Across the world, 5G use cases are largely urban and enterprise driven. It includes massive machine-type communication, critical machine-type communication, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) services. In India, where close to 69% of the population still lives in rural areas, there is a greater need to connect the unconnected.
Bharti Airtel and Ericsson have conducted India’s first 5G network demonstration in a rural geography at Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi/NCR using 5G trial spectrum allocated to Airtel by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The demonstration on Indian uses cases provided high-speed broadband coverage in remote areas using eMBB and FWA services. On a 5G FWA, connectivity was provided at over 200mbps over 10 kilometres. A 5G smartphone could connect at over 100mbps over the same distance. The trial was done using the allocated mid-band trial spectrum in the 3500MHz band and existing FDD spectrum band.
What does that mean? Simply speaking, it demonstrates the ability to provide high-speed broadband coverage even in the remotest of geographies. That means it would be much cheaper and easier to provide broadband connectivity to rural India since that involves only radio access and not rolling out a dense optic fibre cable network, which could take years and prove to be quite expensive. The enhanced coverage that 5G can provide could be a game changer towards building a digitally inclusive India.
Providing high-speed broadband in villages could provide faster access to healthcare, education and entertainment services to rural masses, which could over time reduce pressure on facilities in big cities. Randeep Singh Sekhon, CTO, Airtel points out that a year after 5G spectrum is allocated it will be possible to start services in large parts of the country. As things stand, the government is expected to auction 5G spectrum in the last quarter of the current fiscal.
“Consumers in India are willing to pay more for faster 5G services,” says Nunzio Mirtillo, head of Ericsson Southeast Asia, Oceania and India.
According to an Ericsson study, on an average, a 10% increase in the mobile broadband adoption ratio causes a 0.8% increase in GDP. It also estimates that 26% of Indian mobile subscribers would be on a 5G network by 2026. By then US would be at 84% and Western Europe at 69%.
While India is yet to board the 5G bus, there are 176 live 5G networks globally that should cover 25% of the world’s population by end-December 2021.