– Jay Chen, CEO, Huawei India

5G train is at the station
5G is closer than you think

Some of the world’s top mobile operators are working hard to roll out 5G. In case of India, the Government has a focused intent on having an early, efficient and pervasive deployment of 5G, in time with global deployments. The Government is working on strategic initiatives like Smart Cities Mission and Digital India. 5G will be central in achieving these government-backed initiatives. Developing the Industrial IoT through India’s Make in India campaign, and capitalizing on India’s strong IT sector are also drivers of 5G development.

Yet skeptics maintain that 5G’s benefits – low latency and super-fast speeds – are still a long way off. Yes, vendor and operator marketing have kicked into high gear as everyone vies to be seen as a 5G leader. But that doesn’t mean the technology is a distant dream. In fact, the 5G train has left the station and is on its way to a town or city near you.
Critics who say 5G has been overhyped are overlooking a salient fact: the 5G train will not come all at once. Instead, it will arrive one train car at a time.

Car number one, which has arrived in India is 5G Steering Committee’s report to DoT that defines a high level vision which calls for early adoption of 5G so that India is able to embrace 5G benefits and increase opportunities to develop innovative country-specific use cases that support local market needs. The report shows the GOI’s strong commitment to timely, efficient and pervasive deployment of 5G mobile networks in India. The Operators in India are also already adopting pre-5G technologies. They are testing and exploring innovative technologies that will offer considerable commercial values such as Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output); CloudAIR enabling cloudification and dynamic sharing of spectrum; NB-IoT, NFV, SDN and end-to-end network transformation.

The second 5G train car will arrive when 5G devices hit the market sometime in next year. To give superior experience to users having 5G capable devices, operators will need to add 5G functionality to their base stations, at least in the most populous areas. In India initial 5G deployment is expected to happen in 3.3GHz – 3.6GHz (C-Band). Many other countries across the globe also plan to use C-Band for initial deployment of 5G. C-Band is already perceived to be the global band for 5G.

The third 5G train car will arrive by 2020, with the Government and industry strengthening the fiber infrastructure in India to 2.5 million kilometers from current 1.5 million kilometers. This will ensure operators are prepared for speedier content-heavy 5G services. The high-speed and low latency service will further boost the Govt’s Digital India vision, which aims to accelerate internet access, speed and penetration, and the Smart Cities projects.

The ultra-low latency of 1 milliseconds or less will further enable critical machine-type communications. These are the technologies behind all those futuristic applications like driverless cars and remote surgery that one witnesses at trade shows. Significant changes will be needed to support such ultra-low latency, so widespread deployment of these applications will indeed take time. Expect this technology to be deployed selectively, for specific applications that require a high level of performance.

Among these technologies, the wild card is augmented reality (AR), which, along with virtual reality (VR), requires both high speed and ultra-low latency. If some innovative company starts selling a device that provides an especially compelling AR experience – one that strikes the proper balance between usefulness and cool – then a mad rush of network upgrades could well follow. This happened when the iPhone first hit the market, and network equipment vendors are anxiously waiting for it to happen again.

All of this means that, naysayers notwithstanding, the 5G train has left the station. Anyone with a Gigabit-LTE enabled phone can get an advanced ride on the express train as the 5G upgrades happen over the next year or two. The remaining cars are in motion and will arrive in turn.

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