Millions of Indians living near airports may not get to enjoy 5G in 2023

The roll-out of 5G in India, which was kicked-off in October 2022, is happening at a much faster scale in India compared to 4G or 3G and millions of people will soon have an agile and faster streaming, gaming and work experience on their devices. Some serious concerns, however, remain to be addressed.

Industry experts believe that consumers who live in the proximity of airports are not likely to get 5G on their devices. And that number runs into millions.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently sent a letter to telecom providers Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone not to install C-band 5G base stations within the 2.1 km range of Indian airports with immediate effect, as C-Band 5G can create problems with the radio (radar) altimeters of aircraft. During takeoff and landing, and to help avoid crashing into mountains, pilots depend entirely on radio (radar) altimeters).

The DoT letter said that the telecom service providers (TSPs) are advised that “in the area 2,100 meters from both ends of runway and 910 meters from centre line of runway of Indian Airports shall have no 5G/ IMT base stations in the 3,300-3,670 MHz”.

Airtel has installed 5G base stations at airports in Nagpur, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Guwahati and Pune, While Jio has installed 5G base stations in the Delhi-NCR area.

The new rule will be applicable till the replacement of all aircraft Radio Altimeters filters is ensured by the DGCA.

“It is expected that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will proactively ensure the above in a time-bound and expeditious manner. DGCA is requested to inform DOT as soon as the above task is complete to enable lifting of the restrictions,” read the DoT letter.

As high-speed 5G wireless networks roll out across the world, pilots in the US also reported frequent problems with the aircraft’s radio (radar) altimeters.

According to an analysis of reports by IEEE Spectrum (the world’s leading engineering magazine) made to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), complaints of malfunctioning and failing altimeters soared after the rollout earlier this year of high-speed 5G wireless networks, which use similar C-band frequencies.

One jet lost its autopilot completely, and reportedly had fire trucks waiting for it on landing.

In March, a commercial jet landing on autopilot at Los Angeles International Airport suddenly went into an aggressive descent just 100 feet above the ground.

All three incidents — and many more this year — were linked by pilots to problems with the aircraft’s radio altimeters, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the 5G service has been rolled out in more than 50 cities and towns across the country by Reliance Jio and Airtel.

With the initial roll-out of 5G in India, global chip-maker Qualcomm has bolstered its efforts with Reliance Jio to help it fast connect 100 million homes through its 5G fixed wireless access including the millimetre wave (mmWave).

Qualcomm is working very closely with Reliance Jio to provide its chipset platforms for the 5G fixed wireless access and the Open RAN 5G network.

Neil Shah, Vice President of Research, Counterpoint Research, told IANS leading operators Jio and Airtel have tremendous scale and strong foundation to build upon existing 4G network coverage.

“Jio, especially, taking a 5G Stand Alone (SA) deployment approach where the 5G network is almost architecturally independent of the 4G network makes it easier for Jio to deploy pan-India 5G network swiftly to kickstart 5G services at scale,” said Shah.

Airtel though has to rollout 5G network along with its 4G, 2G networks, is also leapfrogging with 5G deployments for both consumer as well as enterprise use-cases and will fast-follow Jio in terms of coverage at pan India level by end of 2023, Shah added.

5G will represent around 53 per cent of mobile subscriptions in India by 2028, with 690 million users, according to a report that came out in November.

5G subscriptions in India were expected to reach around 31 million by the end of 2022.

Average data traffic per smartphone in the country is projected to grow from 25GB per month in 2022 to around 54 GB per month in 2028, according to the latest ‘Ericsson Mobility Report’.

“5G will play a crucial role in achieving India’s digital inclusion goals especially for bringing broadband to rural and remote homes,” said Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions for South east Asia, Oceania and India, Ericsson.

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