Indian Telcos 5G field trial

  • Need of 5G in India
  • India gearing up for 5G
  • Huawei to participate in 5G trials


India is a large force within the international mobile business segment, with around 560 million distinctive subscribers at year end 2019– a figure which will grow considerably over the coming years to reach 600 million by 2021. Additionally, there's a strong emphasis on positioning the country as a world hub for production with the Indian government’s “Make In India” campaign. Next generation technologies like 5G coupled with the Internet of Things will play a crucial role in enhancing and enabling advances in this endeavour. 5G would create opportunities for huge business deployments of technologies like IoT, AI, RPA, AR/VR facilitating use cases across industries like automotive, media and recreation, healthcare, retail, producing, and agriculture amongst others. Furthermore, 5G use cases would have major application for initiatives like Smart Cities and will pave the way for additional widespread technology applications. Like the previous generations of mobile technology, 5G might have various impacts on people’s daily lives, no matter where they live. Betting on the various use cases and verticals, benefits might embody access and handiness to additional advanced attention and education; reduced pollution; potency in transportation; and increased capabilities to solve problems related to public safety. 5G can bring socio-economic growth to each corner of the nation creating a connected and digital society, acting as a core foundation for the fourth technological revolution, building on the size of billions of connected devices and network of vendors.

India gearing up for 5G

India is at the cusp of a digital revolution, supercharged by increasing broadband and web penetration, the Government’s specialised digitalisation plan and the increasing trend of technology adoption across industries. This revolution is probably going to get new growth avenues, boost industrial productivity and has the potential to remodel the socio-economic fabric of the country. In addition, 5G is expected to provide important network performance characteristics improvements over the previous generations due to its significantly lower latency period. It is expected to add various service dimensions to the traditional voice and information by enabling Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and advanced computer science applications.

The global 5G telecommunication market is continually transforming at a fast pace. 5G trials and its preparation within the market are key focus areas within the near term. Carrier air units expected to try for raising their network capabilities, provide enlarged services to their customers through network compaction and the use of little cells, establishing an additional fibre infrastructure and enhancing spectrum potency. All the integrated and wireless telecom operators are planning and investing in this next generation technology. More than one-fifth of the operators across 66 countries are already in the process of conducting field trials and testing for 5G. Moreover, it is expected that 3% of the network-based mobile service providers are likely to launch 5G network commercially by the year 2020.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) along with all the major Telcom operators and vendors are in discussion about the roadmap for 5G trials in the country, with the spectrum allocation to take place in the near term. 5G trials in India were first scheduled for January 2019 but were delayed due to pricing and tenure. Large economies like the US, South Korea and China, among other major countries are ahead on 5G trials, with India facing its own set of challenges. The monetary and infrastructure requirements set by DoT will go up to INR 800 million for a single trial. 5G spectrum will be allotted to telecom operators for a period of six months, which shows a departure from the standard practice of one year. The quantum of spectrum for the trials will depend on test-use cases filed by the telecom operators in their applications. Besides the 3300-3600 MHz band, which has been earmarked for 5G services, operators have been allowed to use the 700 MHz and 26 GHz bands.

The major telecom players in India like Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and state owned BSNL have submitted their individual applications for 5G field trials with the telecommunication department. Two of the large giants, Vodafone Idea and Airtel have submitted their application with Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei and ZTE, while  Reliance Jio has submitted an associate application for the trials with South Korea’s Samsung, which is the only real gear merchant for its pan-India 4G network.

India allows Huawei to participate in 5G trials

India’s decision to let Huawei take part in 5G trials comes at a time when the country is battling intense pressure from the US. The North American nation has been nudging its allies and friendly countries to bar Huawei from 5G deployments, due to the security issues in its technology and citing the company’s alleged proximity to the Chinese government. China has on its half warned Asian nations of economic consequences if Huawei were to be excluded from 5G development and deployment. The Chinese government is pleased by India’s decision to allow Huawei for the 5G trials and stated that "Chinese companies still fancy the open, clear business atmosphere and level playing field in India for win-win cooperation." Huawei has also welcomed the Indian government’s call. The company has stated that, “We have full confidence in the Indian Government and our business partners with the simplest technology for India’s own brief profit and conjointly for cross-industry development. Huawei is committed to the Republic of India.”

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) represents all three non-state telecom operators- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio. The businesses are seeking clarity on Huawei’s participation on 5G with Bharti Airtel proposing that Huawei handle half of India’s 5G rollout. The company officials claimed that the gear maker’s 3G and 4G instrumentality was higher than that of European vendors.  It is expected that removing Huawei as a competitive supplier can lead to cost increases of between 14 and 42 percent in the prices of 5G radio network equipment which would impact the fast deployment of the country’s 5G networks. Small developing countries such as Bahrain and Cambodia have unreservedly embraced Huawei 5G stating that the costing of the company’s equipment is consistently cheaper than those of competitors such as Nokia and Ericsson.

Countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan along with the US are keeping Huawei out of 5G deployments, whereas others like France, the Netherlands, Russia and South Korea have allowed the Chinese equipment maker to participate. Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy and Indonesia are among those that are currently on the fence. Huawei's ability to produce cheap instrumentality in non-core sectors may be determined through this exercise.

We believe that there is a sense of urgency with respect to the arrival of 5G in India. While the plan is to have limited spectrum for 5G trials, operators have requested the regulator to make allowances for more spectrum for 5G services as there is no commercial launch expected till year end 2020. Each operator and vendor have to look at three scenarios for 5G trials—rural, semi-urban and urban use-cases and wish that the DoT allows more flexibility on this requirement. 5G services in India are probably going to be marred by additional sourness as the operators and vendors claimed that the taxing conditions set out by the government can turn the 5G trials into a pricey affair at a time when the industrial uses for the technology haven’t been established.

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