, Vodafone-Idea & Airtel are expected to participate in 5G auction in the limited manner. However Reliance Jio had expressed its concerns about the huge 5G spectrum prices.

For the Indians to take the advantage of 5G, they need to have 5G enabled phones and the operators need the spectrum license and 5G equipment to deploy in the network. Though the 5G mobile equipment is hitting the Indian markets, the 5G spectrum and network deployment is going to take time as far as India is concerned.  

Shreyas Vikas Joshi
Master of Technology(MTech),
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

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  1. Wow nice interpretation
    Aprup Adawadkar

  2. Thank you kaka . Hope it is interpretative to general audience

  3. Very detailed and informative article Shreyas. Very nice, keep it up.

  4. Nice detailed information 👍

  5. Very nice, very well organised & informative.
    Keep it going..
    Awaiting few more on IoT,AI & ML.