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India readying for 5G launch – slightly behind Asian 5G leaders

India readying for 5G launch – slightly behind Asian 5G leaders

India’s government is looking to launch 5G services across the country by 2022, according to telecoms secretary Aruna Sundararajan.

Speaking to Bloomberg, the secretary noted that Japan and South Korea were aiming to launch 5G in 2019 and China was pushing for 2020. These nations are making a strong push towards 5G, and India will tail them by two to three years, with the minister saying that India is “not there yet” with the technology compared to its fellow Asian countries.

Sundararajan noted that 5G in India “won’t be driven by supply, it’ll be driven by demand and the rest of the industry needs to wake up to this”. The country’s mobile sector has been embroiled in a fiercely competitive price war for 4G services since the launch of Reliance Jio in September 2016.

While India has typically been later to adopt new technologies than the three aforementioned Asian markets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative is aimed at accelerating connectivity and driving access to digital services in the country, and a 5G rollout will be a major step towards this.

The availability of 5G will boost internet speeds across the country and reduce latency, as well as providing a foundation for the government’s planned smart city initiatives. Sundararajan noted: “If we want smart cities, clearly we need smart infrastructure for it.”

India may in fact reap the benefits of deploying 5G after China, which is the only mobile market in the world larger than it. Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Christopher Lane said: “India needs China to launch to drive economies of scale and lower 5G handsets.”

TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recently recommended putting 5G-capable 3.6GHz spectrum up for auction at an unspecified date in the future, but does not seem to have learnt its lesson about setting reserve prices as these are still very high by global standards.

India is reportedly aiming to prepare for 5G by boosting its fibre network from 1.5 million km to 2.5 million km by 2022.

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