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  • 04 November, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

4G Vs. 5G

4G Vs. 5G

Context: This topic is important for UPSE GS Paper 3 And Prelims.


  • "G" stands for "GENERATION". While connected to the internet, the speed of the connection depends upon the signal strength that is shown in abbreviations like 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, etc. on any mobile device.
  • Each generation of wireless broadband is defined as a set of telephone network standards that describe the technical implementation of the system.

Brief History of Data Transmission

  • The transmission of data through networks evolved in 1980 with the emergence of 1st generation of networks. Since then, data transmission has seen an up-gradation and improved speed.
  • The 2nd generation (2G) network was launched in the 1990s. Digital radio signals were used and that supported both data and voice transmission with a frequency of 64 Kbps.
  • The 3rd generation (3G) network was launched in the 2000s. The network speed provided were in the range of 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps.
  • 4G was launched in 2009 and allowed data transmission at a speed of 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
  • 5g is the next generation wireless cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra-low latency.

A government panel report points out that with 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabit per second (Gbps). This can help in good governance and can lead to higher economic growth in India.

Difference between 4G and 5G-



5G uses utilises much higher radio frequencies of 28 ghz.

4G uses lower reading frequencies of 700 mhz to 2500 mhz.

5G transfer more data over the air at faster speeds.

4G speed is lesser with less data transfer.

5G has lower latency i.e the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction. Latency for 5G is predicted to be below 10 milliseconds, and in best cases around 1 millisecond.

4G has higher latency as compared to 5G. Latency for 4G is around 20-30 milliseconds.

5G uses millimetre wave spectrum which enables more devices to be used within the same geographic area supporting around one million per square kilometre.

4G support lesser number of devices of about 4,000 devices per square kilometre.

5G uses a new digital technology that improve coverage, speed and capacity.

4G has led to more congestion and lesser coverage as compared to 5G.

Various advantages of 5G technology:

  1. High speed: 5G will revolutionise the mobile experience with speedy wireless network. Compared to conventional mobile transmission technologies, voice and high-speed data can be simultaneously transferred efficiently in 5G. This will enhance and support government’s effort to promote digital India.
  2. Better Governance: Better speed and connectivity would reduce red-tapes. It will enhance speedy completion of projects and better implementation of policies. It will enable accountability in the system through a better monitoring system and will reduce corruption.
  3. Low latency: It is one of the most important features of 5G technology which is significant for autonomous driving and mission critical applications. 5G networks are capable of latency less than a millisecond. This help in logistics improvement and would reduce overall cost of goods and services.
  4. Employment generation: 5G wireless technology will open greater opportunity for new device manufactures and application developers. New VoIP devices and smart devices will be introduced in the market and thus more job opportunities as well. This will help in inclusive growth reaping demographic dividend.
  5. Enhanced network coverage: Device-to-device communication techniques will further enhance network performance and support during limited access or absence of mobile networks. This will help in reducing digital gap in India.
  6. Entertainment and multimedia industry: Analysts found that 55% of mobile Internet traffic has been used for video downloads globally in 2015. This trend will increase in future and high definition video streaming will be common in future. This will help in growth of entertainment industry and thus more jobs will be there. It will also increase government revenue through taxes.
  7. Enhanced Security: 5G wireless technology is one the best solution for security surveillance due to higher bandwidth and unlicensed spectrum. It will enhance better coordination among various agencies.
  8. Logistics and shipping: Logistic and shipping industry can make use of smart 5G technology for goods tracking, fleet management, centralized database management, staff scheduling and real-time delivery tracking and reporting.
  9. Smart cities: It will fuel government’s smart city project. Smart city application like traffic management, instant weather update, local area broadcasting, energy management, smart power grid, smart lighting of street, water resource management, crowd management, emergency response etc. can use reliable 5G wireless network for its functioning.
  10. Industrial Growth: Future industries will depend on smart wireless technologies like 5G and LTE advanced for efficient automation of equipment, maintenance, safety, tracking, smart packing, shipping, logistics and energy management.
  11. Agricultural applications: 5g technology can be used for agriculture and smart farming in future. Using smart RFID sensors and GPS technology, farmers can track location of livestock and manage them easily. Smart sensors can be used for irrigation control, access control and energy management.
  12. Healthcare and mission critical applications: 5G technology will with reliable wireless network connected to another side of the globe. Doctors can connect with patients from anywhere anytime and advise them when necessary. Scientists are working on smart medical devices which can perform remote surgery. Smart medical devices like wearable will continuously monitor patient’s condition and activate alert during emergency.

TH EDITORIAL-India’s 5G leap is about powering tomorrow

The revolution that 4G technology ushered in can be enhanced but the nation cannot gloss over the digital divide.

