Communications Minister Manoj Sinha: India will not miss 5G opportunity; New Spectrum Bands Coming?
The economic impact of 5G is estimated to be over one trillion dollars for India, which is aggressively positioning itself to be at the forefront of the new age technologies, Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said on Tuesday. Vowing that India will “not miss the 5G bus”, the minister outlined the country’s strides in telecom over the last five years, highlighting the spike in data consumption, broadband user base, and low tariffs, but added that ensuring safety and sovereignty of digital networks will be a priority for the government.
“While we are gearing up for the next wave of digital transformation, it is also important to ensure the safety, security and sovereignty of digital communications…It is important that we focus on security testing and establish appropriate security standards. We have recently started a state-of-the-art facility for preparation of security assurance standards, putting us at the forefront of technology,” Sinha said.
“The economic impact of 5G is expected to be over one trillion dollars for India, and the consequent multiplier effect is expected to be much more,” Sinha said.
The facility will work on security requirements and also facilitate development of testing and certification ecosystem in the country, Sinha said while speaking at India Telecom 2019 expo organised by Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Council (TEPC). Terming 5G as a “game changer”, the minister said that flagship government programs like Digital India and smart cities will ride on 5G. “The economic impact of 5G is expected to be over one trillion dollars for India, and the consequent multiplier effect is expected to be much more,” Sinha said.
The minister underscored the need for promoting investments to build underlying infrastructure that would make 5G a success, and added that a working group has been constituted to initiate implementation of recommendations of high level forum on 5G that had submitted its report in August 2018. Sinha also said that the government is in favour of policies and regulations that will facilitate development of 5G based technologies and services. “To ensure that we are able to launch 5G services in India along with the world, we have established 5G test beds through industry-academia partnerships, and we expect trials to be conducted over the next 12 months,” he said. India will position itself as a “globally synchronized participant” in manufacturing and development of 5G based technologies, products and applications, Sinha added.
In her address, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan noted that connectivity needs of developing and developed markets were different. “Our challenges are different…we need telecom networks to deliver inclusion, basic services, to connect the unconnected, and serve the under-served,” she said, adding that India, with its technological prowess and manufacturing capabilities, is keen to partner other nations who are looking for affordable and robust digital communications solutions.
Rajiv Mehrotra, Chairman of VNL Ltd, highlighted the need to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas through connectivity solutions, and said that opportunities should be created for promoting indigenous telecom equipment manufacturing.
Separately, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) could come out with the pricing and quantum of newer spectrum bands including millimeter wavelength (mmWave) range for 5G wireless technology rollout if the government seeks its view, a top official told ETT. “Government can ask for recommendations on new bands including millimeter wavelength (mmWave) band, and the telecom department can send us a reference,” Trai chairman Ram Sewak Sharma said, adding that the authority was in a view of opening up of all kinds of bands for newer technology.
The Narendra Modi-led government has already established a high-level 5G Forum under the Indo-American engineer and Stanford University professor emeritus AJ Paulraj which has already recommended newer bands to aid 5G rollout. It has suggested mmWave band for the 5G technology and said that 140 Mhz spectrum for backhaul usage should be allowed in addition to opening up of new bands for indoor access in line with practices worldwide.
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Samsung ready for 5G trials; says India will come up with local 5G use cases
Korean telecom gear maker Samsung said India will come up with its own 5G specific use cases that could be applicable to other markets and it will ensure that those use cases are supported by the company.
“Government as part of the 5G forum included many of other partners who are focusing on identifying specific use cases [for India]. We just want to make sure the technology is available to support any of these uses cases,” Srini Sundarajan, Samsung India Senior Vice President and Head (Network Business), told ET in a recent interaction.
India has some different sets of needs and the focus of the government is to develop 5G use cases around farming, education and next-gen manufacturing.
“Education is something we are working with Japan that will be very useful for India… there are many use cases which have a lot of societal value and that could also play a big part on the 5G rollout,” he said.
Sundarajan said that the company is working with the telecom department to help devise the 5G roadmap for the country. “Our goal primarily is to work with the DoT and ensure that we are able to show the value of 5G to all relevant people in government and partners of the government,” he added.
The Narendra Modi government aims to kickstart the deployment of ultra-high speed 5G networks in the country by 2020.
The company said that it is ready for 5G field trials in India, and is awaiting clarity from the telecom department (DoT). “We agreed that we will do trials with the government. But the clarity has to come from the government on various things.”
Samsung said that it is ready to support 5G services on both 3.5Ghz and 26-28Ghz in India. 5G services using the mid-band or 3.5GHz will power use cases such as surveillance, smart city, and smart factories among others. Fixed wireless access (FWA) could become one of the main use cases of 5G using the 28Ghz band, Sundarajan said. In India, Samsung is the sole 4G equipment provider for Jio’s pan-India network and is also a technology provider for the telco’s narrowband IoT network.
“We are agnostic since we have commercial deployments on both sides. We are opening up and showing these use cases. Depending upon where the interest comes both from government and operators, we will drive those use cases,” Sundarajan said.
