NEW DELHI:Ericsson is in talks with Indian telcos to pilot its 5G-ready solutions for their existing 4G networks, said Joakim Sorelius, the company’s head of product line 5G RAN, and head of RAN Architecture. Speaking to ET’s Danish Khan, Sorelius said that Ericsson is planning to start lab trials for 5G during this year in India. He said the company will see 5G products contributing to its revenue by the end of this year from India. Edited excerpts…
Q How keen are Indian telecom operators on 5G?
Generally, operators are extremely interested in 5G. In most of the world, the revenues for telcos are slowing or sometimes decreasing. They are looking at new ways to rejuvenate their business. They see characteristics of 5G as bringing a lot of new opportunities. That is especially because of 5G use cases that 5G will allow operators to address in other spaces like industries use cases.
Q What are the steps required to transform networks to 5G in India?
While there is huge opportunity in digitisation of industries, operators are not so used to working in those industries. There’s some uncertainty on which operator can or won’t address those new opportunities. Fact is traffic is increasing, and there is a need to enhance the current networks, both by densifying – increasing spectrum — and adding capacity. To ensure that those networks are prepared for the future, telcos need to prepare networks to be capable of 5G while addressing current needs on 4G with the help of 5G plug-ins in 4G networks.
Q Which are the specific bands for 5G in India?
For spectrum, global harmonization is extremely important for India to benefit from global ecosystem of smartphones, IoT devices, network equipment and so on. One trend is spectrum in mid-range — 3.5 Ghz — is becoming globally adopted in many markets. If a market has lower band available like India, then it is in a good position, and can add higher bands with its wide bandwidth later on.
In India, 700 Mhz hasn’t been allocated yet. So it’s a candidate for 5G. There are some movements in the US around this band for 5G, and it is being considered in Europe.
Q Indian telcos want to delay the auction of 5G in India — would that impact the development of 5G ecosystem?
The main task for regulator is to ensure that spectrum is available. There are various ways that a policy maker can stimulate the investment in new technology such as investing in smart cities, smart energy productions, thereby motivating telcos to invest much earlier. India could do similar things.
Q When can we expect lab and field trials in India?
We are planning to start lab trials this year in India. Then standard trials will happen in mid-2018, and from that time we will see a lot of activity in this field.
Q Is Ericsson in talks with Indian telcos for the deployment of solutions that will help them migrate to 5G, going ahead?
For existing 4G networks, we are in talks with almost all customers for 5G plug-ins, including massive mimo. The driving need is capacity crunch. End of this year, we can see them contributing to our revenues in India.
Q What are going to be the main use cases in India?
First, traffic on telcos’ networks is growing immensely. We believe it will grow eight times globally by 2022. In order to satisfy the demand for data traffic, we need new better and efficient ways to handle that data. In that sense, 5G will be an important part in the coming years to support the increase in traffic in regular mobile broadband case.
Digitization of industries and society is happening, and cellular connectivity will be a key component for the same. By introducing cellular connectivity in industry process and smart cities, security and public safety, production and so on, you can get increased revenues. Telcos are eager to tap into some of these segment to increase revenues.
Q How do India compare with developed markets in terms of broadband connectivity?
India requires everything that advanced markets require but at a lower price. India is no laggard when it comes to demand for new technology and data traffic.
Q How can digitisation of industries drive the need for 5G in India?
There is new revenue being created by digitalisation in general. For India, the potential is around $60 billion by 2026, increasing rapidly from the current level. A significant part of this revenue can be attributed to 5G. 5G will bring new capabilities to cellular networks, including low latency that is required in industry control and energy. In addition, 5G will bring high reliability.
This is the year for 5G. This is when industry starts to work with 5G, which is now in specification phase. We have gone into product development with device partners. Operators and industries are now identifying use cases around 5G, ultimately paving way for commercial roll out in 2019-2020.
Q How do you look at the current state of Indian telecom networks?
Densification of 4G and indoor coverage is required, not just in metros but in tier 1 and tier 2 towns. In some cities, there is now need of extreme capacity, and there are solutions like LAA, massive mimo and small cells that can be deployed. Jio has shown a huge pent up demand for data services. That can only be realised if there are more 4G base stations, not on roads, but inside buildings.
Q Which are the new innovations Ericsson is working on for 5G?
It is very much around overcoming challenges related to high bands. In addition, we are working on enhancing to processing capabilities.
Q Tell us more about Ericsson’s 5G for India program?
IIT-Delhi partnership is the first step towards that direction. We want to experiment differently from what traditional industry players would think. We are in touch with other industries, including automative industries in India, as there are more talks around M2m and connected cars. Some talks are direct while some are through telco partners.