A day after Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw asked telecom companies to install at least 10,000 5G towers every week, industry sources in the know said the government mandated target was difficult to achieve in the near future. However, they added the numbers should rise soon from the current 2,500 per week.
While the government is ready to help telecom companies scale up 5G infrastructure with whatever policy support they need, the speed of 5G roll-out needs to be maintained, Vaishnaw said on Wednesday.
“I have a small request for telcos. Now we are installing around 2,500 base transceiver stations (BTS) or towers per week. That is a bit low. We need to be installing at least 10,000 BTS per week,” Vaishnaw said on Wednesday. A BTS is a fixed radio transceiver in any mobile network, most often in the form of a tower. However, often new 5G radios are also put up on existing tower infrastructure. It is used to facilitate wireless communication between subscriber devices and telecommunication (telecom) operator networks.
Sources added at the moment, hitting the 10,000 BTS installation figure wouldn’t be possible even taking into account both new locations and 5G transceivers put on existing infrastructure. “As is expected, we are still facing teething trouble. The pace will pick up soon. But 10K per week is difficult in the near future,” a senior industry executive said.
According to the Department of Telecom (DoT), as many as 8000 BTS have been installed so far. So said the two telecom companies currently rolling out 5G nationwide – Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio – haven’t committed to a minimum number of installations per week.
However, if required, Airtel may expedite its 5G network rollout by adapting existing network equipment to also send out 5G signals, a person in the know said. Currently, 5G is being introduced in India on two different technological platforms. In Standalone (SA) mode, the network is built only on 5G, while in Non Standalone (NSA) mode, the 5G network is built on an existing layer of 4G network. While Reliance Jio has launched its 5G network on the SA mode, Bharti Airtel has opted for NSA.
The pace of tower installation is dictated by the availability of 5G radios, environmental conditions and approval process.
Prime among this, is the fact that we still need to do the strength tests before mounting the 5G radios. Environmental factors such as the recent rains in Delhi, and incidences of fast winds in various parts of the country had made it difficult for personnel to physically climb the towers, he added.
Industry executives also pointed out while the approval process for installing towers has been eased, some on ground operational difficulties remain.
The supply of 5G radios, all of which are imported at the moment, also affects the rollout. 5G Radio units emit radio frequency (RF) signals for end-user equipment to connect to the Private 5G network. Radio units come pre configured for network access to the AWS Region and the Spectrum Access Service (SAS), a service that grants spectrum. Reliance Jio has entered into long term strategic partnerships with Nokia and Ericsson to deploy the tech in India. “The Centre should provide import clearances expeditiously for 5G radios,” a senior industry executive said.
However, Made in India 5G radios are expected to be ready for commercial deployment in the next six months, according to C-DoT. The technology jointly developed by C-DoT, Jio’s Radisys India, VVDN Technologies and Wisig Networks was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the India Mobile Congress to make a 5G call. Business Standard