No 5G proposals from telcos for Delhi Metro’s underground lines: RTI

Underground portions of the metro are where data coverage is least reliable; however, 5G coverage here is nowhere in sight as telcos have not shown interest, according to an RTI

Updated - July 27, 2023 05:31 pm IST

Published - July 27, 2023 05:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Image used for representative purpose only.

Image used for representative purpose only. | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

While Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has touted the installation of 5G cells on metro pillars, there are no plans to provide access to faster mobile internet on the underground portions of most of the city’s metro lines, according to a Right to Information response reviewed by The Hindu

Telecom networks are available underground in Delhi Metro routes, but since these are 4G networks, and overwhelmed with data traffic from passengers using mobile internet, speeds tend to suffer. “The high density of users and the rapid movement of metro trains can cause substantial signal interference,” Rohit Paranjpe, co-founder and CEO of tech startup Sugarbox, said. The firm has worked with Chennai Metro to speed up video downloading on some apps. 

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5G networks are a potential solution to this situation, as they offer far more bandwidth than 4G networks do. However, the DMRC has not solicited any proposals from telecom operators like Vodafone–Idea, Reliance Jio or Bharti Airtel to implement these solutions underground, according to the RTI response.

5G on metro pillars

Instead, the DMRC has touted 5G coverage on metro pillars, which only exist on the overground portions of metro lines, where data access is not constrained in the first place. This equipment is also likely serving 5G data not just to the trains running overhead, but to the scores of cars and buses on the roads below. 

While India has had the world’s fastest 5G rollout — the government recently marked the installation of two lakh 5G transmitters — Delhi Metro does not yet appear to be on the radar of the latest telecom generation’s expansion. 

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The need may grow as ridership increases. “With many users sharing the network in a confined space, data speeds can drop, leading to poorer network performance,” Mr. Paranjpe said, referring to 4G networks that are available underground in Delhi Metro, but have become more congested. 

A senior DMRC official claimed that a tender has been floated for those setting up the needed infrastructure for rolling out 5G in the underground section of the metro. “We will be accepting tenders from 19th July for the rolling out of 5G for our commuters who take the underground metro,: the official said this month. However, the DMRC failed to give any timeline for when commuters will be able to access 5G in the underground section of the metro line. A review of the tender showed that it pertains to the overhead sections of the metro. 

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