Faster internet becoming possible with path-breaking 5G tech

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By: Kamal Baruah

Communication today has become aggressively wireless with the upsurge of smart devices. Smartphones are becoming the most indispensable mode of communication and given this fact, we hear a lot about spectrum. In the past, most of the radio spectrum was reserved for Armed Forces. In 90s, this writer had the privilege of working with man pack Trans-Receiver MHM-300 in IAF for high frequency communication (250km by Sky Wave). We called it as signal communication transmitting of orders and instructions of commanders to subordinates in the distant installations, ships and aircrafts that played an important role in warfare. However, countries today auction the radio frequencies to telecom. Common people probably think that spectrum has to do something with mobiles, but it’s a range of radio-waves that is used for communication. The range of radio wave spectrum is (used for AM radio, Broadcast TV, Cellphones, GPS, Satellite Radio, weather radar, 4G, cable TV satellite transmissions, Wi-Fi networks, highway toll tags and 5G) 9KHz to 400GHz wavelength followed by Infrared, Light, Ultraviolet and Gamma Rays (highest frequencies). The telecom spectrum, however, uses frequency brands from 700MHz to 2500MHz only.

Cellular technology has, no doubt, transformed our lives that today is synonymous with the terminology ‘G’. The evolution started since First Generation (1G) in 1980 for working on analog radio signals that supported mobile voice calls. It was first commercially automated in Japan by Nippon (NTT) followed by Europe (NMT) and USA (AT&T) using revolutionary Motorola. 2G (1800MHz) in 1990 used digital radio signals for voice calls and SMS with a bandwidth of 64Kbps. People poured out for mobile connection after 1995. 3G (2100MHz) in 2000 made it possible for web browsing (digitised voice, video calls and conferencing) with a speed of 1 to 2Mbps when BSNL incorporated it and Nokia became a household name. 4G (2-8GHz) was launched in 2009 with a peak speed of 100Mbps to 1Gbps enabling video consumption with higher data speed and even possible 3D virtual reality. Additionally, the ‘free calls and data’ from Reliance Jio in 2016 led to India’s 4G revolution. Users on social network site has been swelling since. Consumers are hungry for more and faster internet bandwidth. With global mobile data traffic doubling every alternative year, the world demands for a high-speed connectivity.

The internet becomes important as streaming (video and films) is catching on. Fifth Generation (28-100GHz now) is the answer for doing IoT (Internet of Things – it connects devices over internet), 16K video streaming, AI, quantum computing and predictive cybersecurity in the future. People need fast and uninterrupted sharing, streaming and browsing, no matter what’s the tariff. But 5G is not only about downloading/uploading speed; it reduces the latency (Time taken by a network to respond). 5G will have greater bandwidth, wider area in the frequency spectrum giving higher download speeds, eventually up to 10Gbps that will ensure no network congestion. 5G is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks experiencing little interference from surrounding signals and has advantage of sending large amounts of data at very high speeds. In this high-band spectrum (30-300GHz), internet speeds have been tested to be as high as 20Gbps as compared to 4G at 1Gbps. 5G application will help to incorporate AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our daily lives and also facilitate the ecosystem such as entertainment, multimedia, Smart Cities, Smart Farming, Telemedicine, Controlling of Critical Infrastructure and Vehicles (self-driving). That will be a real breakthrough for the massive IoT, Leveraging Machine Learning, AI, Automate Network Management, Virtual Spaces and Security and could be a critical enabler of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 5G will surely enhance experiences and drive digitisation of industries.

But there are hurdles in rolling out 5G in India. It will require a fundamental change to the core architecture of the communication system. For transition from 4G to 5G technology, it might create financial liability on consumers. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are delaying the 5G spectrum allocation for capital inadequacy. Chipmakers and smartphone companies are conducting trials of 5G technology worldwide. Nokia is fully geared up for the upcoming 5G trials in India while Jio will launch its low cost 5G smartphone very soon. Global telecom companies have already started building 5G networks and rolling it out to customers in US and South Korea. Japan and China too have started it on a trial basis. India being a traditional late adopter of advanced technologies, is still struggling to achieve the speed which 4G network offers. Our average download speed is 9.12 Mbps in comparison to the global average speed of 23.54 Mbps. Hope the arrival of 5G enabling smart devices can be a game changer for better service delivery, faster access and deeper penetration of digital services. (The writer is a former Air Warrior)

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