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Auctioning 5G Spectrum Bands

Context:

Recently, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister, gave its nod for the auction of spectrum that can be used to offer 5G services.

Relevance:

GS III- Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About 5G
  2. Application of 5G
  3. What are the key issues?
  4. What benefits are likely to come with 5G?

About 5G

  • 5G is the next generation of mobile broadband that will eventually replace, or at least augment 4G LTE connection and it  offers exponentially faster download and upload speeds.
  • 5G will deliver multi-Gbps peak rates, ultra-low latency, massive capacity, and a more uniform user experience.
  • This is in contrast to 4G link speeds in averaging 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.

Application of 5G

  • 5G will help in creating cyber-physical networks which not only interconnect people, but also interconnect and control machines, objects, and devices. It will deliver new levels of performance and efficiency that will empower new user experiences and connect new industries.
  • It will act as an enabler for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine communications.
  • 5G can also help make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart. It will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
  • Also, the primary applications of 5G will be the implementation of a sensor-embedded network that will allow real-time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
When will the spectrum be auctioned?
  • The auctions are scheduled to commence from July 26.
  • The Department of Telecom has invited applications from prospective bidders to participate in the auctions.
  • Based on the applications, the government will pre-qualify applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.
When will the commercial roll-out happen?
  • Telecom Minister recently said that the 5G deployment is likely to start from August-September 2022, and service should commence in about 20-25 cities by the year-end.
  • Experts and analysts expect a gradual roll-out of 5G across the country in a phased manner over the next two to three years, with roll-outs beginning from the second half of the current year.

What are the key issues?

  • The two issues that the industry has highlighted with regards to the upcoming auctions are
    • High reserve prices for the spectrum
    • Direct allotment of spectrum to enterprises for setting up captive private networks.
  • The government has accepted the recommendations given by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on reserve prices for spectrum auctions.
  • While the TRAI had earlier recommended reducing prices of airwaves across various bands by 35-40% from its earlier proposed base price, the telecom operators had expressed disappointment given their demand for a 90% cut in the prices.
    • At these prices, a block of 5MHz spectrum (paired) in the 700MHz band will cost ₹196bn (US$2.5bn), 50MHz block in the 3.4GHz band will cost ₹159bn (US$2bn) and 400MHz block in the 26GHz band will cost ₹28bn (US$0.4bn).
  • On allowing direct allocation of spectrum for captive non-public networks, the government has reasoned that the move will spur a new wave of innovations in Industry 4.0 applications such as machine to machine communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) across automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, and other sectors.
  • However, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts the three private telcos as its members, has said that the move severely degrades the business case of TSPs.

What benefits are likely to come with 5G?

  • 5G is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra low latency.
  • As per the set standards, with 5G, the peak network speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gbps as opposed to about 25 Mbps on current 4G networks.
    • In India, however, 4G speeds average at around 6-7 Mbps, but are picking up gradually.
  • It is expected that with 5G technology, consumers will be able to download data heavy content such as 8K movies and games with better graphics in just a few seconds.
  • The users will need to update to 5G-enabled devices to access the network, if they are not already using one.
  • However, it is likely that the primary use of the technology will go beyond delivery of services on personal mobile devices.
    • 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as IoT and machine to machine communications, thereby supporting a much larger range of applications and services, such as tele-surgery and real time data analytics.
  • Ultra low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases.
    • Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.
  • As per a report by a government panel on 5G, even after the entry of 5G into the Indian networks, the earlier generation mobile technologies — 2G, 3G and 4G, will continue to remain in use and may take 10 or more years to phase out.
  • 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, the report added.

-Source: The Hindu


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