Having lagged in 3G and 4G, the aim is to adopt 5G by 2020 at par with the world. But the millionaire dollar question is–are we geared up for the next wave of technology?
A moon shot thinking is required to do anything big and catch up with the changing times and technologies. But unfortunately, India has been lagging behind in adopting the latest technologies. It was the manufacturing era for the world in the 1980’s, but India was just in its cocoon, again it was 3G and 4G fronts for the world, but India was grappling with its 2G scam crisis, in a nutshell we missed the bus in resorting to advanced technologies.
Now, India’s ambitious goal lies with 5G. Having lagged in 3G and 4G, we are keen to adopt 5G by 2020 at par with the world with regulatory and government support. The government has also announced plans of setting aside INR 500 crore for R&D for the latest telecom network standard.
In fact, with the advent of IoT and automation, 5G is going to play a critical role. But the millionaire dollar question is –are we geared up to adopt the next wave of technology or 5G is blown out of proportion.
Just take a look at this–We rank at the 36th place in global LTE download speeds, up from 50th last year. In terms of mobile data traffic, a 12-fold increase is expected from 2015 to 2020, which will be at a z annual growth rate of 63%. Along with this, the mobile data traffic is expected to grow 2 times faster than fixed IP traffic from 2015 to 2020 and mobile data traffic will account for 34% of Indian fixed and mobile data traffic by 2020, up from 11% in 2015.
On the other hand, number of smartphones grew 52% during 2015, reaching 239 million in number. This too is expected to grow 2.9 fold between 2015 and 2020, reaching 702 million in number. All these figures connotes that we require robust and next generation of platform to sustain and 5G is the answer to that. In addition, India has also jumped several places to rank at 100 in ease of doing business; this again is a commendable achievement.
According to Rajan Mathews, Director General, COAI: “Mobile connectivity and data services have played a pivotal role in bridging the digital divide and moving India towards a truly equitable and democratic nation. While there are a number of things to look into before we take the leap, the potential and the promise of the new technology are certainly exciting. As a country, it gives us the opportunity to lead the world, but we have to ensure that it is done right, or we can lose out on this opportunity. 5G is truly the future for smart cities and IoT as well.”
While many of the operators have already started planning and testing various forms of 5G technology for deployment, it’s still some time away. Many of the telcos have already formed partnerships with equipment vendors and have started looking into various products and services that will become possible with the new technology he adds.
Industry experts also opine that 5G holds the key to innovation and in the next couple of months all the business cases would derive out of 5G. 5G would accelerate the transformation and create new use cases, new revenue streams, and new business models for industries and consumers. With 5G, industries will have connectivity that is customized for their requirements and the agility to move quickly to meet customer needs and stay ahead of competition.
“Industries that will benefit the most from 5G are those that connect something in the physical world to the internet in order to create innovative products or services, provide a better customer experience, increase efficiency, or improve safety,” says Nitin Bansal, Vice President and Head of Network Products, Ericsson India.
Especially in India, programs such as Digital India would give impetus to 5G technology. For fast track realization of Digital India initiatives and aid application development for Indian start-ups, 5G would be very crucial and this also calls for the entire ecosystem to align themselves and create the 5G platform.
It was a huge deal when wireless carriers started launching 4G/LTE (Long-term evolution) less than a decade ago—not just because of the speeds for consumer downloading and streaming, but for the broader implications of those speeds. LTE was the promise of telemedicine, enhanced technology for first responders, smart home technology and a lot more. And to an extent, we’ve reaped the benefits of the faster wireless connectivity the standard offers.
“The introduction of 5G technologies could not come at a better time. With the advent of the
Internet of Things, the need is to effectively connect, manage and integrate smart devices into businesses’ network architectures. But how can we effectively integrate all these new devices that are varied and non-centralized with high-speed systems? The short answer is 5G,” opines Kalyan Sundar, Vice President of Engineering, Ixia.
Are We Ready for it?
5G is a network evolution from 3G to 4G to 5G enhancing the network to a gigabit per second capability with low latency and higher reliability. The government wants to expand India’s digital reach from the phase of inception, i.e., from the time standards are set for 5G. Having learned lessons from 3G and 4G deployments, the government wants to deploy 5G by 2020. But for that the entire ecosystem has to work closely. Operators, device manufacturers, chipset providers need to do more to achieve this ambitious target in stipulated time frame.
According to Girish Trivedi, Co-founder, Monk Consulting: “5G rollout in limited and designated geography can be developed and rolled out by private players, but ecosystem capable of supporting masses will require timely and adequate government support and intervention as and when clarity on standards and network architecture appears shortly.
He also adds that India is still not a dominant contender in the race to 5G rollout due to inadequate infrastructure, existing network capabilities and financial stress in the sector.
As mobile broadband traffic continues to grow, operators want to enhance network performance where they see the greatest demand. More capacity, higher speeds and varying network latency are needed to meet the needs of individuals, businesses and IoT, as well as to ensure a smooth transition to 5G. 5G is envisioned to deliver new and enhanced mobile broadband experiences, as well as to efficiently connect virtually everything — from next-generation virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) glasses and mission-critical drones to low-complexity massive IoT devices such as sensors and meters.
