5G Advanced Sprint: China Leads by Miles as India Struggles to Join the 5.5G Race

China accelerates 5G-A rollout with massive infrastructure and industry applications, while India lags behind but initiates efforts to catch up in the race for next-gen wireless technology.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

On June 26, Chinese officials and executives announced they would intensify their efforts to commercialize 5G Advanced, or 5G-A, technologies. This initiative will facilitate the identification of critical 6G technologies and expedite the application of artificial intelligence in additional sectors.

The comments were made in anticipation of the commercial launch of 5G-A technology in 2024. This technology is a critical enhancement to the 5G network in terms of coverage and functionality. For example, 5G-A is equipped with 10-gigabit peak down-link speeds to accommodate the growing variety of service requirements.

At the inauguration ceremony of the 2024 Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Zhao Zhiguo, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology chief engineer, emphasized the critical nature of further integrating 5G with new-generation information technologies, particularly AI.

He also emphasized the necessity of using 5G to empower emerging industries, including the low-altitude economy (like delivery services, agriculture, surveying and mapping, aerial photography, emergency responses, etc.) and intelligent connected vehicles. In scenarios involving high-end manufacturing and ubiquitous connectivity, deploying passive Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and integrated sensing is essential.

Zhao also advocated for increased efforts to expedite the research and development of critical 6G technologies, thereby establishing a strong foundation for the future development of the industry and 6G standards.

Chinese media says that the country had made notable progress in developing 5G infrastructure as of the end of May, with 3.837 million 5G base stations, which accounted for 60% of the global total. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, these developments have established China as a worldwide leader in 5G technology, with more than 50% of mobile communication consumers currently utilizing 5G services.

The ministry reported that China has successfully implemented more than 94,000 5G application cases in various sectors, including manufacturing, mining, power, ports, and healthcare.

Currently, China is trying to improve the fundamental capabilities of its self-developed large language model, which is roughly translated as Yuanjing.

According to Wang Tao, executive director of Huawei Technologies Co., the 5G-A commercial year has been announced by more than 60 telecommunications operators and partners worldwide. This year, over 30 devices that support 5G-A are expected to be released, signifying a significant milestone in the digital era.

What is 5G Advanced?

5G Advanced, often referred to as 5.5G, represents the further advancement in 5G technology, offering improved functionalities beyond fundamental connection. The release date is anticipated to be in 2024.

The uplink data rates are 20% more than those of 5G. It has Enhanced signal reception and Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) efficiency.

5G-A will support self-driving vehicles and industrial mechanization. There will also be advancements in IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, and the Enhanced integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will optimize network operation.

The good news for gamers is that 5G-A will enable truly immersive XR (AR/VR) and cloud gaming.

5G Advanced and India

As of August 2023, Jio and Airtel collectively serve more than 10,000 cities, indicating that India has made substantial strides in the deployment of 5G. Nevertheless, India is currently concentrating on the deployment of basic 5G coverage and has not yet disclosed its intentions for 5G Advanced.

Obtaining right-of-way permissions, complex licensing regimes and high taxation on the telecommunications sector are among the primary obstacles that Indian industries encounter in their 5G implementation. The government has been supportive of mobile telecom since Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the Prime Minister of India. Subsequent governments have allocated spectrum, expedited licensing, and provided subsidies to support the industry.

India is currently building its 5G ecosystem on top of its existing 4G infrastructure; however, significant investments are still required to upgrade networks for 5G operation. The implementation has been significantly facilitated by the collaboration of regulators, equipment manufacturers, and telecom operators.

However, this does not imply that India is not actively pursuing measures to implement it. The standardization procedure for the initial release (3GPP Release 18) was completed in June 2024, facilitating the progress of development and implementation.

The full capabilities of 5G Advanced are expected to be realized in the coming years with the implementation of Release 18, and further enhancements will be added with the completion of Release 19 by the end of 2025.

The International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIIT-B) spearheads a national initiative to conduct research and development (R&D) for 5G Advanced and even 6G. It is dedicated to developing intellectual property rights and promoting businesses in this field.

India vs China in 5G

At present, India is considerably behind China in terms of 5G implementation. In 2019, China initiated the deployment of 5G services, whereas the Indian government has only recently authorized spectrum auctions in 2022.

Initially, the Indian government set exorbitant prices for the 5G spectrum auctions. Telecom operators considered these prices insufficient, particularly given India’s lower average revenue per user (ARPU) compared to China.

India had approximately 20 million 5G connections as of February 2023, which is significantly lower than the 70 million connections anticipated by the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) in its 5G paper for 2025. As of May 2024, it is estimated that there are more than 890 million 5G consumers in China. This accounts for more than half of the global 5G user base.

Policy restrictions, exorbitant spectrum prices, and deficient fiber networks have impeded India’s 5G deployment.

Conversely, China has prioritized 5G as part of its Made in China 2025 initiative. In comparison to the United States, which accounts for 35.2% of global 6G patent applications, Chinese corporations and universities account for 40.3%.

China is also offering financial and technical assistance to build 5G networks in other regions, such as Africa and West Asia, while India is still grappling with its own deployment.


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