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Does buying 5G capable phone in 2020 make sense?

Question asked by Kaustubh Katdare in #Gadgets on Jan 14, 2020
Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare · Jan 14, 2020
Rank A1 - PRO

Top mobile companies are readying their phones with 5G capabilities. 5G does offer lot of promise, but its not available everywhere. The companies might just want to showcase their 5G readiness, but do you think buying a 5G capable phone in 2020 make sense?

Posted in: #Gadgets
Anoop Mathew
Anoop Mathew · Jan 14, 2020
Rank A3 - PRO

If the telecom infrastructure in the country gets ready by then, and the prices of Internet Connectivity are reasonable, then opting for a 5G phone would be a great idea. 

There're again two ways I would handle this:-

Scenario 1:

If I already have a decent smartphone giving decent 4G LTE speeds and has the inbuilt tech to accept signals that telecom spectrum in India should cover from all of the major 4G LTE Telecos, I wouldn't buy a 5G phone in India atleast in the first half of the year 2020.

Scenario 2:

If I didn't have a decent smartphone providing all the above specs, I would consider getting a 5G phone in the first half of 2020 in India owing to various factors such as the possibility of not getting a good resale value on the 4G enabled phone were 5G to be a success.

P.S.: DCC clears Rs 5.22 lakh cr spectrum sale plan; auction in March-April

TRAI papers related to Spectrum allocation in India can be found here:-


More Info on Telecommunication in India:-

Telecommunications in India

P.P.S: Also refer to 'National Frequency Allocation Plan' of Department of Telecom if you want some details.

Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare · Jan 14, 2020
Rank A1 - PRO

Good points. The sale of spectrum has been announced but the actual 5G implementation isn't likely to start til the end of 2020; if we really look forward to speedy implementation. My acquaintances who work at Reliance told me that Jio will be the frontrunner in implementing 5G in India because they have the infrastructure. 

BSNL and Airtel already are working on 5G; but there is no concrete news on the development. The 5G phones are all premium and only those who plan to retain it for at least 3-4 years are going to actually benefit from 5G. 

My guess is that if you are going for a premium phone - 5G capability makes sense. If you are the types that changes phone every few months or every year - then 5G does not make sense right now. 

Ashraf HZ
Ashraf HZ · Jan 15, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

I suppose the they are targeting early adopters - those willing to spend some amount to get the latest experience or require the 5G features for specific reasons. Those 5G phones will be obsolete really quickly once more device manufactures come up with better and cheaper components based from early deployments. For the mainstream, probably can wait until 2021 on wards.

Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare · Jan 16, 2020
Rank A1 - PRO

Yeah, early adopters are being targeted. My biggest issue with 5G is the range that it offers per tower. I've heard that it won't offer 5G speeds beyond 100 meters from the tower. If that's the case, even 5G phone users won't be able to use it effectively.

Abhishek Rawal
Abhishek Rawal · Jan 16, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

That's not right, Kaustubh. 5G spectrum is quite different than its predecessors. The 5G spectrum falls in 3 main category, however for simplicity I will merge the first two and consider it two categories.

1. Sub 6 GHz spectrum (Low and Mid band) : Low band provides wider range and good signal penetration. Mid band provide better throughput and lesser latency. For India, Sub 6 GHz spectrum is 3400 MHz to 3600 MHz.
2. Above 6 GHz spectrum (High band) : This is the band where you'll receive very high throughput in few Gbps and the ~1ms latency. This band will transmit mm waves. To be capable to use this BW, both cell and mobile device shall incorporate new antenna technology. For India, the range is 24.5 GHz to 29.5 GHz.

Most of the development currently is done in Radio (5G NR) as of now. There is least or no development going on OSS/BSS part, just because even tier-1 operators are unaware of the use-cases 5G is capable to provide. Though in 3GPP papers, it shows major industry shift and the use-cases 5G could provide in eMMB, URLLC, FWA and MMC.

Note : 5G spectrum also includes unlicensed spectrum.

Coming to question, does 5G capable device makes sense. Yes, it does.
But even tier 1 operators like Jio will have hard time here as all the nodes are shifting from traditional bare-metal / hardware solutions to virtualized solutions (NFV/SDN). Though in longer run it will provide vast benefits when it comes to operations and decommissioning of unwanted nodes.

