This June 15 marked a footnote in India’s economic history when the government finally announced a timetable for the airwave auction that could usher in a telecommunications revolution. The initial rollout of 5G services, which will be about 10 times faster than 4G, could begin gradually from August.
The lucky thirteen
5G services will first be available in Chandigarh, Gurugram, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Jamnagar, Kolkata, Chennai, Lucknow, Pune and Mumbai.
But for mobile users, the news will bring two worries. According to the trend in the United States, if your mobile phone is more than a few years old, it will need to be upgraded to avoid losing service. In the United States, T-Mobile and Sprint services will be shut down by the end of June and Verizon 3G by December 31 to make way for 5G and other more advanced network services.
Also in India, mobile operators will have to shut down their 3G networks, which rely on older technology. As a result, many older cell phones will not be able to make or receive calls and texts, or use data services. This will affect 3G mobile phones and some older 4G mobile phones that do not support Voice over LTE (VoLTE or HD Voice). While 5G coverage is still limited and voice-enabled devices are not widely available at mass market prices, VoLTE will become the backbone of voice service in 5G in the coming years.
Since India is the jugad software capital, existing subscribers need not worry too much. The pesky callers of property dealers and loan sharks will soon be pushing for software upgrades in the telecommunications circles where 3G phones work.
However, they won’t be able to offer much support to 2G users, which is only offered by BSNL. A new phone will need to be purchased.
For more information about your mobile provider’s plans for 3G retirement and how you can prepare for it, contact your provider directly to free up spectrum and infrastructure to support new services, such as 5G. Similar transitions have happened before. For example, some mobile carriers shut down their 2G networks when they upgraded their networks to support 4G services. Mobile operators have the flexibility to choose the types of technologies and services they deploy, including when decommissioning older services in favor of newer ones to meet consumer demands.
The second concern will be affordability. Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) have had a rapid turnover rate in the Indian telecommunications market due to their over-enthusiasm in quoting astronomical sums for handheld frequencies. Few can forget the reversal of private entry into landlines by then-unknown Himachal Futuristic, which offered Rs 85,000 crore in 1994. The reversal of 2G licenses by the Supreme Court was not the only scandal that marked the books of accounts of telecommunications companies. There have been at least two cases where the Supreme Court has granted TSPs some exemption from paying astronomical amounts that they themselves quoted. If telecommunications services are affordable in India, it is not because of the political geniuses of the Sanchar Bhavan, but because instead of canceling their licenses, the government gave them some leeway to pay the license fees to the Plublic treasure.
As 5G operates in higher frequency bands that lack long-distance coverage, networks will need to be denser. Therefore, a crucial aspect that will add to operator costs is the cost of renting “street furniture” such as utility poles. Vodafone Idea and Airtel have lobbied for street furniture charges to be waived or greatly reduced from the existing Rs 1,000 per street furniture. The government has taken initiatives to reduce other costs incurred by TSPs. It has reduced the floor price of the radio wave auction by an average of 39%, although TSPs want it to be reduced by 90%. Hopefully, the first seeds of a new conflict with the government may not have been sown, although operators may have noticed the industry-friendly approach.
The frequency auction announcement also saw the government prescribe a narrow gap in bands between 5G operators and broadcast services, much to the chagrin of the latter who fear that the former’s “out-of-band broadcasts” will affect the quality of its transmissions.
In India, the economic impact of 5G is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2035. 5G can unlock new economic opportunities and societal benefits and help India overcome traditional barriers to development and make advancing the vision of “digital India”.
The sluggish subscriber base also suggests it’s time for the market to apply shock therapy with game-changing technology. As is usually the case, a mood of optimism took hold of the world.
IHS Markit predicts a 10.8% increase in global 5G investment and R&D over the next 15 years and says the 5G value chain will generate $3.8 trillion in gross production and 2.3 crore in revenue. new jobs. But the prospects of a digital divide loom on the horizon due to the likely scenario of a more expensive service. It is estimated that 5G will first take off in developed countries. Seven countries are expected to account for nearly 84% of the contribution to global 5G-related gross production and more than 88% of the contribution to new jobs.
Passed unnoticed in frequency auctions, the first authorization to set up captive networks (“subscription” or “Wi-Fi hotspot” networks offered by private entities), despite protests from Jio, Vodafone and Airtel who fear the erosion of their activities. TSPs are unhappy with the government’s stipulation that these captive networks will remain completely isolated from commercial networks and will only be set up by corporate end users, instead of intermediaries and system integrators. The second seed of conflict may have been sown here.
Operators have set more than 20 conditions to ensure a level playing field with captive networks. On the other side of the fence, the Broadband India Forum (BIF) points out that captive private 5G networks are key to increasing efficiency and improving productivity in the march towards Industry 4.0. India needs greater efficiency in manufacturing, healthcare, education, agriculture, financial inclusion and many other clues to accelerate the process of digital transformation. This can only be achieved through the use of private 5G captive networks, he claims.
5G has already suffered from delays. The conflicting claims may not lead to a smooth spectrum auction into next month. Simply put, TSPs demand more concessions because they are already in the red; an existing TSP would be looking for benefactors to pay for its recurring expenses. The next auctions, if the terms and conditions remain the same, will see the TSPs in a tight corner. But for them, the saving grace is that this government does not look too deeply into the alleged losses while trying to make things easier for the usual list of suspects who have managed to snatch easier terms time and time again over the 25 years. mobile phone industry.
Why do frequencies have a price?
Telecom services are not the only ones to use frequencies. The Center gives away huge amounts of frequencies for free. The defense services have previously been accused of “frequency squatting” because it has been argued that they have hoarded free frequencies which could have been used for commercial purposes. But the silent use by the railroads went unnoticed. The railroads have removed guards on some freight trains. But driverless trains using 5G technology could soon become a feature. Along with various internal uses, the extra frequency will provide live CCTV for all the cars on the train, which will hopefully eliminate the baggage lifting gangs that have been the bane of non-VIP travellers. Since this is devoid of any commercial gain and only serves to improve passenger safety and convenience, it is likely to be given away for free. With so much spectrum being given away for free for defense and security purposes, the government is putting a price on the remaining spectrum that will be used for commercial purposes.
How will we know it’s 5G?
The TRAI offers an app that measures speed. A complaint can be filed if the speedometer indicates a slower speed than advertised. But TRAI also carries out spot checks, as recently in Ludhiana. Together with the operators, he carried out checks in congested places such as the Khalsa College and the railway station. In four days, it covered 450 km and five hotspots in the Ludhiana secondary switch area. The results have been gratifying. The call abandonment rate and other metrics were below baseline levels. Reliance Jio’s 4G, Vodafone’s 2G and 4G, Airtel’s 2G and 4G, and BSNL’s 2G and 3G all worked as promised. With TRAI’s keen eye, we can rest assured that minor tweaks to 4G won’t be seen as faster service.
The subscriber base may be starting to stagnate. In April, it was up just 0.08% to 117 crores from March. The urban telephone subscription fell from 64.7 crore at the end of March to 64.6 crore but the rural subscription fell from 51.9 crore to 52 crore.