  • The fifth generation mobile network, or 5G, is the next level of mobile network that will shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industrial 4.0, quality of service delivery, innovation, etc. by facilitating smarter and developing societies.
  • Commercial 5G networks began to be deployed in 2020 and are expected to reach 12% of world mobile connections (1.1 billion) and generate revenues up to U.S.$1.3 trillion by 2025 for operators.
  • The technology that 5G uses will improve data transfer speed at unexpected higher levels — almost 100 times more — and reduce latency times helping mission-critical services.

Thus, 5G is essential but are we ready for it?

Some roadblocks-

  • India’s telecom sector, which has revolutionised the digital space and facilitated services-led growth and quality of life, has been estimated to be one of the top performers globally for several years; but it has also been in doldrums for the last few years.
  • Moreover, the Supreme Court of India’s ruling on the dues being sought by the Department of Telecommunications (estimated to be more than ?90,000 crore has further exacerbated the financial condition of telecom companies.
  • It is no wonder then that the number of telecom operators has come down to a handful from around 15 a few years back.
  • In this scenario, the huge investment required for 5G may add to their worries. The trial run of 5G in developed countries such as Japan and the United States reveals that the investment is very high, ranging from $6 million per small city to $60 million per large or densely populated city.

Much potential-

  • The new generation mobile network has the transformative potential to provide a wide range of benefits to the Indian economy, which when enhanced with artificial intelligence provides a new dimension to connected and autonomous systems.
  • Its use is a chance for Indian policy-makers to educate and empower citizens and businesses, and transform existing cities into smart and innovative cities.
  • This may allow citizens and communities to get socio-economic benefits and comforts delivered by a well-advanced, more data-intensive, digital economy.
  • Broadly speaking, the uses of 5G in India may encompass enhanced outdoor and indoor broadband, the Internet of things, smart cities, smart agriculture, energy monitoring, remote monitoring, smart grids, telehealth, industrial automation, remote patient monitoring and industrial automation to name some of the areas. There is great potential for India to move to an advanced digital revolution.
  • However, it is imperative to undertake an independent economic assessment, city wise, beginning with the metro cities, to assess the commercial viability for 5G deployment in India. Till this happens we may continue enhancing the existing quality of 4G networks.
  • Singapore had planned four 5G networks — two comprehensive 5G networks and two others with smaller and limited coverage, the reason being the high cost in deployment of fibre cables and the scarcity of 5G airwaves.

What needs to be done-

  • The immediate priority for India will be in identifying end users and population to be covered, analysis of the existing network and operators, identification of cities for the 5G roll out, working out an investment model, and minimisation of the digital risk and pricing based on the externalities and usage of various sectors.
  • The deployment of 5G in India needs to be carefully planned after a cost benefit analysis by independent experts which will create a level-playing field through market mechanism such as facilitating, simulating, auctioning, ensuring competition, functioning markets, etc.
  • Once a case is made for 5G, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) may consider preparing a fool proof spectrum road map with a predictable renewal process which will compensate the huge investment required for deployment and ensure coverage.
  • A level-playing field should be created for all telecom companies with more focus on companies which have the experience of ensuring telecom networks to remote areas and the potential to provide affordable coverage.
  • Global trial runs show that the key areas for 5G deployment are harmonisation of 5G spectrum bands, pricing and sharing of the spectrum.
  • Sharing of available spectrum to maximise its efficient use especially in rural areas, and spectrum allocation procedures that favour investment, need to be considered.

Essential sector-friendly steps-

  • As the deployment of 5G network is expensive, both the Central and State governments may need to consider measures which stimulate fibre investment, attract investment through public private partnerships (PPPs) and facilitate investment funds on a nominal interest basis.
  • Fortunately, the big telecom package along with reforms announced by the Government in the middle of September brings relief and creates an enabling environment for investment in the sector.
  • Steps such as a moratorium on dues, redefining adjusted gross revenue, and reducing spectrum charges will help all telecom companies, more so Airtel and Vodafone Idea who face precarious financial situations.
  • Further, allowing 100% foreign direct investment in the telecom sector under the automatic route along with these policy reforms augurs well for the sector to attract investment. Implementation of 5G requires huge investment and the relief package is welcome step.

Tax issues too-

  • The Government also needs to address information asymmetry and negative externalities through laws and regulations/taxes and subsidies. The deployment of 5G technology will also need right of access to government infrastructure such as traffic lights, lamp posts, etc. where wireless operators can deploy electronic small cell apparatus.
  • At the same time, reasonable fees may be charged by State and local governments to operators for affordable deployment of 5G equipment.
  • Further, removing the tax burden for deploying fibre networks reduces associated costs, thereby promoting investment as was done by Singapore government, could help in the smooth deployment of fibre in India.

Way Forward

  • As India has already witnessed digital revolution even in its remotest areas due to cost-effective 4G technology, the use of 5G can play a vital role in enhancing this sector and also facilitating India’s goal to emerge as a manufacturing and innovation hub.
  • The negative implication of 5G is furthering the ‘digital divide’. Therefore, Government policies should also focus on affordable coverage through synchronisation of bandwidth.

Source: The Hindu

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