India Has Poor 4G Connectivity Question Raises About 5G

4G Connectivity

An example city of India, Nellore, Suresh Kumar, who depends on the internet for transferring data from home, says he feels tensed during peak hours to discharge duties promptly and efficiently. He says, even though, he resides in city limits he regularly faces trouble due to slow internet connection.

Thanks to the flash-speed services being lured by majority telecom networks through various packs offering 4G services that fail even in the urban segments. It is not only problem for home based working people but also for many, who were not getting high-speed net connectivity in many towns in the district as it is being publicised. Consumers say the services are not up to mark in towns due to lack of mobile towers.

Consumers residing on the outskirts of Nellore and in Kavali, Gudur, Naidupet, Atmakur, Kovur, Venkatagiri, and other places are experiencing slow net connection. Suresh Kumar, who works in a private company is using two SIM cards of popular mobile companies but still they are useless for him even though he resides in city.

“We have to wait for the connection and sometimes run for half a kilometre for better signal strength,” he added. The same situation is being faced by many consumers in Kavali town where more than one lakh population resides. Very few places close to the towers get somewhat better signals. “There is no question of 4G connectivity in the town and it is only available in Nellore.

When we observe advertisements, the telecom companies are completely misleading people and we are planning to approach consumer forum for justice,” said D Bharathi from Kavali town. Soon after use of Android app for smart phones has been rampant, settings play a very important role in connectivity.

An Access Point Name (APN) is the name of a gateway between a GSM, GPRS, 3G or 4G mobile network and other public computer networks. A mobile device making a data connection must be configured with an APN to present to the carrier and the erratic settings give troubles to the consumers when not configured correctly.

“We tried to change even the APN settings according to the network operator still we are unable to get the connectivity. This problem is due to private telecom operators have failed to set up their own towers in the towns. Majority of them collaborate with other companies, who are having towers in rural and urban areas and sometimes they don’t provide network due to technical errors,” said P Ramana Kumar, a techie from Gudur.

Below Pakistan

India might be flourishing as one of the largest consumers of 4G data in the world but the picture isn’t pretty when it comes to 4G LTE speeds! A recent report by UK-based wireless coverage mapping experts, OpenSignal, puts India behind Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as one of the slowest countries in terms of 4G LTE speeds for the month of February, 2018. India is currently languishing at the bottom of the list with the slowest 4G LTE speed of 6.07 Mbps among 88 countries. Countries like Pakistan are above India with 4G LTE speeds of 13.56 Mbps while Sri Lanka has 13.95 Mbps average download connection speed.

Though the above numbers are more shocking than disappointing, there are some figures to look forward to as far as availability of 4G signals is concerned. Where India lacks in speed, it compensates in reach. Currently, India acquires the 14th position in the list of 4G availability with an increased 86.26 percent coverage of 4G across the country.

Last year in November, India was in the 11th position with 84.03 percent coverage area. The credit for the increase can be attributed to the Reliance Jio wave that’s swept across the country. Although, on the flip side, the falling data rates have attracted many 4G users and that has lead to more network congestion, resulting in India’s poor performance on the global scale. Though the above numbers are more shocking than disappointing, there are some figures to look forward to as far as availability of 4G signals is concerned.

Where India lacks in speed, it compensates in reach. Currently, India acquires the 14th position in the list of 4G availability with an increased 86.26 percent coverage of 4G across the country. Last year in November, India was in the 11th position with 84.03 percent coverage area. The credit for the increase can be attributed to the Reliance Jio wave that’s swept across the country. Although, on the flip side, the falling data rates have attracted many 4G users and that has lead to more network congestion, resulting in India’s poor performance on the global scale.

Multiple factors

There are multiple factors which determine how fast a country’s 4G speed can be. How much spectrum is devoted to LTE, whether the country has adopted new 4G technologies like ‘LTE Advanced’, how densely networks are built and how much congestion is on those networks are some of the factors which affect the network speed in a country.

Relatively, nations with the fastest speed tend to be the ones that have built LTE-Advanced networks and have a large proportion of LTE-Advanced capable devices. India still struggles in this department.

“Meanwhile, the bottom ranks in our speed chart feature several countries with large populations — and therefore large mobile subscriber bases — that bring down the global 4G average. For instance, India and Indonesia both averaged 4G downloads below 10 Mbps”—the report said.

Mobile tariffs in countries like South Korea and Singapore remain very high because of which there is less congestion resulting in higher speed consistently.

