5G Unlikely to be Commercially Available in India Before 2022

By Faisal Kawoosa

We may achieve the 5G equivalent networks through various technology manifestations, but the fact remains that there is always a standardized set of characteristics that define a technology.  Same is the case with 5G.  Unless, India also deploys the technology in its globally standardized form, claiming 5G implementation would just be a claim.

With massive MIMO and carrier aggregating techniques, the industry might be able to achieve the 5G equivalents in terms of capabilities, but that won’t qualify to be called as 5G deployment.

In the recently concluded India Mobile Congress, experts believed that India from technology point of view has no reason to be a laggard and could be in sync with the global markets for 5G deployments.  However, the enabling ecosystem especially from the regulator and the government has to pace up fast.

Looking back, the spectrum for 4G services that were launched in 2016, were actually auctioned in 2010.  Agreed this won’t be repeated and things would be much faster.  However, it does not seem that the spectrum auction for 5G services will take place before the mid of 2018.

Operators would need anywhere between 12-18 months to plan and design the networks before starting the work on ground.  We have the general elections in 2019 that will slow down the economic activities for a while, especially of such magnitude.

Even, if we assume that the election process won’t affect one of the most aggressive industries in India, the network implementation would take anywhere from 12-24 months depending on the scale of operations defined by telecom circles.  This would include laying of networks, towers, etc.  This takes us to the end of 2021.

Thereafter would begin the field tests and other certifications required before making networks ready for commercial services.  This could be achieved in 6-9 months’ time frame.  Finally, would be the commercialization, including creating service offerings, plans, etc. for the services available.  It would also involve partnering with service ecosystem like content providers, etc. This would take another 3-6 months.  That lands us somewhere in 2022.

However, IoT, especially Industrial IoT being among the early use cases of 5G technology; the B2B2C services might become available sometime after 2021. But, the direct individual consumer facing 5G services are not in the picture before 2022.  So, for next 4 years or so, the subscribers in India would continue to be excited with unleashing the power of 4G and pre 5G services that would give a peep into the future of communications.

Seeing 5G in 2022, should no way be taken as something negative and thought of keeping India much behind on the track.  Globally as well, some of the advanced telecom markets are likely to commercially launch 5G for masses in 2020, while there will be exhibit services starting 2018, aligned with major events, especially sports in different countries.

That being the roadmap globally, India will be just on the 5G map in two years of its global launch, which in itself would be a great achievement.

Taking analogy from the automobile market in India, while majority of drivers of present learnt driving on a Maruti-Suzuki vehicle, they enjoyed the power to driving on other brands that emerged in the market in due course.

Similarly, 4G augmented the Indian subscriber with data orientation and 5G will bring the users on the data expressway adding a different meaning to all the use cases that are there through mobile high-speed broadband.

(The author is General Manager, Research & Consulting, at CyberMedia Research.)

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