5Gi explained: What does it mean, how is it different from 5G, what Jio, Airtel and Vi say about 5Gi

5G roll out in India has been delayed for multiple reasons. Is 5Gi one of them?

5G is yet to take off in India and the country has taken its own time to figure out the nitty-gritty for it. While many other countries have had 5G for a while or have started with their 5G, the Indian government is yet to auction the spectrum that will be used for the 5G network. So what is the reason for the delay? New reports suggest the country is hoping to incorporate a locally designed 5Gi network, which has been developed by IIT Hyderabad and IIT Madras.

So it is possible the Indian government is looking for answers that convince them that using the 5Gi network will be more beneficial in the country, rather than going for the global standard 5G setup. But what is 5Gi, and what do the Indian telecom players have to say about its use. We tell you everything there is to know.

Also read: Juhi Chawla on 5G: Not against 5G in India, just want clarification it’s safe

What is 5Gi?

5Gi is basically a Made in India 5G standard created through a joint collaboration between IIT Hyderabad and Madras (Chennai). The network standard has already got the nod from the International Communication Union (ITU), which does not dish out approvals easily. Only three standards have gotten clearance from ITU to date. Reports say that 5Gi will operate on the same bands and spectrum as the regular 5G network. In fact, many say that 5Gi uses millimeter wave technology to provide high-speed internet connectivity.

5Gi offers more range at a lower frequency, which is the opposite of 5G. The latter works between the 700 MHz to 52,000 MHz bands and sacrifices on range. Theoretically, 5Gi can work with lower-end spectrum bands, which would make it more cost-effective.

Benefits of 5Gi

So, can the homegrown 5G standard work better than its global counterpart? Experts say that using the 5Gi standard will allow telcos in the country to widen the 5G connectivity net to villages. It is also said to be cost-effective as a technology, which can be beneficial if implemented at a large scale by the operators in the country. The rural network has always lagged behind the urban setup, but 5Gi can make sure there is no lag between the advancement of 5Gi in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and rural parts of the country. Not only does 5Gi promise fast internet connectivity but also helps in improving mobile coverage.

Challenges of 5Gi

The news about 5Gi will definitely have come as a shock to telecom operators in the country. After all, they have spent millions on upgrading their network to offer 5G connectivity. And now, out of the blue, the country is considering switching to 5Gi, a local standard. So, eventually, if India decides to go with 5Gi as its default network standard, this could become problematic for telcos. Their existing setup will have to be re-engineered to support the 5Gi standard. And that will cost them a lot of money once again.

But that’s not all. Telecom body in the country claims that 5Gi cannot work with the global 5G standard that is based on the 3GPP technology. The Cellular Operations Authority of India believes that moving from 5G to 5Gi will be cost-intensive and most likely make the local bands incompatible with the global network right now. So, all signs suggest moving to 5Gi might not be a good idea.

Will India get 5Gi or 5G?

As of now, COAI and other telecom representatives have been directed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to study the effect and shortcomings of using the 5Gi standard. The telecom authority also wants COAI to check with the possible use of 5Gi by telcos and handset makers. Whether they find it feasible to make the move.

So, before the country undertakes a 5G auction, it is imperative that the government finalises the move, either in favour or against the use of 5Gi.

What do Jio, Airtel, and Vi have to say on 5Gi?

Now, this is where things get even more confusing. Earlier, major telcos Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea (Vi) and multinational vendors like Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, and Samsung wanted 5Gi to be compatible with the global standard. Only then would 5Gi be feasible for India. But now things have changed. While Jio is still open to the idea of using 5Gi for its network, Airtel is at loggerhead about redeploying the network which is going to be highly expensive. Jio says that if vendors like Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung can offer 5Gi-compatible hardware at a low cost, it is willing to switch.

Jio 5G

But for a legacy provider like Airtel, it won’t be easy. So its disagreement to consider moving from 5G to 5Gi is understandable. And, don’t forget, the Indian telecom sector is in an ailing condition, which is why most telcos have tried to delay trials and auction for 5G spectrum. Vodafone Idea also believes that the price of getting a 5G spectrum needs to come down. Otherwise, the dream of 5G in India will take longer than anyone can imagine.

Will regular 5G phones support 5Gi network?

And yes, that is definitely a concern for the end consumer. Most brands have started offering 5G devices in the market and people are buying them. If 5Gi does come, chances are these phones will not be compatible with local bands for 5G. This means people will have to consider buying a new 5G phone. So, unless technology advances to allow 5G and 5Gi to work in tandem, we could be in for a challenging situation in the near future.

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