According to the two telecom companies in the country, there is no differential tariff for 5G, and while there may be concerns on the higher bill amount, the companies explained that because of the difference in the connectivity speed with 5G being multiple times faster than 4G, consumption of data balance would happen a lot faster as well.
However, the customer experience with 5G would also be multiple times better than 4G. In other words, browsing the web or downloading contents from the online sources with 5G would happen much faster than what is possible with 4G, for instance.
According to Bhutan Telecom (BT), although there are 900 plus customers with 5G capable handsets, as per their system report, however, only about 756 of them have registered and are currently using the 5G service.
BT said that the 5G service is limited to the core areas of Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing, for now. But there are plans to enhance the network coverage in the three towns. BT also plans to rollout the 5G technology in some of the core towns in other districts this year.
However, given the current situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BT has yet to see any progress on it.
“Our customers who have 5G supporting handsets, and have registered to avail the service should, in fact, be experiencing very high speed mobile Internet connectivity, if they are within the coverage footprint of the 5G cell sites. Since there are not many users right now, due to lack of 5G supporting handsets in the market, our 150 odd active customers have all the 5G capacities for themselves to use, which otherwise would be shared among many. More the subscriptions, slower the speed since the radio resource would need to be shared,” BT said.
As per BT, their current 5G customers should not be experiencing sluggish Internet connectivity. However, if the 5G customers are not within the coverage footprint of their 5G cell sites, as BT does not have seamless 5G coverage, the connectivity may be switching to either 3G or 4G, and if/when that happens, the data speed would surely be not at par with 5G and could become sluggish, depending on time of the day and the location.
5G is designed to operate in higher frequencies as compared to 4G technology and can cater 10-20 times faster mobile data speed. The downside to the highspeed with 5G, using higher frequencies, is that the coverage range is not as good as that of 4G.
Higher the frequencies, shorter the coverage range, and therefore, this would mean the companies would need to put in more number of 5G cell site towers to cover the same service area that a single 4G cell site tower is able to do.
This would directly or indirectly translate into them having to invest more on 5G technology as compared to 4G for catering services to the same customer cluster without any assurance on increased returns.
As per TashiCell, there are over 500 users on 5G with the rollout completed in Thimphu, Paro and Phuntsholing Thromdes.
The expansion in the existing coverage areas and deployment of 5G in other dzongkhag towns is expected to be completed in June this year.
TashiCell claimed that there are no customer complaints related to 5G being slow.
“5G technology can support higher speed (10 times higher), lower delay, and greater network capacity compared to 4G. These superior capabilities will enable TashiCell to provide high- speed 5G broadband services, which is at par with fiber-based connectivity, to the residential and enterprise customers in addition to enhancing the experience of the Mobile Broadband (eMBB) on the smart phones used by the individual customers,” TashiCell said.
5G is dependent on network and handset capabilities. On the network side, the 5G technology works similar to 4G. The 5G network architecture they have adopted is Non-Standalone (NSA), which entails 5G using 4G’s Core Network and is the most dominant approach used across the globe.
Currently, TashiCell has 5G service in Thimphu, Paro and Phuntsholing, so customers in these areas can get 5G broadband service using CPE, or subscribe to 5G eMBB service on their 5G- capable smart phones.
On the phone compatibility, firstly, the mobile phone hardware should support 5G. Secondly, the mobile phone vendor (Samsung, Apple, etc.) must release a 5G software patch to ensure 5G support in the phones.
Some vendors release the software patch by default along with the phone and supports their 5G, but most vendors will first test their phones with their 5G network and then release the software patch, which is compatible to operator’s network.
Samsung and TashiCell have tested and released the 5G software patch for A52s models in the first phase, and the software patch for other 5G models is expected to be released soon in the second phase.
According to TashiCell, there is no differential tariff for 5G, while there may be concerns of increase in bills, the phone bills will entirely depend on your Internet data usage.
However, the user experience in terms of speed and latency while browsing will be improved significantly on 5G.
Meanwhile, TashiCell said that the recent allegation that 5G is slowing 4G services is totally unfounded.
“In fact, 5G, which is the latest mobile technology that provides abundant network resources to accommodate large number of high-speed Internet users, has been introduced to resolve the clogging on 4G network,” TashiCell claimed.