The Indian Government has recently auctioned the 5G (5th Generation telecom technology) frequency spectrum to telecom companies, wherein the Government garnered a whopping Rs 1.5 lakh crore. We have indeed come a long way – from 1G which allowed just making and receiving calls and 2G which allowed text messages to be sent or received, to 3G which gave access to the internet to 4G with its increased internet access speed and now 5G which takes the internet access speed to greater heights. While the telecom industry is gung-ho about the 5G technology, it is time to take stock of the pros and cons of this technology.
The high frequency used in 5G allows for faster data transmission rates of up to 20 Gbps. This high speed shall enable high-resolution video streaming, and faster downloading in a few seconds which presently takes minutes or hours at times as in the case of downloading movies. On the other hand, uploading shall still take place at moderate speeds of 100 Mbps.
The low latency in 5G of less than one millisecond implies that the time lag associated with data transfer shall be minuscule, thereby offering a good user experience while browsing. This low response time shall support new applications such as IoT (Internet of Things), industrial automation, computer gaming, and augmented or virtual reality.
The capacity offered by 5G is 100 times higher than that of 4G, which implies that a much larger number of devices can be simultaneously connected to a 5G network. There is a seamless transition between cellular devices and wireless Wifi. Moreover, guaranteed network availability for hospitals and private networks for firms and universities are possible now.
With internet access currently at 60% and growing at a fast clip, the common man in India shall no doubt be impacted by the new technology in myriad ways. With the possibility of running multiple parallel services, one can get weather information while talking. We shall be able to control our personal computers (PCs) and laptops by mobile handsets. While a remotely located student can attend school virtually, a doctor shall be able to operate on a remotely located patient with the help of video technology and medical robots. The traffic management system, along with self-driven cars, shall witness a sea change. “Smart Farming” can be put in place which shall intimate farmers about critical information including rainfall and optimum use of water. Natural disasters such as earthquakes could be predicted early on thereby reducing damage and saving precious lives.
Despite its many advantages, 5G has a few negatives as well. In Phase 1, it shall be available in only 13 cities of India leaving the roll-out in other cities and rural areas to a later date. Implementing 5G still requires the existing 4G network; later on, the independent 5G network shall have to be established if the full potential of 5G has to be realized. This shall require investment in base stations and transmission towers by the players, apart from 5G-compatible handsets to be bought by consumers. Also, it should be pointed out that what one gains in speed with 5G, one loses on the range of the system – 5G requires more towers than 4G to adequately cover a geographical area and thus is a more capital-intensive technology. There is also some concern about cybersecurity because of hacking and data theft.
To sum up, 5G is the way forward, despite a few shortcomings; how it pans out – only time will tell!
~Tapan Yadav, Business Head – Marketing.