Does Pakistan Need 5G Service?

Wasio Abbasi
April 20, 2015

Minister of IT, Anusha Rahman, announced last week that new telecom policy has been devised and telecom operators have been asked to deploy 5G technology in Pakistan. It has only been one year since licenses for 3G and 4G were issued to telecom companies and service deployment began. As per the latest numbers Pakistan now has over 10 million 3G/4G subscribers and the figure continues to grow every month.

It is important to bring an authentic perspective about 5G service. Pakistan is already late in entering mobile broadband race and trying to catch up to rest of the world. A casual look at options provided by local telecom companies will list speeds from 7 Mbps to 36 Mbps, most of it theoretical which no local telecom operator has so far managed to achieve. A 36 Mbps (mega bits) speed translates to 4.5 MBps (mega bytes) but the speed usually experienced is anywhere between 1 MBps to 1.5 MBps. Similarly 4G speed can theoretically reach 300 Mbps on most networks that translates to 37.5 MBps, but in Pakistan the speed is anywhere between 5 to 10 MBps (and sometimes even lower).

In UK, 3G was deployed in 2004 and 4G deployment began in 2006. In 2014, the best performing 3G service averaged 4.48 MBps while best 4G service averaged 6.19 MBps. UK has already matured 3G technology while its 4G will be approaching maturity in next few years. Pakistan has a lot of years to even come close to maturing its 3G service, let alone 4G.

So what is this 5G service?

In a nutshell, 5G is a technology currently under development by the likes of Huawei and ZTE. It is a parallel technology to LTE that would, theoretically, be 1000 times faster than 4G. The best 4G networks in the world can reach 1 Gbps speed though never in practicality. 5G can reach a speed of 10 Gbps with the lowest possible latency.

What is the benefit of this speed?

Besides being able to download HD movie of size 8 GB in 6 seconds, with incredible speed and lowest possible delay time, 5G will enable real-time controls from across the globe. A person can control a car, a machinery or any piece of equipment from another country as if physically present there. A driverless car can get instant updates of crime, accidents or problems up ahead on the road to avoid any disaster in real time.

Standards of 5G are yet to be defined, the technology is yet to be brought in any practical use and even the most developed nations don’t see deployment possible before 2020. The equipment for 5G would cost a lot more than 4G, which is already a huge expansion burden for local telecom operators of Pakistan.

While IT Minister’s announcement is encouraging that government has eyes on latest tech developments, it is unrealistic at best to assume Pakistan would be ready for 5G within the next decade.

Should Pakistan focus on early deployment of 5G? Tell us in comments below!

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