To counter China rolling out 5G along the Line of Actual Control on its side, earlier this week the Indian Army has issued an open Request for Information (RfI), seeking bids from companies to help provide technology needed in the field by the troops.
The Indian Army is seeking technology related to 4G- and 5G-based mobile cellular networks which will be used at high altitude in mountainous terrain and will also help in improving its communication and data network. This network is needed to be operated at altitudes of almost 18,000 feet, have temperature of -20 to -25 degrees, .5 mm to 50 cm of rain, snowfall of up to 10 feet and winds of 50 to 120 kilometers per hour. User device should have 256 bit AES Encrypted Security.
5G – to be used in Defence & Military Application
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is a proof of how 5G can be used in the battlefield in the use of different technologies in some form or the other with minimum human loss.
Lower latency Internet network and it is ideal for different applications in defence and military use.
In simple terms – The fifth-generation cellular wireless, is set to take the former standard -which we are using ie., the 4G LTE – network performances to a whole new level.
It will set in motion another digital revolution on the battlefield with its ultra-high data rates and instantaneous real time transmissions. And when used in military applications, can be used in Real-time cyber attack, Detection and Response.
5G is important for a smart military base and is critical for infrastructure. Useful for the ‘battle network’- Real Time Maps etc; Battlefield Wearable; Drones and Artificial Intelligence.
In India for 5G we are still building the companies and the infrastructure and are at a very nascent stage. “We have been suspicious about Chinese company Huawei and its military application of 5G in India,” explained a telecom expert.
Adding, “State sponsored tech companies from our borders like China can impact our future war preparedness.”
What is the Indian Army looking for?
According to the RfI, the army is keen to get a network which is not only secure but will provide secure messaging, and data services in the intended area of coverage, and will also be helpful in supporting the field formations in their operational requirements.
The package of services should include delivery of network, execution and it should be done within 12 months of signing the contract.
Following the Galwan incident in 2020, the Chinese side wasted no time in laying down fibre-optic cables on its sides of LAC which enabled it to have smooth communication within the formations.
Based on reports, the Chinese side has already rolled out 5G networks in eastern Ladakh on its side of LAC and is also in the process of converting their entire surveillance and communication system to the same.
Is this impacting the communication system of the Indian Army?
Yes. According to reports, the 5G system deployed by the Chinese side is creating problems for the Indian Army and now efforts are on to address these issues.
According to the RfI, the solution being provided by the vendor should be based on the specifications laid down by the Army and not any particular OEM specifications. It should also be capable of supporting global accepted standards. And for the safety and secrecy of the network, it should be able to be integrated with an encryption device as buyer-furnished equipment.
Why is 4G/5G required?
This is important for communications and faster data transfer and will help the Indian Army which is facing some issues related to communications at high altitude in forward areas.
According to reports, India is expected to get 5G services by March 2023 and towards this, the first major phase of the 5G rollout process started earlier this week.
Companies including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) and Adani Enterprises, bid in the 5G auction. And according to sources in the defence establishment, one of these companies is expected to respond to the RfI floated by the Indian Army.
The Indian Army has gradually started providing a high speed network for soldiers stationed in high altitude areas. The work of providing high speed communication to every village of the kilometer border and every post of the army in high altitude has been started expeditiously.
In the form of communication, China has brought 5G closer to the LAC. Last year, China started a 5G signal base on the world’s highest radar station in Tibet near the Bhutan-India border. Interestingly, roaming signals of Chinese service providers can come on Indian phones, especially in the villages situated near LAC.
And to tackle this problem, Indi is getting set to respond to Chinese attempts to infiltrate the communication systems.
Until now, private companies in far flung and border areas have not been giving services to the far flung areas and have often said that they do not get the profit by spending as much money as the companies spend to set up the infrastructure.
Almost two years ago, the Ministry of Telecommunications started work on several projects in an effort to provide mobile connectivity to 354 remote and border villages of the country. There are 144 villages in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh out of the 354 remote locations where there is no mobile connectivity. And for this a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh has been set up so that the jawans can use satellite phones.
This year in June the 4G network was introduced in some forward parts of Ladakh by Reliance Jio to a village close to Pangong lake, which is a friction point between India and China, and has set up a mobile tower at Spangmik village.