India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) estimates India’s total wireless data usage to reach 13 exabytes per month by 2025. This is five times of 1Q18 data usage. The existing technology is inadequate to meet such high data demand; therefore, a judicious mix of fiberisation and 5G roll-out will be required, said the research agency.
India can formulate its own customised 5G or 4G+ technology than adopting global standards for 5G in order to focus on improving user experience or cater to evolving enterprise requirement, while avoiding critical applications requiring ultra-low latency. From the spectrum band perspective, a judicious mix of 700 megahertz (MHz) and C band (3.4-3.6 gigahertz; GHz) would be ideal, as it would ensure wider coverage and provide good capacity. From the network infrastructure perspective, hotspot devices with 3G/4G compatibility will take precedence over handsets in 5G deployment, said Ind-Ra researchers.
Also, Indian telcos need to adopt similar technology to optimally utilise and share the available infrastructure, making 5G a financially viable option. However, few questions left unanswered include 5G challenge on net neutrality as some use cases are prioritized, feasibility of 5G for end-users, and payment ambiguity for 5G (telcos or end-users), the researchers said.
Fiberization & 5G Roll-Out to Address Growing Data Demand
India’s wireless data usage is likely to increase by 2025, led by rising penetration of smartphones, availability of high speed internet at affordable tariffs and shift in media viewership to online platforms from traditional medium. Fiberization, along with complementary high speed 5G wireless technology would be required as existing 4G ecosystem may face capacity and technological constraints. Ind-Ra believes fibres can act as a core infrastructure, while wireless can ensure last-mile connectivity (edge of the network).
Need for Customised 5G
Globally, 5G is seen as a key enabler for virtual reality applications and internet of things (IoT). While existing technologies (up to 4G) focus on connecting mobile devices, especially smartphones, 5G aims to bring connectivity to an array of devices such as television, computers, household appliances and factory machinery.
New use cases will inevitably continue to rise; hence, India can formulate its own customised 5G, which can focus on applications to improve user experience (high definition media, multi-person video call, etc.) or evolving enterprise requirement (smart city, cloud-based enterprise solutions, rural integration, data warehouses, etc.) than adopting global 5G technology standards. India can avoid critical applications which require ultra-low latency and extremely high reliability (virtual reality, remote surgery, automatic vehicle control), as it would be challenging to make an economic case to invest in developing such ecosystem.
New Approach needed for 5G Spectrum Strategy
Spectrum in 3.2-6.0GHz and 24-28GHz bands are being adopted globally for 5Gtrials. Selectively, higher bands in 32-43GHz are also being evaluated. As per media reports, the Indian government may consider harmonising 3.5GHz and 26GHz bands for the 5G rollout. Ind-Ra believes a judicious mix will be appropriate for India as a 700MHz band would play a crucial part in ensuring widespread coverage for low data rate applications (particularly in remote areas) and a 3.5GHz band would provide good capacity with a high speed in high data usage applications.