5G in mmWave Band Unrealistic for Masses, Too Costly to be Profitable

5G is going to become a common sight in India and around the world in a few years. While some nations have already deployed commercial 5G networks, some are in the process to do so. 5G networks will majorly operate in two types of spectrum bands – sub 6 GHz (mid-band) and millimetre wavelength (mmWave) bands. Many are excited about the promises that mmWave bands bring to the table. But there’s a very big limitation with them. As the general rule applies, the higher the frequency of the airwaves, the easier they are to interrupt. While the mmWave frequencies can carry more data than the sub 6 GHz frequencies, they are very easy to interfere with too.

Verizon, a major telecom operator in the United States (U.S.), can be a big case study for the Indian operators. According to an SDXCentral report, Earl Lum, EJL Wireless Research founder, shared that the mmWave 5G network of Verizon in San Diego dropped off when he walked 50 feet away from the cell.

mmWave 5G Requires Multiple Small Cells

Verizon was one of the first operators in the world to introduce mmWave 5G. The U.S. telecom operator had campaigned and marketed its mmWave 5G services heavily in 2018 and the following years. But this was because Verizon didn’t have any other frequencies in its portfolio for 5G services; however, now it does.

Lum shared that with mmWave 5G, thousands of sites are required in a city if the goal is to serve the masses. But it would require a huge investment and one where the economics don’t bear out.

According to Lum, even the 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) doesn’t make sense for the operators in the long run with mmWave frequencies because that would also entail a huge investment where the return wouldn’t be so great for the telcos.

When small trees or buildings can easily disrupt the mmWave frequencies, the purpose of mmWave 5G gets defeated. It could still exist, but the emphasis might entirely shift to sub 6 GHz band 5G because that is where the economic benefit for the telcos lie. mmWave 5G experience can be a very disappointing one for the consumers.

Especially for a country such as India, where millions of people live even in small cities, for rolling out mmWave 5G, operators would have to spend the kind of money they will never be able to earn back.

mmWave 5G could be reserved for certain areas or certain use cases where there is less interference. Maybe, mmWave 5G wasn’t meant for everyone in the first place.


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