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In India, 5G network won't be a reality soon

By Ayan Pramanik
September 15, 2017 15:12 IST
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Delay due to rise in operating cost of telcos, late adoption of 4G network

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

The country needs more time to launch fifth generation technology (5G) in its telecom network, said Aruna Sundararajan, head of the Telecom Commission and secretary to the department of telecommunications.

According to Sundararajan, the country first needs to complete its transition from 3G to 4G network and only then move towards further upgradation.


"First, India needs to move from 3G to 4G and that I think we are beginning to see, with (Reliance) Jio coming in and other major players also accepting to upgrade their networks.

We hope that over the next year, most of the telecom infrastructure and networks in India will be upgraded to 4G.

The big 5G roll outs are still some time away," she said on Thursday at the Internet of Things (IoT) India Congress 2017 in Bengaluru.

Adding: "Having said that, the important thing is to get the eco-system growing to 5G -- none of these happens overnight, the standards have to be available much in advance, the manufacturing of devices has to happen much in advance...this is a preparatory period for all of us to get ready."

Telecom operators, analysts say, have seen a sharp rise in operating cost, with increasing debt.

This, and the delayed adoption of 4G, could impact the roll out of 5G.

Higher telecom spectrum prices, compared with global markets such as the US, have also impacted the growth of operators and implementation of advanced network services.

Sundararajan said a 5G test bed is being developed by the Indian Institute of Technology at Chennai, with the Indian Institute of Information Technology at Hyderabad working on similar projects.

Her department, she added, had started focusing on some of the international standards in this regard.

Advanced telecom networks will need a "significant investment in infrastructure" and use of new-age technologies such as IoT will result in a huge data flow between machines.

"In all those areas, we need to see that the current infrastructure is significantly upgraded and that will require a significant investment.

Our effort is to ensure (a) policy that we are able to incentivise those kinds of huge investments in technologies," said the telecom secretary.

Saying that start-ups would play a key role in enhancing of infrastructure and creating jobs, she said the country had the potential to generate "10-15 million jobs in this space and the bulk of that would be contributed by start-ups".

"IoT is an area from where new solutions can emerge because in India, the extent of unserved and underserved at one level is a huge challenge for the government but (also) a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs."

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Ayan Pramanik in Bengaluru
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