Finally, the 5G network is available in India. Although still restricted to a few selected states, network carriers, including Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone, have promised to expand the 5G network reach soon. And while the Ookla Speedtest Intelligence report indicates that 5G speeds in India have reached 500 Mbps on test networks, and many users are experiencing blazing fast download speeds on their smartphones, some are stuck with super slow speeds too. Subscribers are complaining on Twitter about the super slow 5G speeds, which happened to be slower than what consumers accessed on their 4G networks.
If you are wondering what’s wrong, Viswanathan Ramaswamy Vice President for 5G and Digital Solutions Incubation at Tata Communications, in an exclusive conversation with Business Today, explains the reasons behind the slow 5G speeds subscribers are experiencing.
Early days of the rollout
Network Operators got spectrum only in August, and only post that they started rolling out the network. But because of the Indian Mobile Congress, the operators had to launch the network in specific pockets of cities. However, their rollout obligation lets them roll the 5G network across the country over a five-year period, which operators will duly comply with.
Overcoming Technical Glitches
As the rollout obligation allows the network operators to expand the 5G network across the country over a period of five years, there is no urgency for them to roll out the network. Also, in the initial days of the rollout of the next generation of mobile telephony, network carriers experience many glitches that they must overcome simultaneously. If they roll out the 5G network at a very massive scale and aggressive speed and then encounter any technical glitches, retracting will be a costly proposition. That’s why operators roll out the new network in a small portion, check all the parameters to every testing possible, stabilise the software, and then replicate it to the rest of the country.
While it may sound weird to read, even the limited 5G networks are congested already. Subscribers are excited about accessing high-speed 5G networks on their existing 4G plans. And hence, multiple people are latching on to the small 5G network available, resulting in network congestion.
Non-Standalone 5G network
There are two modes of network delivery - standalone mode and non-standalone mode. As operators don’t want to waste the investment they have already made towards the 4G network to move into 5G suddenly, a non-standalone mode gives operators a transition path. In this, both 4G and 5G coexist, and the core network determines the end device's ability to connect it to the 5G or 4G network.
What this non-standalone network gives is only an increase in speed. It doesn't provide all the other good things that a 5G network offers, such as low latency and massive IoT support. If you look at India, all three operators, when they launched their 5G networks, were non-standalone networks, to begin with, because there are over 600 billion 4G subscribers in the country. Operators cannot, just like that, move all of them to 5G. So they will have to do a slow transition. And while the operators are trying standalone networks, it will take some time before a nationwide standalone 5G network comes in.
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