The ability of 5G to connect rural India showcased by Airtel and Ericsson
Urbanization is a big trend in India. But in a country with an estimated population of 1.4 billion people, some 900 million live in rural areas. That figure alone amounts to more than 11 percent of the entire population of Earth. That’s why India’s first rural 5G trial, by Ericsson and Airtel, on already-available 3GPP-compliant 5G technology, is big news.
The trial signals that the most transformative connectivity technology in history is already capable of being deployed using the same 3GPP standards as the rest of the world - and can help to bridge India’s rural-urban digital divide in the process.
The trial, which took place in Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi, focused on Airtel and Ericsson’s ability to bring 3GPP-compliant Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and enhanced mobile broadband 5G capabilities to larger rural area spans.
The trial was carried out using 3.5Ghz mid-band test 5G spectrum - awarded to Airtel by India’s Department of Telecom for the purposes of the trial. Existing FDD spectrum was also used during the trial.
More than 200Mbps throughput was achieved on the 3GPP compliant 5G FWA device at distance of more than 10 km from the test site. As part of the trial, a commercially available 3GPP-based 5G smartphone connected to the 5G test network, delivering more than 100Mbps speeds beyond a 10km range.
This equates to an inter-site (between two 5G sites) coverage of approximately 20 kms, showing that high-speed 5G broadband coverage can be deployed across even remote areas. The trial also highlighted Airtel’s capability of enabling 5G for both coverage and capacity over its existing nationwide 4G infrastructure.
Randeep Singh Sekhon, CTO, Airtel, says: “Having demonstrated India’s first 5G network and also the first 5G cloud gaming experience, Airtel is proud to have also conducted the nation’s first 5G trial in a rural setting.”
He adds: “5G will be a transformational technology when it comes to delivering broadband coverage to the last mile through use cases like Fixed Wireless Access and contribute to a more inclusive digital economy. Airtel will continue to be at the forefront of 5G technology and bring more India-relevant use cases through partnerships such as the one with Ericsson.”
Nunzio Mirtillo, Head of Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania and India, says: “The technology milestone of extended coverage achieved by Ericsson and Airtel as part of the ongoing 5G trial in India is significant as it shows how 5G can connect the unconnected in India, enable faster 5G rollout and help the country to realize its Digital India vision. 5G will serve as a socio-economic multiplier for the country.”
Other Airtel and Ericsson 5G success
Airtel and Ericsson have successfully partnered in recent months to demonstrate enhanced speeds of more than 1Gbps at a live test 5G network at Cyber Hub in Gurgaon. The test uses Airtel’s 3.5 Ghz trial spectrum.
In January 2021, Airtel and Ericsson showcased the dynamic spectrum sharing of 4G and 5G capabilities on a commercially deployed installed base on the 1800MHz frequency in Hyderabad to give Airtel customers their first experience of 5G on a live commercial network.