Airtel conducts India’s first rural 5G trial along with Ericsson

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Updated: October 05, 2021 6:33 PM

The demonstration took place in Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi-NCR using 5G trial spectrum allocated to Airtel by the Department of Telecom.

bharti airtel"5G will be a transformational technology when it comes to delivering broadband coverage to the last mile through use cases like FWA and contribute to a more inclusive digital economy," Randeep Singh Sekhon, Airtel CTO said.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel and equipment maker Ericsson on Tuesday said they have conducted India’s first 5G network trial in a rural location, demonstrating the potential that 5G can unleash in bridging the digital divide.

The demonstration took place in Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi-NCR using 5G trial spectrum allocated to Airtel by Department of Telecom (DoT).

The trial showcases the massive potential offered by 5G towards bridging the digital divide by enabling access to high-speed broadband through solutions such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services.

Put simply, 5G is the next-generation network technology that enables connecting virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices at ultra-high speeds and responsiveness, and with low latency.

“5G will be a transformational technology when it comes to delivering broadband coverage to the last mile through use cases like FWA and contribute to a more inclusive digital economy,” Randeep Singh Sekhon, Airtel CTO said at a virtual event.

Nunzio Mirtillo, Head of Ericsson South east Asia, Oceania and India said that 5G will serve as a “socio-economic multiplier” for the country.

As per a study by Ericsson, on an average, a 10 per cent increase in the mobile broadband adoption ratio causes a 0.8 per cent increase in GDP, Mirtillo noted.

Over the past few months, Bharti Airtel and Ericsson have teamed up to showcase enhanced speeds of more than 1Gbps on a live 5G network set up at Cyber Hub in Gurugram using Bharti’s 3500 MHz trial spectrum.

In January this year, the two companies also showcased Ericsson Spectrum Sharing capabilities on a commercially deployed installed base of 1800 MHz liberalised frequencies in Hyderabad to give consumers their first experience of 5G from a live commercial network.

The highlight of the rural 5G trial was the demonstration of over 200 Mbps throughput on 3GPP-compliant 5G FWA device at distance of over 10 kilometres from the site.

This translated into an inter-site (between two 5G sites) coverage of about 20 kilometres, thus offering the ability to provide high-speed broadband coverage even in the remotest of geographies.            “As part of the trial, even a commercially available 3GPP-based 5G smartphone was able to connect to the 5G test network and record 100+ Mbps speeds at a distance of over 10 Km from the site,” according to a joint statement by the companies.

Asked about the timelines that the company is looking at for deploying 5G network commercially, Airtel’s Sekhon said if spectrum auctions take place early next year, then 5G networks could go live across India “probably a quarter or two quarters from that time”.

“As we know India is a big country it will take sometime…But after one year of the start, we should see large portions of India covered especially where the demand is higher and devices are present, to get a 5G network,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that the telecom department last month approached sector regulator TRAI seeking its recommendations on pricing, quantum and other modalities pertaining to radiowaves in multiple bands, effectively preparing the ground for holding 5G spectrum auction over the coming months.

DoT’s reference seeks views of TRAI on base price, quantum and all other modalities for spectrum across multiple bands. These include bands such as 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz bands, as also 3,300-3,600 MHz bands (that were not put up for auctions in the last round), and millimetre-wave band (that is 24.25-28.5 GHz).

Recommendations have been sought on reserve price, block size, band plan, and quantum of spectrum to be auctioned.  Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had recently said the 5G spectrum auctions will “most probably” be held in February 2022, and the government may even try for a January timeline.

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