A 5G sign sits on display in a hallway at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Is India Ready For 5G By 2020?

The government has set up a high-level forum for drawing a roadmap for the launch of 5G services by 2020, a technology that will make wireless connections incredibly fast with speeds of up to 10, 0000 Mbps in cities and 1, 000 Mbps in villages.

Global telecom equipment makers are all set to grab this opportunity and are ready to launch products for 5G-enabled devices.

While the rollout of 4G networks was all about data connectivity, 5G networks would mean less latency, faster speeds and the ability to make lives more meaningful with technologies like Internet of Things, which would mean a lot more connected smart devices.

“We have created a high-level 5G forum that will work on vision, mission and goals of 5G service in the country. When the world will roll out 5G in 2020, I believe India will be at par with them,” Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha had said.

While Telecom Regulatory Authority of India also released a consultation paper on prospective regulations and standards for 5G networks and IoT in August, it’s still not clear how the 5G spectrum allocation will take place, and how prepared India’s telecom sector is for the rollout of 5G services, especially since 4G networks are still a nascent phenomenon in the country.

Is 5G in 2020 A Piped Dream For India?

Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson is in advance talks with some leading telecom operators in India over 5G technology and is all set to sign preliminary agreements with them within six months.

“Our radio system is already 5G ready. The so called processing unit, baseband unit- the brain of the system is 5G ready and prepared for software upgrade and prepared for IoT software upgrade as well as our latest radio equipment,” Christian Hedelin, head of strategy-business area networks at Ericsson, told BloombergQuint.

Erricson radio systems are already being deployed in India for 3G and 4G networks and the systems are also 5G prepared, he added.

The World’s First 5G Smartphone by 2019?

Last month, Steven Mollenkopf, chief executive officer of leading smarthphone chip maker Qualcomm, announced that 5G devices would hit store shelves by 2019, a year before the world expects a wide scale rollout of the technology.

When BloombergQuint caught up with Larry Paulson, Qualcomm’s India chief, he said that India is a unique proposition for companies. “India is one of the few major markets in the world that is still going through what I call a double transition. It’s transitioning from 2G/ 3G to 4G and also from feature phone to smartphone,” he added.

But Poulson also admitted that while there’s a lot of energy in India, there are certain challenges which need to be addressed before the rollout of 5G services.

You have to get the standards set, you have to get the spectrum policy agreed, you have to get the investment portfolios aligned, which means ROI has got to come under scrutiny and so forth and so on. I don’t see any reason why those things will not get worked down. But it’s a little too early sitting here at the end of third quarter of 2017 to actually predict and project without some answers to those issues, predict and project.
Larry Poulson, President, Qualcomm India

Huawei & Airtel: A “Massive” Match?

China’s Huawei Group plans to be the first to launch 5G phones and infrastructure in India, when the network is up and running.

Huawei has partnered with Bharti Airtel Ltd. to launch the country's first massive multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology, which could go a long way in increasing spectrum efficiency and reducing networking costs.

“ This new technology (MIMO) is a very unique value proposition for the India market. In India, spectrum is very expensive. The side acquisition is very challenging. So how does handle these two challenges? Huawei provides our own solution, massive MIMO which can give you very big capacity and also give very high efficiency use of the spectrum,” Jay Chen, chief executive officer of Huawei India, told BloombergQuint.