Daily Analysis

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Spectrum Auction – 5G and Broadband

The Editorial covers GS paper 3 [Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.]

DTAC teases plan for 26GHz 5G licences


  • The issue of delicensing E and V telecom spectrum bands has divided industry associations BIF & COAI. 

  • The bands are considered optimum for providing mobile broadband back-haul, while its utility for 5G services is also evolving. 

  • On September 28, COAI had written to communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, reiterating its opposition to delicensing of spectrum in the bands. 

  • Reacting to the COAI letter, BIF wrote to the telecom secretary, opposing auctioning of spectrum in these bands as it goes against international best practices and TRAI.


What is the Background?

  • China started tests for 5G technology back in 2016 with a total of 7 domestic and international companies, including Huawei, Tang Telecom and Ericsson.

  • China is hopeful that the 5G technology, will bring new opportunities and buoy the growth of its digital economy. 

  • According to a forecast by the industry group, “Global System for Mobile Communications Association”, China is expected to become the world’s largest 5G market with 460 Million users by 2025. 


What is the perspective on India?

  • The Telecom sector in India has made it clear that it cannot afford 5G spectrum at the current reserve price. 

  • Global Telecom Industry body, GSMA, expects India to have 920 million unique mobile subscribers by 2025, which will include 88 million 5G connections. 

  • According to GSMA, the emergence of 5G ecosystem in India will depend on telecom operators’ ability to invest in network which requires support on policy and regulatory fronts. 

  • 5th Generation 5G mobile internet could be launched as early as late 2019, or early 2020 in some countries. It promises download speeds 10 to 20 times faster than what we have now. But, how is it different from 4G? And what difference would it really make to our lives? 

  • It is important to maximise India’s opportunities for value creation from the global 5G revolution. India has limited intellectual property in 5G technologies and is largely going to be a buyer of this technology. However, the size of the Indian market and our strengths in services and software create some opportunities for symmetric dependencies and value creation. 

  • For example, global deployments of 5G are expected to continue over the next decade and will require skilled labour to design, install, and monitor these networks. 

  • The government should encourage capacity building in Indian companies for “5G deployment services” such that Indian talent can be used across the world. 

  • For vendors winning large 5G contracts in India, preferential agreements with Indian software companies could be considered. Additionally, setting up “use-case validation and development centres” should be incentivised to develop new applications of 5G that are most relevant to India’s social development such as health, education, agriculture, transportation and water. These solutions can also be exported.

  • Data Security is a paramount concern in the World today and India cannot remain secure in terms of data, unless it manufactures its own chips.

  • Next, India’s first Indigenous Semiconductor Chips was made by a Bengaluru based semiconductor company “SIGNALCHIP” for 4G/LTE and 5G NR MODEMs.

  • At present, only 8 companies and a few countries can design and build semiconductor chips.

What are the differences between 4G and 5G networks?

  • 5G uses different kinds of antennas, operates on different radio spectrum frequencies, connects many more devices to the internet, minimizes delays, and delivers ultrafast speeds.

  • 5G is the newest mobile network that’s replacing the current 4G technology by providing a number of improvements in speed, coverage, and reliability.

  • One fundamental difference is 5G’s use of unique radio frequencies to achieve what 4G networks cannot.

  • The radio spectrum is broken up into bands, each with unique features as you move up into higher frequencies. 

  • 4G networks use frequencies below 6 GHz, but 5G uses extremely high frequencies in the 30 GHz to 300 GHz range.

What are the advantages?

  • These high frequencies are helpful for a variety of reasons. As a matter of fact, one of the most important being that they support a huge capacity for fast data. 

  • Next, not only are they less cluttered with existing cellular data, and so can be used in the future for increasing bandwidth demands, they’re also highly directional and can be used right next to other wireless signals without causing interference.

  • This is very different than 4G towers which fire data in all directions, and potentially wastes both energy and power to beam radio waves at locations that aren’t even requesting access to the internet.

  • 5G also uses shorter wavelengths, which means that antennas can be much smaller than existing antennas while still providing precise directional control. 

  • Next, since one base station can utilize even more directional antennas, it means that 5G can support over 1,000 more devices per meter than what’s supported by 4G.

  • As a consequence of all this, 5G networks, when they become widely available, will be able to beam ultrafast data to a lot more users, with high precision and little latency.

  • Another difference between 5G and 4G is that 5G networks can more easily understand the type of data being requested, and are able to switch into a lower power mode when not in use or when supplying low rates to specific devices, but then switch to a higher powered mode for things like HD video streaming.

  • 5G is 10 times faster than 4G. This means that during the time it took to download just one piece of data with 4G (like a movie), the same could have been downloaded 10 times over a 5G network. 

What are the challenges?

  • Most of the super-high frequencies of 5G networks work only if there’s a clear, direct line-of-sight between the antenna and the device receiving the signal. What’s more is that some of these high frequencies are easily absorbed by humidity, rain, and other objects, meaning that they don’t travel as far.

  • It’s for these reasons that we can expect lots of strategically placed antennas to support 5G, either really small ones in every room or building that needs it or large ones positioned throughout a city; maybe even both. 

  • There will also probably be many repeating stations to push the radio waves as far as possible to provide long range 5G support.

  • Also, the spectrum that we use today for 4G technology is for the lower bands. This cannot carry large amounts of data. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of Giga bits of data in a second. For this, it is natural that we need higher frequencies. 


  • Companies, both telecom service providers and their equipment vendors, have completed lab trials of 5G network components but are yet to commence field trials, which were initially scheduled to happen last year.

  • For the same, telecom companies are awaiting allocation of test spectrum from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

  • The service providers have already tied up with equipment makers like Nokia, Ericsson, etc for deploying their 5G networks.