India’s current 4G structure is in dire straights and really requires an extensive overhaul if we are to see any betterment in average download speeds. With an estimate of 90 percent Indian users to gain access to the internet by 2020, good 4G speeds is going to be a necessity rather a requirement.

Dreaming of a 5G network

A recent report says that India’s 4G network base is growing at a frenetic pace (thanks to free Jio 4G over the past year), but the internet speed still lags behind Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While India is dreaming of a 5G network by 2020, it needs to reflect on the various key aspects such as un-licensing of E-band, V-band, spectrum management system and infrastructure upgradation.

However, when you put that in geographic as well as economic terms, India’s state of 4G penetration is not only more significant, but is also making faster inroads. The lack of 4G speed can be attributed to coverage issues in the country, which, neither of Airtel, Vodafone, or Idea have been able to fix. Yes, India’s speeds are nowhere close to what users in South Korea or Singapore get, but with India’s population, garnering average speed of 5.1Mbps is not a total disaster. Data prices have drastically come down, and over the next 6 months or so, we’ll see the trigger effect of it. Most internet-based companies (re: Uber, Swiggy) are focusing on India, and not Pakistan, even though it offers faster internet speed. At the end of the day, what matters is, how many users are actually on the internet, and this is where India clearly surpasses other nations.

If you see 5G standards are being developed at two fronts, one the ITU is preparing the standards for global launch of 5G, in official terms it’s called IMT2020. The 5G standards standard will be completed by 2020 and then they will be implemented through a body called 3GPP. We have a detailed plan for development of various requirements, various testing criteria and all the countries will submit their devices and equipments which will then be evaluated in the ITU and then finally ITU in 2020 will decide that this is the approved technology.

The technology for 5G will be approved by Working Party 5D and through the process of ITU and then that technology will become the official 5G technology.

In India we have been behind the curve in 3G and 4G but I think with 5G we are trying to put India as one of the leading players.

ITU-APT Foundation of India has been playing a very key role in bringing India’s requirements into the ITU. We have a very specific requirement which we call as LMLC. This is basically to meet the rural requirements since in India we have large rural areas which are mostly under-served for the broadband. The speeds in these areas are not very high.

While Korea and Japan are thinking in terms of 500 KM or 150 KM per hour speeds for rural areas, we in India think our main requirement is large coverage areas. We have been working with the academia here on 5G, particularly with IIT Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and the telecom standards body of India and we have put together proposals that are going to ITU on LMLC.

Roll out of 4G is happening now but we don’t think roll out of 5G in India will be that much delayed. 5G in India will be rolled out maybe around 2020 or 2021. By 2020 the standards will be ready and a lot of companies are doing pre-work where they’re already launching trials particularly for Olympics in Tokyo and Korea. They’re already coming up with solutions at least on trial basis. Although in India we’re not doing trials but we’re doing tests in IIT Delhi for 5G, so a lot of work is happening today.

One of the most important requirements for 5G is backhaul and without backhaul even if you put the highest gigabit, it’s not going to help. Two things that the operators and the government should do is to first reach the fibre to as many base stations as possible. Another important thing is to is to un-licence the E-band which is a new frequency spectrum that allows more than 1 GB data for backhaul. Today most of the backhaul is 300 MB which is not enough for even 4G. So what we’re trying to do is that if we get the un-licensing done of E-band, that particular band will allow operators to put in massive backhaul.

It is crucial to have this un-licensed spectrum in E-band which will allow operators to put a low cost, very high, massive broadband connectivity to all the stations. The government has to do a lot and this is the thing which we have taken up with the government. There is already a body called Nation Frequency Allocation Plan Committee and we have put proposals to un-licence that band, if that happens I think things will move. It’s currently in the process.

It’s always the thinnest pipe which blocks the whole thing and even if at the last mile if you have 5G of 1GB for instance and your backhaul is limited to 300 MB, then with so many users you’ll be choked and it is happening today also. Therefore backhaul should be done now, it is not waiting for any standards. 5G is waiting for standards which will happen in few years but everything that we need for a strong backhaul is available today. First, the operators need to rollout the fibre to all base stations which is not so easy but at the same time upgrade their base stations also. The base stations need to connect through backhaul to have speed and the government has to un-licence the E-band and V-band which is very critical for high speed backhaul.

The backhaul can only be done by upgrading the microwave links. First the government has to make the spectrum available which is one of the holding points and once that is done, all the telcos need to upgrade their microwave links since connectivity to the station is very critical.

In India we do not have a very good spectrum management system. Research analyst company deal with almost 80 governments around the world and look after spectrum with many countries and a lot of countries have great spectrum management practices but in India we need to upgrade our spectrum management skills.

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