5G & Fiberization in India

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    • Recently, India is preparing to auction off about 72 GHz of airwaves to roll out 5G services in the country.

    Fiberisation

    • The process of connecting radio towers with each other via optical fibre cables is called fiberisation.
      • A fiber optic cable is a network cable that contains strands of glass fibers inside an insulated casing. They’re designed for long-distance, high-performance data networking, and telecommunications. 
        • The optical fibre works on the principle of total internal reflection (TIR).?

    • Usage: It helps to: 
      • Provide full utilisation of network capacity, 
      • Carry large amounts of data once 5G services are rolled out. 
      • Aid in providing additional bandwidth and stronger backhaul support. 
    • Backhaul component: The backhaul is a component of the larger transport that is responsible for carrying data across the network
      • It represents the part of the network that connects the core of the network to the edge. 
      • As a result, fibre backhaul remains an important part of transport across all telecoms.
    • Optical media: Also called Fibre-based media, provides almost infinite bandwidth and coverage, low latency and high insulation from interference. 
      • With 5G, it will also be necessary to increase the density of mobile towers to provide better coverage to consumers and businesses. 
      • This calls for increased requirements for fibre deployment.

    Tower Fiberization in India

    • To transition into 5G, India needs at least 16 times more fibre.
    • In India, currently only 33% of the towers are fiberised, compared to the 65%-70% in South Korea and 80%-90% in the U.S., Japan and China, according to a 2021 report by India Infrastructure Research. 
    • The fibre kilometre (fkm) per capita in India is lower than other key markets. 
    • Ideally, a country needs 1.3 km of fibre per capita to ensure good fiberisation. 
      • India’s fkm is just .09 compared to 1.35 in Japan, 1.34 in the U.S. and 1.3 in China, the report noted.

    Can satellite communication help in 5G deployment and improve network backhaul?

    • Processing power needs to be distributed from centralised data centres to edge servers closer to users.
    • Satellite communication can provide high-capacity backhaul connectivity to large numbers of edge servers over wide areas.
    • This will complement the terrestrial network with cost-effective scalability.
    • Satellite communication can facilitate 5G broadband connectivity to underserved areas where it is not feasible to deploy terrestrial infrastructure like remote villages, islands or mountainous regions. 
    • Satellite-based networks are the only means for delivering 5G broadband to users on board moving vessels, including cars, ships, aeroplanes and high-speed trains. 
    • Space-based backhaul will provide:
      • Disaster relief services, 
      • Support emergency response teams
      • Deliver broadband connectivity for one-off entertainment or sports events anywhere in the world.
    • The low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will be well-suited to offer not only backhaul, but also direct connectivity. 

    Image Courtesy: SnT 

    Advantages of 5G

    • High speeds: 5G works faster on mobile phones and other devices when compared to 4G and 4G LTE. 
    • Low latency: 5G has low latency when compared to 4G that will support new applications such as AI, IoT, and virtual reality efficiently. It enables mobile phone users to open a web page and browse things without any hassles. 
    • Increased capacity: 5G has the capacity to deliver up to 100 times more capacity than 4G.  It allows companies to switch between cellular and Wi-Fi wireless strategies that will help a lot to experience better performance. 
    • More bandwidth: It increases the bandwidth that will help transfer the data as soon as possible. Mobile phone users can ensure a faster connection with more bandwidth after choosing a 5G network. 
    • Powering innovation: 5G technology is the perfect choice for connecting with a whole range of different devices including drones and sensors. It gives ways to power the adoption of IoT allowing industries to enhance their productivity and other things. 
    • Less tower congestion: 4G cellular networks often get congested which will result in various problems while accessing important data. 5G networks allow users to avoid them due to better speed and more bandwidth. 
    • 5G places a lot of importance on energy efficiency. This will mean lower energy bills for service providers and longer battery life for mobile devices.
    • 5G technology will bring positive change in the governance of the country, ease of living, and ease of doing business. It will boost growth in agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, and logistics.

    Challenges 

    • Connections: The infrastructure needed for such a rollout requires existing radio towers to be connected via optical-fibre cables. The work of connecting the towers could prove to be a huge challenge for the country.
    • Capacity expansion: The tower sites which are connected via fibre are called fibre point of presence (POP). There is a challenge to increase data capacity in the fiberised towers. 
    • Funding and investment: To reach the targeted level of fiberisation, India requires about ?2.2 lakh crore of investment to help fiberise 70% towers. 
      • About ?2.5 lakh crore will be needed to set up 15 lakh towers in the next four years, according to estimates by the National Broadband Mission and Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI).
    • Achieve visions of Government Schemes: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his 2020 Independence Day speech, laid out the vision to connect every village in the country with optical fiber cable (OFC) in 1,000 days. To achieve that vision, cables must be laid at a speed of 1,251 km a day, around 3.6 times the current average speed of 350 km a day.
    • Right of Way (RoW) rules: The rules aim to incorporate nominal one-time compensation and uniform procedure for establishment of Overground Telegraph Line (OTL) anywhere in the country.
      • While all States/UTs are required to implement these rules, they are not in complete alignment and still require certain amendments to align.
      • Further, several districts and local bodies have not agreed to the RoW policies as notified in those respective States. These places are following their own bylaws overriding the State RoW policies aligned with the RoW rules, 2016.

    Way Ahead

    • Government programmes like BharatNet and Smart Cities will further add to the demand of fibre deployment, necessitating a complete tower fiberization.
    • In order to boost domestic manufacturing of optical fibre, the government should consider introducing a PLI scheme that aims to give companies incentives on incremental sales from optical fibre manufactured in domestic units. 
    • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has also published a consultation paper on using street furniture for small cell and aerial fiber deployment. This along with the findings from the pilot projects will help to inform the regulatory and policy framework
    • As the 5G standard is adopted, new markets will open up for satellite operators, including IoT, private 5G, and cellular backhaul for densification to enable more cell sites and edge devices

    Source: TH