The excitement is palpable as we move closer to the 5G trials and the launch of the services. For a telecom market like India, 5G is the one missing link in its otherwise stellar performance of the sector over the last couple of decades. And given the vast unlimited potential of 5G ensures that a vibrant market like India will only lap up every benefit (of 5G) on offer. The country has displayed a propensity towards an affinity towards newer technologies.
Why 5G is making all the buzz
5G is the fifth generation mobile technology with 2G, 3G, and 4G as its predecessors. 5G technology promises to enhance the user experience by multiple notches through 10-100 times higher (than 4G and 4.5G) data speed, ultra-low latency, and a significant increase in capacity.
5G networks can offer data at a speed of up to 100 gigabits per second (4G LTE network can offer up to 1Gbps speed), achieve a latency of as low as 1 millisecond (time taken for action after a particular instruction has been made), much better coverage (1000X bandwidth per unit area), low energy consumption (10-year battery life for low power Internet of Things device), and connects 100 times more devices. It also promises a much higher capacity, which means it is able to connect a higher number of people without any impact on the network experience.
These inherent features of the 5G network increase the efficiency and reach of internet and telecom services. It supports a large number of devices and allows devices to operate on minimal use of energy.
All these features open up a whole new area of use cases like augmented and virtual reality, industrial automation, remote surgery, mission-critical communication, and many more.
Difference between 4G and 5G
While the 4G network was mostly about higher internet speed, 5G adds many other dimensions to the overall user experience. Unlike 4G and other previous standards, 5G is not only about higher speed, but it also enables low latency and connects multiple devices and operates on a more unified platform that supports all kinds of spectrums and bands.
Mainly, though, the difference between 4G and 5G can be on the parameters of use of spectrum, speed, latency, and capacity.
5G networks can use all kinds of the spectrum – from low, mid to high bands. That means it can use a wider band of the spectrum – 1 GHz to 6 GHz and beyond — and hence is more reliable and efficient than 4G technology, which works on 2-8 GHz range. It also supports a wide range of deployment models from traditional macro-cells to hotspots.
4G LTE technology can offer internet speed of up to 1,000 Mbps, while 5G promises to provide 10-20 times higher speed. 5G also has the potential to bring down the latency or response time by 10x to 1 millisecond.
In terms of capacity, 5G can support 100 times more traffic than a 4G network.
5G technology, thus, can support 100 times more devices than 4G technology giving innovations like the Internet of Things (IoT) by connecting a large number of devices.
It would herald a new era of mission-critical communication, self-driven cars, remote-medical surgeries, etc.
5G: The India story
While globally over 50 countries have already launched commercial 5G networks, India’s 5G story is yet to play out. The trials, which were supposed to take place last year, are yet to be executed.
The Government has also set up a high-level committee to develop 5G use cases unique to India. Further, the Indian administration has allocated funds to build a 5G testbed in collaboration with IIT – Madras, IIT – Bombay, IIT – Hyderabad, IIT – Delhi, and IISc – Bengaluru. The idea behind this is to create a vibrant ecosystem of research and development in the country in 5G technology. Essentially, the program is working on developing a testbed that resembles a real-world 5G network. It will allow the service providers to test various use cases, including Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and massive Machine-Type Communication (MTC).
The Government is likely to start the auction of the 5G spectrum by April 2020. However, the high price of the spectrum means that the response from the industry might not be as expected.
There is a feeling in the industry that there has been a delay in exploring the limitless potential of 5G technology. What has also not worked in favor of India, when it comes to the 5G launch, is the poor financial health of the sector coupled with the massive Average Gross Revenue (AGR) dues that the telcos have to pay to the Government. The AGR issue dates back 15 years and is centered on whether non-telco revenue should be included in the AGR definition or not.
The recent Supreme Court judgment against the telcos means that the service providers now have to make payment of around INR920 billion. This means that the telecom companies will hardly have many resources to participate in the auction of 5G spectrum with base price per megahertz (MHz) for spectrum at $70 million. This is much higher in comparison to countries like Italy ($26 million), South Korea ($18 million) and the UK ($18 million).
And even as the telecom service providers haggle with the Government over the pricing of the 5G spectrum and try to get some help on AGR issues, the inability to reach a middle ground is only delaying India’s foray into 5G.
5G and SD-WAN
Beyond the glamorous use cases of 5G like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, it promises to bring significant benefits to the enterprises.
5G offers ultra-high-speed of up to 1 Gbps, which can be used by businesses to connect the branch offices using 5G as the SD-WAN backbone. Further, features like Network Slicing will enable enterprises to improve the quality of services. Network slicing also helps in enhancing the security of SD-WAN. The 5G can be used to dedicate network slices to enhance SD-WAN’s capability to manage data traffic and prioritize applications.
The key differentiator of SD-WAN is that it brings down the activation time of service when compared with MPLS. With 5G, the enterprises will be able to further reduce the service activation time without compromising on the speed. Besides, 5G will also help in improving the reliability of SD-WAN. The technology is already being positioned for providing mission-critical services, and so is ideally placed to ensure reliable SD-WAN services.
With fixed 5G, the businesses will be able to quickly modernize their branch offices with the use of Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN).
5G brings a cableless option that is easier to deploy and manage. Possibly the most significant advantage of SD-WAN is the smooth management of multiple links for load balancing, traffic segmentation, and redundancy. The ease of 5G adoption will make it simpler and easier for enterprises to adopt SD-WAN. With 5G, the businesses will easily be able to set up a temporary location while providing a secure WAN connection to the head office.
There is little doubt that 5G will lead to the faster adoption of SD-WAN in the country. As 5G is launched and starts to gains traction in the country, it will drive more and more enterprises to adopt SD-WAN for better network efficiency and security. The businesses have already begun to use 4G to leverage the many benefits of SD-WAN, upcoming 5G further makes it easier to deploy and manage SD-WAN. While there is some time before 5G finally becomes available in the market, you should be planning for it now. In the end, both SD-WAN and 5G will gain from each other.