5G Technology – Features, Pros, Cons and Challenges

Why in News?

  • 5G technology is expected to be launched globally by 2020. Telecom giants such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. are conducting trials of 5G fixed broadband in homes and businesses.
  • South Korea has finished auctioning off spectrum for 5G to telcos and is set to begin its launch in December.
  • The Indian government has been taking measures for earlier deployment. Recently, a high-level forum was set up to develop a roadmap for adopting 5G in the country by 2020.
  • With 5G technology, the government aims to provide internet connections with speed up to 10,000 Mbps in urban areas and 1000 Mbps in rural areas.

What is 5G technology?

  • 5G is a fifth generation wireless communication technology that has very high reliability, spectrum bands and speed which is around 10 plus Gbps (20 times that of 4G).
  • It is based on IEEE 802.11ac standard of broadband connectivity. But a formal standard has not been set yet.
  • The final standard for 5G will be established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Advantages/Applications of 5G technology

  • With very high speed, 5G allows access to high-bandwidth multimedia such as HD videos, movies and games which can be downloaded in seconds.
  • It enables high-speed data services that have industrial applications.
  • It supports critical applications like financial transactions and healthcare.
  • It will help incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our daily lives. It will enable cloud systems to stream software updates, music and navigation data to driverless cars seamlessly. It will also facilitate vehicle-vehicle communications in order to keep a safe distance from each other = fewer car accidents + less traffic congestion.
  • It will facilitate the ecosystem for the Internet of Things (IoT) by enabling smart devices to exchange data seamlessly.
  • With greater speed comes digital growth that will result in GDP rise and employment generation in the country.
  • In the field of telemedicine, 5G enables instantaneous transmission of video and data = surgeons can operate remotely with a robotic scalpel.

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Disadvantages of 5G technology

  • Technology is still in progress and research on its viability is going on.
  • The speed on such scale (10,000 Mbps) is difficult to achieve considering the incompetent technological support in most parts of the world.
  • Many of the old devices would not support 5G. Therefore all of them need to be replaced with new ones.
  • Developing infrastructure for 5G is expensive.
  • Security and privacy issue are yet to be resolved.

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Challenges in adopting 5G in India

  • India lacks strong backhaul for the transition to 5G. Backhaul is a network that links cell sites to the central exchange. However, 80% of cell sites in India are connected through microwave backhaul (high latency+limited capacity) and only 20% sites are connected through fiber communication (low latency+unlimited capacity).
  • Indian market is yet to adapt to 4G completely and has not completely evolved to experience an AI revolution.
  • 5G technology would require newer handsets with the latest hardware which would mean the replacement of older phones with new and costlier phones (undesirable for low-income people).

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India’s Initiatives

  • Bharatnet project was launched in 2017 for providing digital infrastructure on a non-discriminatory basis by an affordable broadband connectivity for all households. The objective is to facilitate the delivery of e-health, e-governance, e-banking, e-education, Internet and other services to rural areas.
  • National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) aims at bringing a broadband revolution in rural areas. Its objective is to connect all the Gram Panchayats in the country with 100 Mbps connectivity. As we have seen earlier, fibre provides strong backhaul, thus facilitates the adoption of 5G.
  • National Telecom Policy – from March 2018 onwards, the government has initiated measures to introduce 5G technology in India through the National Telecom Policy (NTP). It aims to reach 100% teledensity, high-speed internet highways and delivery of citizen-centric services electronically.
  • High-level forum to develop 5G roadmap – Recently, the Department of Telecommunications set up a high-level forum to evaluate roadmaps and create a strategy to adopt 5G in the country by 2020.
  • Waivers for Private telecoms -The government also announced a subsidy of  Rs 3,600 crore to private telecom players such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Reliance Jio to establish Wi-Fi in rural areas as part of the second phase of the BharatNet project.
  • The government is working on creating a corpus of Rs 500 crore to fund 5G activity, particularly on research and product development.
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Way forward

Earlier deployment of 5G technology in India will help companies design and manufacture 5G products and solutions in India, thus creating some essential Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the 5G standard. It is high time that India strengthens the domestic telecommunication manufacturing market to enable local industries to capture both domestic as well as global market.




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Santhosh Kumar

Santhosh is the founder of IAS EXPRESS and Civilskart. He is on a mission to make learning easier and fun for civil service aspirants through an innovative approach and help them achieve their dream. Life Motto: "You'll never know what you are capable of until you try".
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