Ashraf HZ
Ashraf HZ · Jan 25, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

Good summary Abhishek. Just to add on top of that, there are 2 types of 5G deployments:

1. Non-standalone (NSA) - makes use of existing 4G infrastructure (e.g LTE towers) while providing 5G speeds.

2. Standalone (SA) - the true 5G experience such as ultra low latency, using a 5G core. Overall architecture is lower cost.

Incumbent mobile operators would opt for NSA as they can reuse their existing 4G infrastructure and go to market faster. I am assuming Indian operators like Jio fall under here. In Malaysia, nearly all mobile operations are initially going for NSA. One notable exception is Telekom Malaysia, who is the country's largest fixed network ISP but only operates a small mobile network. Their strategy is to go straight to SA to beat the other players in uses cases involving 5G but at the expense of limited initial coverage. 

Abhishek Rawal
Abhishek Rawal · Jan 26, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

Interesting, Ashraf. Seems like NSA makes sense as of now for existing EPC deployments, as with longer range, the bandwidth will be ~100 mbps (theoretically) - which remains same in 5G as well for mobile devices, if I am not wrong.

Telekom has always been exceptional, I had good experience with Telekomsel Indonesia. Seems like they have broader vision. However, if I consider in India, even though Jio is the leading operator, there is lot of congestion in network in LTE+ ; thus they're unable to provide proper QoS to each subscriber. To avoid this, they're trying to capture the market with the help of FTTx where their router will be broadcasting 2 SSIDs - both secured (one would be WPA2/3 and other would be EAP-TTLS/AKA) ; If I am using mobile device at home, device will handover to EAP SSID, saving the spectrum and providing better speed, though still deducting quota from your LTE package.

Back to topic, I am still wondering how vendors will help operators to roll out 5G faster with NSA. Considering RAN side, the infrastructure change is acceptable and could be done quickly. However, till now in core and OSS, GTP and DIAMETER protocol was used. With 5G implementation, we require it to change in HTTP/2, which means good amount of code refactoring to support HTTP/2 to be done or like most vendors do : a middleware will be developed that converts HTTP2 calls to DIAMETER/GTP calls.
Latter will impact the performance though.

Ashraf HZ
Ashraf HZ · Jan 28, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

Yeah, I suppose vendors like Ericsson and Huawei would typically have dual mode core solutions. I believe switching from 4G to NSA, and subsequently to SA really depends on how much operations are willing to invest in the long term. Kind of like the early WiMAX deployments where new service providers didn't want to spend too much on e-tilt antennas in order to save roll out costs at the expense of on the spot RF optimization (which caused them to lose out to 4G players at the end) whereas incumbent 4G players were able to evolve their RAN through line card upgrades and reuse their e-tilt antennas with ease. Though interestingly, I did come across news that Viettel (Vietnam's largest mobile operator) invested in in-house developed 5G hardware and software so they are not trapped with vendor equipment monopoly. Could swing the momentum to open sourced telco systems?

Out of curiosity Abhishek, are you working in the telco industry? If so which area of expertise?

Abhishek Rawal
Abhishek Rawal · Jan 29, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

That sounds interesting as well as challenging if Viettel is considering of developing hardware and software for entire 5G NR + NSA/SA infrastructure. The R&D costing will be higher than purchasing equipment from vendors, Viettel would be totally aware of it and yet about to risk it, which seems bold move to me in this competitive market.
Are they going to opt for openRAN as well ?

Yes, Ashraf. I am currently working in telco industry. My expertise is in LTE, FTTH and WiFi deployments using VNF (Mostly Openstack) or containerized nodes (docker, cri-o) like 3GPP AAA, PCRF, OCS and our inhouse WiFi solution node (Not as per 3GPP standard).

Please let me know what's your area of expertise.

Ashraf HZ
Ashraf HZ · Feb 2, 2020
Rank A2 - PRO

@Abhishek, sounds neat! During my initial telco days, I was working mainly on the RAN portion with ZTE (basestation commissioning and RF optimization for WiMAX & 3G). Got fortunate enough to deploy pilot early LTE-TDD deployments. 

Anyhow back on topic, Malaysia has got a few 5G demonstration projects on-going. I believe it is more likely that connecting to 5G via CPEs would be the more common approach in the initial stages.

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