Operators in the United States will be among the first to launch 5G commercial services.
New Delhi: Even as top US telcos are bracing up to launch commercial 5G services, Reliance Jio has upgraded its 4G IP network and started a pre-5G internet service to be a step ahead of its domestic rivals and possibly unleash a 4G-like disruption in the 5G market.
Operators in the United States will be among the first to launch 5G commercial services. Last week, four major US operators have announced that they will begin providing the services between late 2018 and mid-2019. Commercial 5G services are unlikely to begin in India before 2020.
The government has asked the telecom regulator to give its recommendations on the reserve price of airwaves in various bands — including 3,300-3,400 Mhz and 3,500-3,600 Mhz — that are being considered for offering 5G services.
Though the India launch of 5G services is not expected before 2020 as per the government assessment that includes auction of spectrum for 5G services in the 3.5 Ghz bands, it is quite possible that telcos would go for soft launch of this high-speed data service much before that after they complete trial run on their networks.
It is here that the Mukesh Ambani upstart stands to gain in taking a lead on starting 5G services on a trial basis later this year as it has built a future-ready network which can easily deploy the 5G technology. After disrupting the 4G market by offering cheap data plans, Reliance Jio can yet again disrupt the 5G services in a similar fashion.
As a precursor, the company is learnt to have started offering 5G mobile internet services on the same speed level on a dry run. Sources said currently all the Jio Network Towers are 4G-compatible and they will not support 5G internet directly but it needs some modification to work the 5G internet smoothly in customers local area.
Jio is upgrading and reconfiguring its existing networks on the quality of 5G networks in India. It can take seven-eight months to build a good 5G network zone in all the metro cities in India. After that all the villages and small towns will also get the 5G internet connection in their area, they said.
“It (the company) has built a future-ready network which can easily deploy 5G and beyond technology in the last leg,” Reliance Jio said recently while announcing the Q4 results of RIL. Airtel 5G internet has already been tested in NCR and Gurgaon. Vodafone and Idea, who would soon be treated as one entity, have already conducted similar MIMO technology-based trial runs of their 5G preparedness.
Samsung, Nokia (HMD), Google Pixel, Xiaomi, LG , Huawei, One Plus Six are some of the handset makers who would be taking the lead in bringing out 5G compatible handsets but it is not clear if Jio would partner them for 5G services as the company is likely to bring out its own handsets for 5G service at a competitive price, a repetition of JioPhone experiment, said sources.
Jio did not comment on its 5G preparedness.
Telcos and network manufacturers have already tied up with each other on 5G to outsmart peers in making the first move. Using 5G will be just like driving in a superfast car. It is 40 times better than 4G. The new and fast 5G network provide 20 Gbps download speeds and 10 Gbps uploads. For an example, 5G internet speeds can download an average sized full HD movie within 30 seconds.
The 5G game will be played well before 2020. The strategy will be to gain subscriber volume at cheap prices . Having learnt their lessons well from the 4G experience, Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and BSNL could also soft-launch 5G services with competitive tariffs. Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Huawei have started developing India-specific applications on 5G.
Financially constrained mobile phone operators are not in favour of an immediate spectrum sales, including 5G airwaves. They want the auctions to be held only in 2019-20. The government, though, has underlined its intention of bringing 5G to India at par with global timelines, or in 2020, having lagged the world in 3G and 4G.
State run BSNL, which is yet to start 4G services pan-India for lack of spectrum is also in the race to start 5G services and has already tied up with equipment vendors Nokia and ZTE. According to BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava, the PSU will use same 4G and 3G network for 5G, but with optimised network which can be possible as BSNL owns the largest optical fibre network. Airtel has partnered with Ericsson and with Huawei, it has already conducted first 5G trial.