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India's First 5G Call Speaks Startup, Industry Exploration

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In one of the biggest moments of India’s 5G exploration, Union IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw made the country’s first 5G call at IIT Madras over a trial network set up using an indigenous telecom network. Considered a big basket for 4G, but rolling out 5G hasn’t been looking great, particularly security being a hole in the wall to make a 5G call.

However, there are more holes than security. To start with, the spectrum auction is yet to take place, leave alone making them affordable. Then there’s rationalizing regulatory USOF and SUC to ease cash flow concerns, low fiber footprint (which could damage the delivery), underdeveloped domestic hardware manufacturing, and making them affordable as well.

Yet the newly inaugurated 5G testbed by the country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, pushes startups and industry players to test and validate their products. Not only does this elevate the ‘Make in India’ initiative, but it helps reduce the dependency on foreign facilities as well. People’s statements about ultrafast internet connections, talking speeds of 1GBPS or above, are mostly MMW(millimeter-wave) 5G. Before looking into how the 5G voice and internet network were set up to make that call at the institute, it is important to understand the difference 5G can bring for a call and whether or not all smartphones can make that call.

5G Calls Can Carry Data or Internet and Still Be Faster but…
5G networks are categorized into two components: The High 5G operating at 3200-4200MHz channels and the Very High 5G Frequency Bands or MMW operating between 20-96GHz. But the complexity is that the higher the frequency that a network operates on, the more limited the range.

5G calling runs primarily in the High-Frequency Bands, ranging from 3200 to 4200 MHz. These bands can still carry data or the internet, and they will be much quicker than 4G networks, but they will fall far short of the speeds promised by 5G.

To put things into perspective, a high-speed 4G connection will reach speeds of around 100Mbps (the theoretical limit is 300, under laboratory conditions). In real-world situations, high 5G frequency bands readily provide 300-500Mbps. With a theoretical top speed of 10Gbps, 5G MMW could easily effortlessly deliver around 900Mbps to 1.5Gbps.

Improved Calling Quality
The lower frequencies of the High 5G Frequency Bands, under 4200 MHz, are used for 5G voice or 5G calls. The default voice codec in 5G devices enables ‘HD voice+,’ based on the 3GPP Enhanced Voice Services standard (EVS). EVS is already available on 4G networks, but it is not required. Simply put, call connectivity is significantly better, and when correctly deployed, it will result in far greater sound clarity than what the country currently has. There will also be a considerable decrease in call drops. Furthermore, calls will connect faster, at least theoretically. Another advantage is that group calls will sound much better and can accommodate more callers.

Can all Smartphones Use 5G?
Different 5G antennas and transmitters are used for different 5G bandwidths. As a result, a smartphone's spec sheet will have a large number of 5G Bands. In India, the N77 and N78 bands are the most widely used 5G bands in smartphones. Both of these bands are in the middle of the spectrum. Having said that, there are phones on the market that offer roughly 13 5G bands, but the frequency of the bands is more important than the number of bands accessible.

If the 5G network implemented in an area employs the lowest spectrums, devices with just the mid-range or high-range bands will not perform properly on 5G. There will be some connectivity, but not to the full extent possible.

How did the Call Succeed?
Although all communications pass through the technology that these 4G and 5G networks use, they felt it critical not to expose themselves to any security flaws at the testbed. As a result, we had to create our own 5G-capable hardware. The test calls, which IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was a part of, used the High 5G Frequency Bands' mid-tier spectrums, which meant they could transport both voice and data. Although data transmission speeds will not be as rapid as those seen in 5G MMW, they will be much quicker than 4G, and voice calls will be much clearer and more stable.

“I invite the young colleagues of the country, researchers, and companies to use this testing facility to build 5G technology. This is a great opportunity, especially for our startups to test their products”, said the Prime Minister

“We’re proud of the IIT-Madras team that has developed the 5G test pad. Which will provide huge opportunities to the entire 5G development ecosystem and the Hyperloop initiative. Ashwini Vaishnaw said after the test’s success. The Railways Ministry will enthusiastically support the Hyperloop initiative. Ashwini said that the new solution will be commercially available through the state-owned BSNL. At a later date, through private operators”.

The test, developed at IIT Madras for Rs.2,20,00,000, will help Indian companies manufacture and certify products in India, eliminating reliance on foreign bodies.

“I invite the young colleagues of the country, researchers, and companies to use this testing facility to build 5G technology. This is a great opportunity, especially for our startups to test their products”, said the Prime Minister.

BSNL will partner with the Centre for Development of Telematics (CDot), an Indian government-owned company, on 4G and 5G networks. Tata Group will join the picture with TCS and Tejas. The BSNL network will be upgraded to 4G before upgrading to 5G.

The Department of Telecommunications will submit the 5G spectrum auction proposal for approval to the Union Cabinet. India intends to achieve more efficiency and reduce costs by developing and manufacturing in-house while constructing a full-stack 5G network for consumers.

The PM went on to say that India has developed its own 5G standard, known as 5Gi, which was a source of national pride and will help deliver 5G technology to the country's villages.

He claimed that 5G technology would improve the country's governance, ease of living, and ease of conducting business. Modi stated that this would enhance growth in all sectors, including agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and logistics.

“This will also increase convenience and create many employment opportunities. For rapid roll-out of 5G, efforts of both government and the industry are needed”, the PM added.

“Coming out of the despair, frustration, corruption and policy paralysis of the 2G era, the country has moved rapidly from 3G to 4G and now 5G and 6G,” the PM said.

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