After years of anticipation and a considerable amount of hype, Fifth generation (5G) wireless networks are finally becoming a reality. 5G could affect our lives more dramatically than any technology shift since the internet itself, because 5G enables us to realize the potential of a fully connected world.
Mature 5G networks will operate at higher frequencies and shorter ranges than 4G, relying on a dense infrastructure of shoebox-sized “towers” every few hundred feet. That allows them to support billions of devices, with almost no latency (the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer), at speeds up to 20-100 times faster than 4G. 5G antennas also consume less power, making the protocol better for connecting small, battery-powered Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
However, just the availability of a particular technology is of no use unless it is accessible. There can be several impediments wrt to the accessibility and penetration of 5G technologies in the masses. One such impediment is affordability. Although globally but more so in India.
Stressing on the point above, telecom giant Bharti Airtel’s chief technology officer Randeep Sekhon has advocated for cheaper smartphones with 5G availability.
“5G smartphones are now priced around $1,000 (Rs 71,000) globally, which needs to drop to a maximum $300 for unlocking the next wave of mass data consumption in India,” For acceptance of 5G services in India, he said, compatible phones must be affordable, although the advent of such smart devices at about $300 is still some time away.
Sekhon said a major reason behind the strong appetite for 4G phones in India is their affordable price of around $100 (Rs 7,100).
Industry analysts have also suggested that this could be a good driver for telcos as the users will be upgrading their phones from low mid to mid category by 2021 and by that time there will be close to 200-250 million mid-tier devices which can be potential upgrade opportunity for telcos to target through 5G phones.
Market research firm Counterpoint estimates global 5G smartphone shipments will grow a whopping 255% by 2021, nearly reaching 110 million units.
5G smartphones are likely to make their way steadily into India compared to any previous generation of mobile broadband technology, owing to the growing maturity of the devices ecosystem globally, and predicted mass availability of 5G devices as early as 2021.
The government has underlined plans to conduct the next airwaves sale in 2019 itself, which will mark the debut of 5G spectrum. It has issued guidelines for 5G trials across all available spectrum bands, without restricting any company from applying for a licence to participate provided it is registered in India.
All these changes won’t happen overnight. While the major carriers are busy installing limited versions of 5G in cities around the globe, devices capable of accessing 5G networks are just starting to appear, and ultra-high-speed deployments are still several years away. It took 10 years for 4G to
become the dominant cellular technology, and 5G might take even longer. But once it’s fully in place, we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.