With 5G being one of the most important consumer technologies coming up for 2021 and beyond, India is stepping up the pace in its quest for 5G deployment in the country. The biggest highlight of India’s preparations for 5G deployment comes courtesy Reliance Jio Infocomm’s financial report for the latest quarter ended December 2020, which reported a 15.5 percent quarterly jump in net profit and a 5.3 percent quarterly jump in operational revenue, along with a 6.4 percent rise in the operator’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation). At the core of its positive outlook going forward is its upcoming 5G service, which is now in advanced stages of development across all fronts.
Confirming the present state of affairs, Reliance Jio stated that its homegrown, indigenously developed 5G Core network and 5G radio has already managed to achieve data throughput, or network bandwidth upward of the 1Gbps mark – a sign of super-fast, gigabit class internet networks that are expected to define most internet standards going forward. This suggests that its 5G Core and 5G Radio are ready for commercial deployment. Jio has also confirmed that it is presently working on making its own Massive-MIMO and 5G Small Cell equipment that can bolster network speeds and quality in low coverage, indoor areas – typically referred to as ‘blind spots’ in today’s network parlance. The indoor 5G network equipment is “under advanced stages of development,” claims Jio.
Jio’s work on developing a full-stack 5G infrastructure within India is a positive move for the Indian 5G network sector, further promoting the central government-backed ‘aatmanirbhar’ and ‘make in India’ initiatives. For one, having our own stack of 5G network equipment can drastically reduce dependence on foreign players such as the highly controversial Chinese Huawei Electronics, as well as other global contributors such as Nokia and Ericsson. Once fully developed and running, India can also become an export hub to supply other nations with the requisite 5G network infrastructure, thereby seeing a set of homegrown network equipment range being deployed around the world.
Furthermore, this move can help leading Indian telcos to custom configure network qualities and requirements to the specific needs of India, such as bolstering the indoor network quality. The development of 5G Small Cell by Reliance Jio can help micro-deployment of network infrastructure in areas that have typically seen poor service quality, therefore significantly improving the overall quality both in terms of data speeds and availability, and voice calls. Without the added burden of import costs, this can also allow Indian telecom operators to serve 5G networks to users at super affordable prices. India is already one of the most affordable data markets in the world, and if the leading operators in the country can set the ball rolling by offering 5G services at the same, super affordable price points, the move can even set a strong precedent for the world to follow.
India has also been pushing for development of smart cities across the country, and homegrown 5G infrastructure and services, akin to what Reliance Jio has been building, can help India achieve this at a faster pace – yet again by customising the network services to the key needs of Indian users. The onus now is hence on the central government to auction 5G airwaves and make adequate spectrum available to telecom operators, to make the most of India’s homegrown 5G network infrastructure and bring the latest generation of connectivity to users. A lot will now depend on how soon can the auctions take place, and how efficiently can the telecom operators be facilitated to conduct network trials and open up commercial 5G services for the country.
With all of this at hand, 2021 is geared to be a critical year for 5G and telecom infrastructure in India. With commercial deployment on the horizon, and leading nations around the world already pushing its 5G networks widely, India looks set to be one of the biggest players in the world to be setting up its own 5G infrastructure and use the same not just for domestic deployment, but offering the services on a global scale.