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5G in India

  • 28 Dec 2021
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: 5G, IoT, big data, AI, edge computing, fourth industrial revolution.

For Mains:Uses of 5G, Challenges for 5G Rollout in India, Evolution of telecom technology

Why in News

Recently, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has announced that India's major metros will have 5G services next year.

  • Like other global players, India had, in 2018, planned to start 5G services as soon as possible, with an aim to capitalise on the better network speeds and strength that the technology promised.

Key Points

  • About 5G Technology:
    • 5G is the 5th generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.
    • It enables a new kind of network that is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices.
    • Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G has been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.

Evolution from First Generation to Fifth Generation

  • 1G was launched in the 1980s and worked on analog radio signals and supported only voice calls.
  • 2G was launched in the 1990s which uses digital radio signals and supports both voice and data transmission with a bandwidth of 64 Kbps.
  • 3G was launched in the 2000s with a speed of 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps and it has the ability to transmit telephone signals including digitised voice, video calls and conferencing.
  • 4G was launched in 2009 with a peak speed of 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps and it also enables 3D virtual reality.

  • Different Bands of 5G:
    • 5G mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.
      • Low Band Spectrum: 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 telecom companies can use and install it for commercial cellphone users who may not have specific demands for very high speed Internet.
        • However, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialised needs of the industry.
      • Mid Band Spectrum: It offers higher speeds compared to the low band, but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
        • 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.
      • High Band Spectrum: It offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.
        • This band greatly enhances futuristic 5G technology applications like Internet of Things (IoT) and smart technology but will require considerable infrastructure.
  • Uses of 5G:
    • Broadly speaking, 5G is used across three main types of connected services, including enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical communications, and the massive IoT.
      • Enhanced Mobile Broadband: In addition to making our smartphones better, 5G mobile technology can usher in new immersive experiences such as Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) with faster, more uniform data rates, lower latency, and lower cost-per-bit.
      • Mission-Critical Communications: 5G can enable new services that can transform industries with ultra-reliable, available, low-latency links like remote control of critical infrastructure, vehicles, and medical procedures.
      • Massive Internet of Things : 5G is meant to seamlessly connect a massive number of embedded sensors in virtually everything through the ability to scale down in data rates, power, and mobility—providing extremely lean and low-cost connectivity solutions.
    • Combined with IoT, cloud, big data, Artificial Intelligence, and edge computing, 5G could be a critical enabler of the fourth industrial revolution.


  • India’s National Digital Communications Policy 2018 highlights the importance of 5G when it states that the convergence of a cluster of revolutionary technologies including 5G, the cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics, along with a growing start-up community, promise to accelerate and deepen its digital engagement, opening up a new horizon of opportunities.
  • Challenges for 5G Rollout in India:
    • Low Fiberization Footprint: There is a need to upgrade fibre connectivity across India, which at present connects only 30% of India’s telecom towers.
      • For an efficient 5G India launch and adoption, this number has to double.
    • ‘Make in India’ Hardware Challenge: The ban on certain foreign telecom OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) upon which most of the 5G technology development depends, presents a hurdle in itself.
    • High Spectrum Pricing: India’s 5G spectrum pricing is several times costlier than the global average.
      • This will be of detriment to India’s cash-strapped telcos.
    • Choosing the Optimal 5G Technology Standard: The tussle between the homegrown 5Gi standard and the global 3GPP standard needs to be concluded in order to hasten 5G technology implementation.
      • While 5Gi brings obvious benefits, it also increases 5G India launch costs and interoperability issues for telcos.

Way Forward

  • Boosting Domestic 5G Production: The country needs to encourage and boost its local 5G hardware manufacturing at an unprecedented rate if it needs to realise the 5G India dream.
  • Pricing Rationalisation: Rationalisation of this spectrum pricing is needed so that the government generates adequate revenue from the auction without hampering implementation plans for 5G in India.
  • Bridging the Rural-Urban Gap: 5G can be deployed at different band spectrums and at the low band spectrum, the range is much longer which is helpful for the rural areas.

Source: IE

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