With the official introduction of 5G this year, several leading countries in Asia and Europe have taken the lead in 5G technology by conducting pre-5G tests and improvising network infrastructure. Their governments have also initiated consultations to identify the challenges and opportunities in 5G.
Where Does 4G - Precursor of 5G - Stand Today?
Globally, there are already more than â€¨1 billion 4G LTE subscriptions out of the total 7 billion mobile subscription. In India, we have nearly 10 million 4G subscriptions out of 1 billion mobile subscribers as per the data received in December 2015. China has seen rapid expansion of its 4G user base, which has already crossed 380 million in 2015 out of 1.3 billion mobile subscribers. With more and more users adopting 4G, the consumption of high-speed broadband is likely to grow further up and create the demand for future technologies like 5G.
5G Trials Underway
The market research team at Ericsson expects early adoption of next-generation network technology in Asia and the U.S. to drive rapid growth in 5G subscriptions. As per their estimates, there will be approximately 150 million 5G cellular subs globally by the end of 2021. That is just five years away!
Comparing 5G with previous generations shows that it is not just a new radio-access technology - much more is expected from it. 5G is shaping up to provide cost-effective and sustainable wireless connectivity to billions of things, people, enterprises, applications, and places around the world.
Key Requirements of 5G
The first 5G network trials are already ongoing on a small scale, and commercial systems are expected in 2020.
When and Where to Get a Taste of 5G?
- AT&T to pilot 5G in USA as early as Q2 2016.
- China Mobile plans to finish the testing of 5G technologies and products in 2017 and conduct trial operations in 2018, with commercial use by 2020.
- Telstra (Australia) will offer its first taste of 5G at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, in partnership with Ericsson.
- Japan's NTT DoCoMo is planning to use 5G technology to disseminate video images and provide other services at venues of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
- MegaFon has planned to provide 5G coverage in Russia for the Football World Cup 2018 - in partnership with Huawei
Role of Fiber in 5G
In a recent poll by LightReading, lack of fiber backhaul was the biggest challenge faced by operators in implementing 5G.
These formidable network performance goals are heavily predicated on 100 percent connectivity of mobile sites with optic fiber.
Where Does India Stand in 5G Adoption?
In India, Voice contributes to 80 percent of the revenue and 20 percent is from data. In addition, there have been several challenges specific to the Indian market to upgrade the network quality such as high cost and limited availability of spectrum, lowest average revenue per user globally, and very costly, complicated right-of-way (RoW) approval procedure to deploy optic fiber cables.
With India starting large-scale roll-out of 4G, the landscape is expected to change dramatically with the eminent launch of Reliance Jio this year. Reliance has created a pan-India, all-IP 4G network with a very significant investment of USD 20 billion. Overall, India is expected to have close to 230 million 4G connections by 2020, or 17 percent of total connections.
Nokia has recently initiated discussions with telecom operators for 5G trials in India. The Indian operators will first want to ensure appropriate return on investment from over USD 50 billion invested in building 3G and 4G networks.
What Lies in the Future?
India currently has 15 percent of its 600,000 towers connected on optical fiber, as compared to 65-80 percent in USA, China, Japan, and Korea. To upgrade this connectivity to 100 percent will require significant investment and commitment from telecom operators to build â€¨future-proof 5G networks.
Given the spectrum and other infrastructure (i.e., mobile towers, active equipment, etc.) required, it is likely that 5G will be launched in India after 2022.