The much-anticipated 5G field trials have hit the policy roadblock with the department of telecom (DoT) wireless planning and coordination wing (WPC) averse to allocating airwaves beyond 90 days, which according to industry, would not serve any purpose.
On February 25, the department has formed a committee with representation from the academia, industry and the government, to make recommendations related to licensing for carrying out 5G pilots, and also asked for the quantum, size, price and other aspects for offering experimental spectrum.
The telecom department had previously invited vendors like Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, Huawei and Cisco to conduct 5G field trials in the country and test use cases. The department is expected to provide 100MHz of spectrum for these field trials in the country, along with the backhaul support.
Telcos must bravely invest in 5G airwaves: Huawei India CEO
Huawei India CEO Jay Chen says telcos must strongly invest in 5G spectrum once it’s available in India, failing which they run the risk of being left behind in a mobile broadband turf where the competition benchmark has shifted from affordability to network quality. Chen told ET’s Kalyan Parbat in Shenzhen that customers are no longer as price-sensitive as they were earlier, and are rapidly demanding an enhanced network experience with 4G services gaining mass traction and mobile video emerging as the new basic telecom service in India. Edited excerpts.
Q: India’s older carriers have been averse to an early 5G spectrum sale and reluctant to spend big sums on 5G airwaves in the absence of a compatible ecosystem and relevant 5G use cases. Will such a strategy could prove counter-productive?
A: Telecom operators must bravely invest in 5G airwaves (once available) as the 5G devices ecosystem will grow much faster than either 3G or 4G, coupled with the fact that spectrum utilisation efficiency levels will also be higher, which will make customer experience on 5G networks a superior one. These are important considerations, especially if they wish to enjoy sustainable leadership in terms of network quality and user experience in a competitive market.
Q: But telcos say they are under immense financial stress in the sector…
A: The Indian telecom industry is witnessing a gradual shift from affordability to quality. Customers are no longer as price-sensitive as they were before, and are increasingly demanding an enhanced network experience, especially with the mass popularity of mobile video and further development of 4G.
Q: You mean the competition benchmark has shifted from low tariffs to one based on better network quality and user experience?
A: Well, in metros and key cities, an operator’s core competitiveness will be defined by high quality networks offering a superior customer experience, and will no longer be determined by low tariffs. Operators having low quality networks will lose competitiveness and eventually their high-value users and markets.
Q: Some operators blame the decline in overall quality of mobile services to heavy clogging in networks, amid explosive demand for data services. Your views.
A: Operators have to a degree been compelled to compromise on network quality amid sustained financial stress caused by continuing price wars. But in an era where users are willing to pay for a superior mobile broadband network experience, any compromise on network quality and experience would automatically compromise the competitiveness of a telco.
Q: From a global network vendor’s perspective, what ought to be the immediate priorities of telcos to survive and grow in a market where network capacity requirements are huge, spectrum cost is high and there is a paucity of last-mile fiber?
A : Operators must resolutely invest in solutions that improve spectrum efficiency to address capacity requirements in any given spectrum band. Besides speeding up VoLTE rollouts across the country and refarming 2G/3G airwaves for 4G services, telcos must also invest in large-capacity transmission and backhaul solutions and simultaneously in customer experience management.
Q: How is Huawei partnering with telcos to help them realise such objectives?
A: Operators and network gear suppliers are natural allies in chasing the twin goals of superior network quality and experience. But operators must adopt positive vendor strategies to leverage OEM (original equipment manufacturer) interest and investment in network quality and experience improvement by working hand-in-hand. Huawei has customised a spate of solutions such as Massive MIMO, CloudAIR and SuperBAND that improve spectrum efficiency and quality. Indian operators have welcomed Huawei’s solutions in large-capacity 5G microwave along with 200G/400G WDM (wavelength division multiplexing) transmission technologies that can complement fiber and reduce fiber-related concerns to a minimum.
(The journalist was in Shenzhen on the invitation of Huawei)
Huawei says contiguous blocks of cheap 5G spectrum are needed in India
Huawei believes India must focus on allocating contiguous blocks of cost-effective 5G spectrum for a successful rollout.
Executives from Huawei made the comments during the company’s Connect event in Shanghai. Ken Hu, deputy chairman of Huawei, noted the allocation of spectrum as being among India’s current biggest challenges when it comes to 5G.
“We hope that spectrum resources can be allocated more efficiently. It’s very important to have contiguous resources released to carriers in India,” Hu explained.
Global 5G standards body the ITU states ‘true’ 5G requires 100MHz of 5G spectrum. Ideally, each operator needs at least this amount in a contiguous block.
Speaking at the ET Telecom 5G Congress event in August, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said:
“Indian operators need 1,000MHz of spectrum each in order to do 5G properly. There is a lot of work to be done freeing up mmWave spectrum in the high bands.
Even when you talk about spectrum in the mid-band – the 3.5GHz spectrum – every operator is going to need 75-100MHz of spectrum. Otherwise, you will see a 5G icon displayed on your phone but, in reality, you will just be getting a 4G experience.”
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