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Do we need 5G in Nepal now?

5G network is evolving and expanding globally. Some countries like China, Korea, Germany have a widespread 5G network. As of May 2020, there are around 80 operators in 42 countries which had rolled out 5G network in small and large scale. People here have also started to demand 5G service here in Nepal. With the initiation of such demand, we are going to discuss here do we really need a 5G network in Nepal now.

First, let’s go with what 5G really is? 5G is a revolutionary mobile technology that provides ultrafast peak data speed of 1 Gbps. It is the latest generation of mobile technology after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G. It is not only the mobile broadband speed that 5G is revered about. 5G is also meant to connect everything around us. So, we should definitely need to know the ultra-low latency of milliseconds, high reliability, and the huge density of IoT/mobile connections that is possible with a 5G base station.

Why 5G?

5G is faster

5G has a peak data speed of 1 Gbps which can download an Ultra HD movie in a matter of few seconds. The average speed with 5G for a customer comes to above 100 Mbps. This outpaces 4G in terms of the speed, with the use of similar spectrum bandwidth. Read Is 5G better than 4G?

5G data speed
Demonstration of 5G with mmWave

5G is more efficient

As 5G provides higher data speed with the same operational power in the base station, 5G is considered as more efficient in terms of power. Similarly, it is also efficient in maintaining higher internet speed to subscribers due to the use of multiple antennas with a term called spectrum efficiency.

5G brings along a whole new suite of services

As 5G delivers ultra-low latency and reliable data communication, 5G also opens up a plethora of services and applications like the AR, VR, connected stadium, remote surgery, automated cars, smart cities, etc which are not possible with any G developed till now.

Here is a picture of the 5G application for a hologram phone call, as demonstrated in Mobile World Congress (MWC).

Hologram call with 5G

Demand for 5G in Nepal

With the demand for broadband internet surging in Nepal, some people have felt the need for higher internet speed for their multimedia, streaming, teleconferencing requirements. Yes, the COVID-19 had made us, stay on our homes and do nothing but the internet, putting a huge strain on the network. And they believed 5G can overcome such intense demand.

Among those, here is a recent tweet from former Secretary of GON, Rameshwor Khanal who suggested telecom companies to start deploying 5G quickly. He mentioned that it is difficult to handle online classes and virtual conferences with the current infrastructure. He also opined 5G to have a great business opportunity.

Rameshwor khanal 5G tweet

After his thoughts and several others followed his idea for a 5G network here. We delved into the issue to bring out the following points, which can be only applied as of now. Technology is evolving fast and so is the market and consumer demand. So, the points discussed below are meant for the current scenario which can change any time.

5G is expensive

5G is quite costly not only to the telecom operators but also to the end-users (as of now). The telcos need to bring a lot of expensive equipment to roll out the 5G network. Considering the fall out of revenue and struggling to get enough utilization in 4G, investing large amounts for 5G without proper demand is not sustainable.

Similarly, people and even ITU find the mobile data in Nepal to be expensive (in reference to per capita income). As people are suggesting the 4G itself to be not affordable, the blazing data speed of 5G will not be used by the commons.

5G is not MBB only.

As we wrote before, 5G is not only about mobile broadband, it brings along numerous use cases like the Internet of things which is not yet abundant in Nepal. Similarly, ultra-low latency applications are very far away from reaching us.  The time will definitely come when our demand for 5G is valid and that too for innovative usage scenarios.

Robotic hand for surgery with 5G
Robotic hand to use with 5G

5G spectrum not allocated in Nepal.

NTA, the regulator seems not prepared with the allocation of spectrum for 5G and the possible auction. Further, if some telcos want to refarm their existing spectrum to use it for 5G, what will be the provision to grant technology neutrality for that spectrum. The regulator has not defined the provision for both spectrum and technology neutrality as of now.

Considering the device ecosystem and our small market, Nepal should always follow the spectrum band which is ubiquitously available.

Are we at 5G demanding state?

Till now, we have been using 4G as mobile broadband service only which has not reached its peak yet. We have not used 4G for any home broadband solutions yet. And the fact that 4G is still expanding, some people have not got a taste of what 4G is. As per budget 2077/78, the government has planned to expand the 4G coverage to all places of Nepal in this fiscal year. 4G has quite good speed, as of now which still is in the expanding phase. We should also remember the peak data speed of 234 Mbps achieved with Nepal Telecom 4G during its launch demo.

Telecom experts opine that 4G can meet the current demand of people for mobile broadband. Telcos need to focus on expanding feature-full 4G for now. If 4G can meet the current demand for mobile broadband, then is it worth doing the multimillion-dollar investment for 5G? We don’t think so. Find the broadband penetration in the country.

If in near future, there is a huge demand for mobile broadband then telcos can add more spectrum, multiple antenna technology and more to provide 5G like speeds.

5G is still evolving.

5G mobile technology is still in the evolving phase. Most of the telecom operators deployed NSA (Non-standalone Architecture) which is actually the integration of 5G with the existing 4G LTE. That means the 5G network builds over the LTE infrastructure, shares the same core and transmission system.

The new architecture called Standalone Architecture (SA) is still not mature and widely deployed but it seems to be the future of 5G. So, as we could not afford to test new mobile technology, it is a good choice to wait for the standalone architecture to be mature and widespread together with the affordability of the SA 5G handsets. Read more about the 5G network and its applications.

Till then, we can expect the demand for mobile broadband to increase more while the operators can also make necessary arrangements to further increase the utilization of the network for IoT use cases and home broadband.

As we discuss the availability of 5G in Nepal, Xiaomi has recently launched Mi 10: first 5G smartphone in Nepal. This should help the telcos to test 5G on this device when they will bring it here.

Are the telcos working on 5G?

The telecom operators might be internally preparing for the 5G network which is not coming any time soon. Due to the huge investment, evolving technology, and no allocation of spectrum, they might be in a very early stage of their preparation or rather in the feasibility study phase only. When it comes to new telecom technology, we look after the giants Nepal Telecom and Ncell.

Nepal Telecom Ncell

There was a big buzz in the telecom industry last year regarding the investment of Chaudhary Group (CG Telecom) for 5G and people felt like this would come instantly. But the company could not even get a unified license from the government to run basic telephony services. Who knows if they had got the license, we would have tasted 5G by now? Just a thought!!!

As per now, both the telecom operators Ntc and Ncell have no immediate action plan for 5G due to the several factors discussed above like the huge investment, No spectrum defined.

Nepal Telecom might have allotted some 5G equipment within the current 4G expansion project, as per the directives from MoCIT. That time, MoCIT directed Nepal Telecom to make provision for rolling out 5G in 4 cities as a part of the same 4G expansion project. Huawei CEO once predicted 5G will come to Nepal in the year 2021, which too could be based on that above provision.

4G arrived late in Nepal which does not suggest 5G also should reach at a later time. Having an advanced mobile network early is good for the telecom industry and consumers as well. But considering the feasibility, affordability, maturity, fewer use cases, and preparedness, we have not yet reached a 5G demanding state. We do need a 5G network in Nepal but not instantly.

Having said that, the telcos should not either put 5G off the table. They can start doing some trails of 5G for a specific area and also for innovative use cases. This also can only be done when the regulator readies everything needed for 5G. Wake up Call!!

Tell us when do you think we need 5G in Nepal?

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