5G : Features & Issues – UPSC GS3

  • At the first virtual India Mobile Congress, the PM gave a clarion call for the use of 5G technology to empower millions of Indians.
Features of 5G Technology:
  • Millimeter wave spectrum: The 5G networks will operate in the millimeter wave spectrum (30-300 GHz) which have the advantage of sending large amounts of data at very high speeds because the frequency is so high, it experiences little interference from surrounding signals.
  • Upgraded LTE: 5G is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • Internet speed: In the high-band spectrum of 5G, internet speeds have been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second) as compared to the maximum internet data speed in 4G recorded at 1 Gbps.
  • Bands in 5G: 5G mainly work in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.
    • Low band spectrum: It has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange however the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
    • Mid-band spectrum: It offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
    • High-band spectrum: It has the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.
Hurdles in Rolling Out 5G Technology:
  • Enabling critical infrastructures: 5G will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system. The major flaw of data transfer using 5G is that it can’t carry data over longer distances. Hence, even 5G technology needs to be augmented to enable infrastructure.
  • Financial liability on consumers: For transition from 4G to 5G technology, one has to upgrade to the latest cellular technology, thereby creating financial liability on consumers.
  • Capital Inadequacy: Lack of flow of cash and adequate capital with the suitable telecom companies (like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea) is delaying the 5G spectrum allocation.
Utility of 5G Applications:
  • Combined with IoT, cloud, big dataAI, and edge computing, 5G could be a critical enabler of the fourth industrial revolution.
5G Enabling Policy:
  • India’s National Digital Communications Policy 2018 highlights the importance of 5G when it states that the convergence of a cluster of revolutionary technologies including 5G, the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics, along with a growing start-up community, promise to accelerate and deepen its digital engagement, opening up a new horizon of opportunities.
  • It aims to reach 100% tele density, high-speed internet highways and delivery of citizen-centric services electronically.
Global Progress on 5G:
  • Global telecom companies have already started building 5G networks and rolling it out to their customers in many countries:
  • 5G had been deployed in 50 cities in the United States.
  • South Korea has rolled out 5G to 85 cities.
  • Japan and China have too started 5G mobile service on a trial basis.
What should be done for an effective and timely roll out of 5G technology in India?
  • Lower the reserve price for the forthcoming auction:
    • Current reserve price is high as compared to other countries.
  • Divided industry should work together: 
    • While Jio is in a hurry to ride 5G
    • Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are opposed to the Rs492-crore per megahertz reserve price for 5G spectrum.
  • Measures to be taken by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI):
    • It should take another look at the 5G draft to align it with the changing requirements.
    • Taking steps to help the consumers as done by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) where it stopped a leading private bank from adding new customers for credit card and halted the lender’s digital service expansion.
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