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Migration to 5G will be challenging for India: Experts

NEW DELHI: Aligning with the global markets for 5G technology will be a journey full of roadblocks for India, industry stakeholders and experts said and pointed out that backhaul will be a major challenge in the migration from existing networks to 5G with less than 20 per cent Indian networks running via fibre optic cables.”One of the fundamental requirements for 5G is strong backhaul, which is simply not there and that is the most time consuming part and it is extremely expensive in today’s condition in India,” Jalaj Choudhri, EVP, Reliance Communications said.Backhaul is a network that connects cells sites to central exchange. Even if India is able to circumvent the challenges of standardisation and 5G truly becomes available by 2020, yet a good 5G network cannot be expected unless we have a reliable and strong backhaul.In India, 80% of cell sites are connected through microwave backhaul, while under 20% sites are connected through fibre. Analysts say microwave backhaul has bandwidth issue since it uses traditional bands providing 300 Mbps of capacity, whereas fiber-based backhaul can offer unlimited capacity and low latency, a perquisite for 5G applications.”Fibre infrastructure has to be considered civic infrastructure rather than a property of the service provider. The investment has to be made through civic bodies so that service providers can actually leverage that infrastructure,” said Choudhri.Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei’s director, marketing and integrated solutions, Chandan Kumar, said that besides identifying a new spectrum for the Indian market and harmonising it with the global spectrum strategy, there is a need for a robust backhaul network.”We advocate that robust backhaul network is a must for 5G adoption. Otherwise, we will be ready technology-wise and spectrum-wise, but if our backhaul is not flexible and sufficiently available, that could be a bottleneck for 5G adoption,” Kumar said.Larry Paulson, President, Qualcomm India, said telecom operators here will need to make a business case judgement on what are the leading applications for 5G.Experts believe 5G technology will be a gateway of sorts for a truly connected society. It is slated to power a host of new-age services such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, Internet of Things (IoT), connected smart cities, self-driving cars, remote control surgery to virtual reality.Likewise, a 5G-powered IoT environment could enable someone to connect his home to a wireless network by embedding it with electronics, software or sensor technology. A typical example could be a remote operation of a house’s security system.”Under 20% of total towers are fiberised in India, while global benchmarks are much higher. Fiberisation of towers will be key to increasing backhaul capacity.Furthermore, installation of higher capacity microwave links where fibre laying is problematic also a solution,” said Rohan Dhamija, head for India and South Asia at Analysys Mason.The commercial launch of 5G technology is likely to take place around 2019-2020 globally. In India, field, content and application trials will start around 2018.
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Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com