Additionally, a vibrant 5G ecosystem requires advancement in design and manufacturing of 5G technologies, products and solutions in India; 5G start-ups that enable this design and manufacturing capabilities; manufacturing of 5G chipsets – this may require massive investments; appropriate testbeds and technology platforms to enable and help Indian technical ecosystem to have an edge in 5G and accelerated deployment of next generation ubiquitous ultra-high broadband infrastructure, opines Randeep Raina, CTO, Nokia India.
Raina adds: “5G will not happen overnight, Nokia has defined a sustainable network evolution path through 4.5 G, 4.5G Pro, 4.9G to 5G, that will allow operators to leverage existing investments and maximize assets such as spectrum, to implement higher performance where and when it is needed in the network. To achieve this, we have to introduce carrier aggregation, both in FD and TD, and massive MIMO which will increase the capacity and bandwidth.”
The industry is rightly heading towards adopting the 5G technology. While 4G is all about data, 5G is about finding (and monetizing) new use cases. In 5G, there will not be a single use case. Each service provider will need to evaluate the business case for 5G and decide which use cases make sense for their market and end customers, he further adds.
India has been adapting the technological evolution with data consumption surpassing the rest of the world. The adoption of 5G will be at a much faster pace than 4G and 3G. As technology, 5G is still in the standardization phase. But there are 3 key motivation – ultra-broadband, reducing the latency to extremely low levels as low as 1 ms, and massive machine to machine communication. Commercialization of 5G is expected to happen around 2020 but field assessments, applications and content trials will start taking place from 2018.
On a positive note, Akhil Gupta, Chairman, Bharti Infratel, says: “In fact, 5G may see deployment before 2020. Although, telcos are going through a rough patch, but at the same time, are gearing up to join the 5G bandwagon. The networks are getting upgraded to deal with 5G technology.”
Plugging the Gap
NTP 2012 did not touch upon issues such as spectrum pricing, reserve price for the then pending 2G auctions, historical pricing of spectrum for operators, etc. But there’s a dire need to look at 5G and create the right ecosystem for the evolution of the latest technologies.
Without doubting, 5G is going to be the backbone for Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence, e-governance and education as well as to enable financial inclusion, smart cities, and an intelligent transportation system, amongst other things.
Going by market reports, 5G-enabled digitization revenues in India will be around $26 billion by 2026. The domestic operations can earn additional $13 billion revenues if they go beyond their traditional roles and serve as service enablers.
As the demand for Video services also accelerate, along with the demand for low energy or long –lived sensors and low latency for mission critical services, there’s an urgent need to think about 5G infrastructure that will cover the network needs and contribute to the digitalization of vertical markets such as automotive, banking, education, city management, energy, utilities, finance, etc.
According to Mathews, “Compared with previous generations of wireless communications technology, including 4G, the rationale for 5G development is to expand the broadband capability of mobile networks, and to provide specific capabilities not only for consumers but also for various industries and society at large, hence unleashing the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT).”
Globally, work has started on 5G and the US is one of the first ones to open its arms to 5G by opening the high band spectrum technology. Samsung Electronics America along with Cisco has collaborated with telecom major Verizon to announce 5G trials in 11 cities back.
Besides, at least five cities in the US are scheduled for trials by the second quarter of FY18, while a total of 11 pilot trials are scheduled by the end of 2017.
In India, the government has created a research team to do the ground work on 5G in a bid to understand the technology better. It has already filed 100 patents so far. These patents will enable India to generate indigenous IP (Intellectual Property), thus giving bargaining power to the country.
Apart from this, telecom giant Ericsson has signed a MoU with IIT Delhi to jointly dole out ‘5G for India’ program. The company will set up an incubation center as well as a 5G test bed to work on the technology. The company is aiming to tap both–PM Modi’s Digital India initiative as well as startups and industries.
Other telecom majors such as Airtel and BSNL have joined hands with Nokia to roll-out 5G network in India. The MoU signed between the three includes launching 5G network in India as well as developing infrastructure for the same.
Similarly, Reliance Jio has partnered with Samsung to bring 5G network in India as well as enhance its existing LTE network.
As the government’s ambitious Digital India program is heavily dependent on the telecom sector’s ability to invest in these new technologies like 5G.
“For everything to fall into place and India to leapfrog into the future as is the vision, the government has to reduce the levies and provide an easier financial environment. Both for 5G and AI we need future forward policies and robust cybersecurity ecosystem,” COAI adds.
According to Vishant Vora, Director – Technology – Vodafone India , says:” India needs to provide internet connectivity to hundreds of millions of citizens who are still unconnected. Having made significant investments in 4G recently, the challenge for India is to bring the benefits of 5G technologies into 4G and thus maximize the impact on society and businesses. We are working towards this and have presently deployed Massive MIMO in Mumbai and Delhi, and are looking at expanding the footprint to other cities.”
Trivedi opines: “I believe you will definitely have successful pilots, but large scale deployment does not look possible. I see a situation similar to 4G deployment. A phased approach with high data density or consumption clusters will start serving using 5G and then will move to other locations. 4G and 5 G will coexist till we move to next standard. However challenges around the spectrum, capex and revenue viability of networks will deploy how soon India will be a 5G country. This country has surprised everyone in the past and can do in future as well If the government manages to tackle existing challenges and place confidence in the stakeholder’s ability.”