Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw made the country’s first 5G call to IIT Madras earlier this week. The call was made over a trial network set up using telecommunications equipment entirely designed and manufactured in India. This success was one of the greatest moments for the country’s first 5G testbedand the Development of native 5G teleconnectivity.
India is one of the biggest markets for 4G connectivity. However, the rollout of 5G calls and 5G internet has been quite a challenge, mainly due to security issues. Countries like the US and UK already have 5G calling services in several areas and are even offering 5G internet in select locations. Over the next decade, these countries plan to rapidly expand their 5G internet coverage.
So how were the 5G voice and 5G internet networks set up? We’ll take a look, but first we need to understand some basic things about 5G networks.
What is 5G Calling or 5G Voice?
Broadly speaking, 5G networks can be divided into two classes – 5G high frequency bands operating in the 3200-4200 MHz channels and 5G very high frequency bands or millimeter Wave (MMW) operating between 20-96 GHz. Unfortunately, the higher the frequency on which a network operates, the more limited the range. All the claims that people are making about ultra-fast internet connections, where they are hitting speeds of over 1 GBPS or more, are using MMW 5G.
5G calls basically work within the high frequency bands, i.e. between 3200-4200 MHz. These bands can still carry data or the internet, and these will be significantly faster than your regular 4G networks, but they’re nowhere near the speeds that 5G is advertised for.
To put things in perspective, a really strong 4G connection will be around 100Mbps (the theoretical limit is 300 under lab conditions). High 5G frequency bands will easily give you speeds of 300-500Mbps in real environments. 5G MMW will easily give you around 900Mbps to 1.5Gbps with a theoretical top speed of 10Gbps.
How does a 5G network improve call quality?
5G voice or 5G calls operate on the lower frequencies of the 5G high frequency bands, i.e. below 4200 MHz. In 5G, the standard voice codec in 5G smartphones enables “HD Voice+” using the 3GPP standardized Enhanced Voice Services (EVS). EVS can already be used in 4G networks, but is not mandatory. Simply put, call connectivity is much better and, if implemented correctly, would result in far better speech intelligibility than today. In addition, there will be a significant reduction in disconnections. In addition, calls are also connected faster, at least in theory. Another advantage would be that group calls sound significantly better and can handle more callers.
Can all 5G smartphones use the 5G network tested in IIT Madras?
Technically yes and no. Different 5G bandwidths use different 5G antennas and transmitters. Therefore, you will see a huge number of 5G bands in a smartphone’s spec sheet. The most popular 5G bands in smartphones in India are N77 and N78. Both bands are in the middle range. However, there are phones on the market that offer around 13 5G bands, but you should know that the frequency of the band is more important than the number of bands offered.
So if in an area the deployed network is using the lowest spectra of 5G, devices with only the mid or high bands will theoretically not work well with 5G. There will be some connectivity, but none to its full potential.
What type of 5G network has been tested in India?
With all communication going through the hardware that powers these 4G and 5G networks, it’s vital that we don’t expose ourselves to security vulnerabilities. So we had to develop our own 5G-ready hardware. The test calls, involving IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, operated in the middle spectra of 5G’s high frequency bands, meaning they can carry both voice and data. Although the data doesn’t have the transfer speeds we’re seeing in 5G MMW, it’s still significantly faster than 4G, and the voice calls have much better clarity and stable connections.
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