Recently, a telecom ministry panel recommended spectrum allocation to telcos for conducting 5G network trials in India. As such, 5G pilot runs could begin June onwards.

Spectrum will be made available to Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio for three months initially, which could be scaled up to one year subject to network stabilisation. The telcos have been allowed to partner with Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson for the trials.

5G trials will give a much-needed fillip to the evolving technology ecosystem. It is a big move forward in India’s plans to launch 5G alongside other key telecom markets globally. Countries like South Korea, the US and Switzerland have already started select commercial 5G services for end-users.

The trials must be followed up with timely auction of spectrum for commercial deployments. Of course, the quantum of spectrum put on sale as well as the pricing of the spectrum will play a deciding role in telco participation in the auctions and thus, in realising India’s big 5G dream.

In parallel, there is an urgent need to augment the country’s existing telecom infrastructure, in particular its fibre network, to deliver the technological advancements promised by 5G. Currently, less than 30 per cent of tower sites are fiberised, a figure that must go up to 100 per cent in order to support the high capacity backhaul essential for 5G.

On its part, the government has announced a slew of measures such as the Fibre First initiative and the setting up of the National Fibre Authority to expand and speed up fibre deployments under NDCP 2018. TRAI is also planning to initiate consultation on ways to enhance optic fibre capacity in the country. What is needed now is aggressive implementation of these initiatives.