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5G, its significance to India, and the controversies surrounding it

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5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks. It is believed to be around 10 times faster than its predecessor 4G

India will soon see the advent of 5G mobile services, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he rooted for ‘Made-in-India’ technology solutions to meet challenges of new India. The Prime Minister said that it is time for India’s techade and digital technology is going to bring in reforms in every area.

“India’s techade is here! With 5G, semiconductor manufacturing & Optical Fibre Cable (OFCs) in villages, we are bringing a revolution through Digital India to the grassroots level,” Modi said. He said that the Digital India Movement with production of semiconductors, 5G networks and optical fibre network show strength in three segments — education, health facilities and change in common man’s lives.

Modi said that India’s industrial growth will come from the grassroots. “Our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), street vendors & those working in the organised sectors need to be strengthened,” he said.

The 5G auctions concluded on 1 August.

Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had said that the government would allocate radiowaves bought in the auction by 12 August and the first installment of payments by telcos will be due on 17 August

Here’s everything you need to know about 5G:

5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.

As per US-based semiconductors and wireless tech major Qualcomm, 5G is a global wireless network expected to deliver ultra-low latency (the delay users face as data make a round trip), increased reliability, more network capacity and availability.

5G internet services are believed to be about 10 times faster than its predecessor 4G.

5G services deliver up to 20 GBPS, or gigabytes per second, peak data transfer speeds and 100+ MBPS, or megabytes per second, on average, as per Hindustan Times.

How does it work?

5G works in three bands: low, mid and high frequency spectrum.

As per Indian Express, while the low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).

This means that while telcos can use and install it for commercial cellphone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed internet, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialised needs of the industry.

The mid-band spectrum, on the other hand, offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals. Telcos and companies, which have taken the lead on 5G, have indicated that this band may be used by industries and specialised factory units for building captive networks that can be moulded into the needs of that particular industry.

The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength. Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (giga bits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps, as per the report.

As per News18, the auction is slated to be held for spectrum in various low (600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz), mid (3300 MHz) and high (26 GHz) frequency bands

Explained 5G its significance to India and the controversies surrounding it

In countries like US and UK, service providers are using the mid-tier spectrums of High 5G Frequency, which allows users to make 5G calls, and use some portion of 5G internet speeds.

Why is it important?

It is designed in such a way that it also supports new services such as mission-critical communications and the massive IoT (Internet of things).

Eighty crore subscribers have access to broadband today compared to ten crore subscribers in 2014.

 

A 5G world could be vastly different than the one we currently live in. Picture self-driving cars, robotic surgeries and smart city infrastructure.

As per the government, the upcoming 5G services have the potential to create new age businesses, generate additional revenue for enterprises and provide employment arising from the deployment of innovative use-cases and technologies.

The government noted that broadband, especially mobile broadband, has become an integral part of the daily lives of the citizens. This received a big boost through the rapid expansion of 4G services across the country since 2015.

 

Experts differ on which country leads in the commercial use of 5G, but agree that the top nations are China, South Korea (the first to launch in 2019), the United Kingdom and the United States.

In late October 2019, China rolled out the commercial use of 5G in 50 cities.

Which cities are likely to get 5G right away?

According to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), 13 cities will likely get 5G right off the bat: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Gandhinagar, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Jamnagar, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune.

Controversies over 5G

In January, travel plans of thousands of passengers were disrupted after several airlines cancelled flights to and from the US over the deployment of 5G.

As per Pro Publica, the aviation industry warned 5G signals over new C-band networks could interfere with aircraft safety equipment, causing jetliners to tumble from the sky or speed off the end of runways.

Aviation experts warned of “catastrophic failures leading to multiple fatalities.”

Explained 5G its significance to India and the controversies surrounding it

Representational image. PTI

Disaster was averted after  nail-biting negotiations involving CEOs, a Cabinet secretary and White House aides, an eleventh-hour agreement averted these threats of aviation Armageddon, as per the report.

Verizon and AT&T agreed not to turn on more than 600 5G transmission towers near the runways of 87 airports and to reduce the power of others.

That controversy hasn’t been put to bed yet.

As per Simple Flying, the US Federal Aviation Authority wants to remove 5G sensitive equipment from aircraft.

The FAA is set to have a meeting to discuss how to ensure that 5G technology will not interfere with aircraft equipment after the six-month buffer ends on 5 July.

An FAA spokesperson told Simple Flying, “The FAA hosted a roundtable discussion with about 40 aviation and wireless industry representatives on Wednesday to consider the next steps in the continued safe coexistence of aviation and 5G C-band wireless service. The groups had a wide-ranging and positive discussion and will continue to collaborate as they work to address the remaining technical challenges.”

Fake COVID claims

False claims about 5G causing novel coronavirus have been made in Facebook posts shared thousands of times, including a photograph of a poster accusing 5G network towers of being “the real cause for the virus deaths”.

Notably, not only did the novel coronavirus not get its start in pioneering South Korea, but the virus has gained a foothold in many countries (for example, Malaysia, Iran, France, Singapore and Nigeria) without 5G networks.

No health concerns, say experts

Experts have also dismissed any health concerns for consumers.

Fabien Heliot, a researcher who specialises in electromagnetic exposure in wireless communication at the University of Surrey, told AFP that “the possible side-effects of 5G are the same as 4G, 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi; all these wireless communication technologies use EM waveform that radiates energy”.

He said 5G radiations are not as severe as “CT scan or x-ray technologies” which are used in medical care.

The World Health Organization’s website states that “a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”.

Regarding 5G, the WHO states: “Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.

 

“Tissue heating is the main mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency fields and the human body. Radiofrequency exposure levels from current technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body.

“As the frequency increases, there is less penetration into the body tissues and absorption of the energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eye). Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.”

But some countries are remaining cautious: France’s Agency for Health and Safety highlighted a need for more data before 5G could be rolled out in the country.

‘Significant advancements’

The much-awaited 5G spectrum auction will bring significant advancements for the industry and consumers, market watchers said on Wednesday, while some felt that the base price for spectrum remains an issue for bidders, who were expecting much lower rates.

The 5G auction and steps outlined for bidding will open up newer avenues for deeper penetration, access and rich user experience, Peeyush Vaish, Partner and Telecom Sector Leader, Deloitte India, said.

He noted that the government has also announced an auction of the millimetre-wave (mm-wave) band, which will not only help in unlocking the true potential of 5G but will also help strategically manage costs for the operators.

“The roads are now clear for the 5G auctions. This is probably one of the most awaited spectrum auctions, which will bring significant advancements for the industry and the consumers,” Vaish said, adding the good part is that spectrum across bands will go under the hammer shortly

Another aspect which will spur “a good auction” is that operators will have the flexibility to surrender the spectrum after 10 years without any liabilities.

“To boost technological advancement, the government has also announced the development of private networks, which will pave the way for Industry 4.0 applications. Together, these steps will open up newer avenues for deeper penetration and access, rich user experience via consolidation as well,” he said.

Jaideep Ghosh, Chief Operating Officer of Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, said the wide availability of spectrum across all bands is encouraging as potential bidders can opt for spectrum bands and quantum as per their strategy.

“Having said that, the base prices for spectrum remain an issue for the bidders who were expecting a much lower price,” Ghosh added.

The analyst comments came after the Union Cabinet approved the auction of airwaves capable of offering fifth-generation or 5G telecom services, including ultra-high-speed internet, and gave its nod to set up of captive 5G networks by the big tech firms.

Trai in April recommended about a 39 per cent reduction in the reserve or floor price for the sale of 5G spectrum for mobile services, although the industry at that time had termed the cost as being “too high”.

With inputs from agencies

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