Don’t expect 5G to happen overnight

Don’t expect 5G to happen overnight.

Telecom gear makers say will take six to eight months for the top 10 cities to have some reasonable coverage of 5G network services.

The amount of coverage will differ depending on the telecom company’s strategy: whether to concentrate on a few cities and go for more coverage or whether to offer it to more cities with less coverage.

At an average, coverage could vary from a fourth of a city to half.

Explaining the logic behind the timeline after discussions with telcos, a senior telecom gear major executive said the estimated target is to give reasonable coverage in the top 10 cities for which radios and equipment for 30,000 towers will be required for coverage.

This can be done in six to eight months.

“These ten cities are all the telcos are concentrating on to begin with as there is a large 4G customer base in them as well as consumers with 5G ready mobile devices. After that the numbers for potential users of 5G falls,” said the executive.

This would mean shipping or manufacturing around 200,000-240,000 radios.

The 10 cities include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.

In a city like Delhi (depending on what telcos are planning), powering 3,000 sites with 5G could be enough to cover a third of the city.

There are 9,000 sites to cover, but the number of sites will go up very quickly to build more capacity as number of subscribers go up.

In Jaipur, a similar number of sites will cover a much larger area.

Telecom operators are also not expecting any serious capacity roll-out of the 5G network before January because telecom gear makers continue to face a component shortage in China where factories have been abruptly closed owing to the pandemic, not to mention shipping bottlenecks and the possible threat of a Chinese economic blockade against Taiwan looming in the background.

“We don’t see serious capacity roll-outs happening before January,” said a telecom operator executive.

“Clearly, equipment makers cannot supply what we require due to the continuing component and chip shortage and delays in global shipping deliveries.

“What we will see is some launch of services in a few places based on existing trial equipment being available and based on some that might be airlifted.”

The operator said the other reason for the relaxed pace was that there is no push from subscribers for 5G, especially from those who are using 4G, resulting in the absence of any killer use case at the moment.

A telecom gear maker said it has readied plans to air freight (an expensive proposition) enough radios for 500 to 1,000 sites, that is, around 5,000-7,000 radios, to begin with for its clients.

The radios can be deployed only in a few cities and that too, in a limited area.

The roll-out, the executive said, could well begin from November.

The bulk ordering of equipment will take time.

“We expect that from the signing of orders, the specific radios required for 3.5 GHz in India which should be able to work across the entire 3300-3670 MHz band will take a while to make and ship and then eventually to be manufactured in India.

“That will take us to October-end or November first week,” said the executive.

Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said with spectrum as well as the E band allocated, it is now time for telcos to start rolling out networks.

Sources say Prime Minister Narendra Modi might inaugurate the Indian Mobile Congress on October 1 where some use cases and services could be demonstrated.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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