For Telecom major Ericsson switching on 5G services will be as easy as activating the service in areas where network operators are using its latest radios, but the company says the efforts will not be worth it unless there is adequate bandwidth. “Technically, you can activate 5G overnight. Our fight is also about getting better speed, which comes with bandwidth. Now, that’s where 3.5GHz and 28GHz play a key role because our recommendation is at least 100MHz to see the value off the higher data,” explains Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania & India.
“Activating 5G on the existing radios, you get speeds similar, maybe a few percent better than 4G, and you will get the advantage of lower latency,” he told indianexpress.com. The company is working with at least 23 networks across the world on 5G deployment.
Bansal, who has been with Ericsson for close to two decades in different roles, remembers that when rolling out 4G, because the coverage was not ubiquitous, everyone was using 3G as a backup. In 5G, especially with the Ericsson installation, we are basically activating 5G wherever you have 4G”.” So for those networks that got Ericsson radio systems post 2015, it will be a mere software upgrade. “In hotspots, you will also use the advantage of mixing it with the lower band and increasing the coverage,” explains Bansal, adding that in India “the newer equipment has gone to areas where you expect it”. But it will not be a 100 per cent, he reiterates: “The logic is that you will put the latest and the greatest equipment in areas where it matters, right?”
According to Ericsson, data traffic per smartphone per month, which is the highest in India at 9.8 Gb, is expected to double by 2024 as total subscriptions reach 1.1 billion. But this won’t all be 5G drive as Ericsson’s data shows that by 2024 LTE will account for nearly 82 per cent of all mobile subscriptions in India compared to 38 per cent in 2018 — 5G will account for just 6 per cent of total subscriptions.
Bansal underlines that there are some prerequisites for tapping the opportunities presented by this new generation of technology. “The real advantage comes when you have 100MHz, because that’s when you are getting the economies of scale and the cost of production on the device starts to decline. Spectrum has to be definitely one of those. Then there is the need for backhaul, either through fiber or microwave or whatever is going to be right,” he adds.
“For me, an important use case for India is fulfilling the need of subscribers to get high speed internet connectivity at home. Then when it comes to industry, there is a lot of work going on in B2B. Then again, it is also quite country-specific, that you are trying to solve something which can be improved in a certain country or a city or a specific application.”
Ericsson’s studies have shown that Indian smartphone users are willing to pay more than 66 per cent premium for 5G services like 5G TV, VR Cloud Gaming, 5G in-car entertainment and Virtual Tactile Shopping. But the report also suggests that it is too early to predict how future usage behaviors will evolve, though it seems clear that they would expect extended battery life and extreme inbuilt storage to be standard for 5G devices.
Also, it says one in five smartphone users’ data usage could reach more than 145 GB per month on a 5G device by 2025. A handful of smartphone manufacturers, including the likes of Samsung and OnePlus, have already started selling the first 5G smartphones in markets were rollouts are happening.
Bansal is optimistic that while 5G will ease the 4G congestion, it also opens up new areas of revenue. “I will also put this into two buckets. One is the normal enhanced mobile broadband kind of applications… so more subscribers, more usage, more revenue. The other one is on the non-consumer use cases, in more B2B kind of use cases. As per our projections, we say 5G will open up additional revenues of about $27 billion by 2027, out of which approximately $13 billion will go through operators.”