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India will get 5G next month. Do you need to upgrade?

Reliance will employ a sophisticated standalone network, while Airtel and Vodafone will build their 5G networks using the country's current 4G infrastructure.

India will finally get 5G starting next month. Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone are anticipated to launch 5G services soon after the four-day Indian Mobile Congress concludes on October 4th, which will offer customers of compatible devices quicker mobile access. These networks are anticipated to have speeds that are 10 to 15 times faster than those of existing 4G offerings. However, there are really two sorts of 5G networks: sub-6GHz 5G, which is what is now available, and mmWave, which promises a 10x speed jump with its ultra-high bandwidth which is what most people will experience after the rollout.

The 5G infrastructure will be non-independent, which means it will be constructed on top of the current 4G networks. This will lower the cost of the infrastructure and enable network operators to scale it up to become standalone as the 5G market grows. A non-standalone network using mmWave will require a lot more cell towers for coverage, and non-standalone infrastructure is excellent for sub-6GHz 5G.

Reliance Jio will have a more advanced standalone network than Airtel and Vodafone’s non-standalone infrastructure in India. Overall, switching from 4G to 5G shouldn’t result in a significant increase in the price of a mobile internet package. Even though Reliance would have needed to invest in more capital, it will use aggressive pricing to seize market share, much as it did when it first launched 4G.

The sub-6GHz 5G spectrum has the widest selection as compared to the spectrum that has been allocated to Airtel, Jio, Vodafone, and Adani, despite the fact that the 26 GHz allocation quantum is larger for overall bandwidth requirements. Following is the spectrum network operator allocation:

Airtel: 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100MHz, 3300 MHz and 26 GHz

Vodafone Idea: 3300 MHz and 26 GHz

Reliance Jio: 700MHz, 800MHz, 1800MHz, 3300MHz and 26GHz

Adani Data Networks: 400 MHz and 26 GHz

We will experience sub-6GHz 5G when 5G networks are operational, especially when using our smartphones, which is all spectrum that is below 6 GHz. However, if one compares the speeds we can anticipate, in the US T-Mobile markets sub-6GHz 5G network will have a speed of roughly 300 mbps, which is the speed of a high-speed Internet connection fibre line.

At best, one can anticipate the speed of 5G networks to be 2 to 3 times faster than what one experiences on 4G, despite Airtel’s claims that its 4G advanced network has a peak speed of 135 mbps. This is because network congestion, device type, and location all affect how quickly a network can actually operate. On your phone, streaming 4K content will be simple and data transfers will be nearly quick. Simply said, a high-speed broadband connection will feel like your mobile internet.

Why 5G at Sub-6Hz?
Sub-6GHz 5G is preferable for the majority of users for a second reason in addition to the cost advantage. Range. The same cellular towers are used by sub-6GHz 5G networks, which offer a mix of range and a spectrum that can more easily pass through concrete walls to improve signal stability indoors. Additionally, your phone’s battery life will benefit from this.

Although mmWave networks have a short wavelength, they will be 10–15 times quicker. They represent the 24GHz to 100GHz range of frequencies. In the US, a mmWave antenna can scale to a maximum of a kilometre but can only provide connection range for a block, or about 80 metres if one takes into account the structures in an area.

High-frequency signals are attenuated and reflected by construction materials like concrete and brick, thus even in this area, one requires a direct line of sight with the antenna. Even air, wood, and glass interfere with the signal at frequencies higher than 28GHz.

In India, particularly in the major cities where 5G will be implemented first, homes are constructed of brick and concrete in addition to actual buildings. Wood is a common building material in the US, especially in suburban areas, therefore mmWave has some hope of becoming viable there.

Because of this, it is extremely improbable that Adani Data Networks will ever operate a mobile network operator, despite the fact that it has bought spectrum. Its primary area of interest is mmWave, which will be extremely relevant in industrial use cases. Adani has acquired control of six airports, including those in Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Jaipur, Guwahati, and Thiruvananthapuram, where it may use its mmWave spectrum to set up a high-speed, congested-free network.

Watch out for 5G bands on smartphones
In India, the majority of handsets that enable 5G use the n78/n77 bands, which support frequencies up to 3300 MHz. Adani has not chosen this frequency, but Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone have all chosen this band. Fast 5G will operate at 3300 MHz.

On the other hand, because these bands were already in use for 4G, the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz bands will be used to increase the coverage of the 5G network. To expand their 5G networks, Airtel and Jio have acquired extra spectrum at lower frequencies. While Adani won’t be constructing a B2C mobile network, Vodafone didn’t feel the need to undertake so and didn’t require the spectrum.

For these low-end frequencies, the n28, n5, and n8 bands are required, and the majority of smartphones with 5G compatibility, notably those introduced in 2022, support these bands. Users should verify that their phones have the n77/n78/n5/n8/n28 bands, to put it briefly, in order to use 5G.

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