While China rolled out a 5G network on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to improve its communication and data networks, the Indian Army has begun establishing 4G and 5G-based mobile cellular networks at 18,000 feet.
The Indian Army has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to companies seeking bids to provide technology for 4G and 5G mobile cellular networks in difficult terrain.
“The intended network will be used by Indian Army field formations deployed in the mountainous/semi-mountainous/high altitude region” (up to 18,000 feet). “The network is intended to provide reliable and secure voice messaging and data services to support field formation operational requirements,” according to the RFI.
12 months contract
The Army intends to complete the network, including execution, within 12 months of contract signing.
It is worth noting that the Army has been experiencing mobile communication problems at forward locations in high-altitude areas.
According to sources in the defence and security establishment, while a secure radio frequency and satellite mode are available, a 4G and 5G network is required to facilitate faster communication and data transfer.
When tensions between the two countries in eastern Ladakh erupted in 2020, the Chinese army laid down fiber-optic cables to improve communication at LAC.
Ladakhis seek better mobile communication
Over the last two years, the Himalayan region of Ladakh has faced communication problems as a result of a tense standoff between India and China. They have demanded that facilities such as 4G be established there.
Councillor Konchok Stanzin, who represents Chushul in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council in Leh, handed over a three-page letter with demands to defence minister Rajnath Singh, who was in the village to inaugurate the revamped Rezang La War Memorial, in November last year.
It also mentions Stanzin’s desire for a 4G tower in each of Chushul’s nine villages, in addition to fiber-optic cables.
The 4G network was launched in some remote areas of Ladakh in June of this year.
By erecting a mobile tower, Reliance Jio extended the reach of its 4G services in the Ladakh region to a village near Pangong Lake.
5G services in India by March 2023
Union Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw stated last month at an event that India will have full-fledged 5G services by March 2023.