Industry experts and leaders unravel the enablers and possibilities of the upcoming telecom standard and what it has in store for business and India.
By Pratima Harigunani
What’s amazing about the telecom sector? It is a data top-spot or a sector in a diverse market? No, it is its ability to be a catalyst for every other sector. That matters a lot; especially during, and after, a pandemic year.
“The current telecom landscape shows India as the biggest data consumption region in the world. That is remarkable given the spectrum constraints, some stress tests, demand-bandwidth flux during the pandemic, and other challenges,” Vikram Tiwathia, Deputy Director-General, COAI said. The resilience of this sector has helped the country substantially, he underlined.
Speaking at the technology session on 5G Enterprise: The next frontier for Business at the 20th edition of Telecom Leadership Forum organised by Voice&Data, Tiwathia set the tone of the discussion with these thoughts before moving on to the spotlight on 5G. He urged the panel to mull over some hot questions about 5G. Will, it cut costs down? Will it facilitate enterprises towards their goals?
The panel at this topic’s discussion fleshed these questions out well. Rohit Kaw, Director – Systems Engineering, Global Service Provider, Cisco Systems dissected the role of the telcos. “During the last year, everyone understood the importance of seamless connectivity and ‘physical to digital’ shifts. With some use-cases around automation and Edge, the future is exciting. India’s new leap of business growth and global competitiveness is only possible by leveraging 5G with use-cases that can unlock the fourth industrial revolution in India.”
That was a good time to ask whether 5G is going to be a game-changer. And if yes, what it means for everyone? Tiwathia requested Golok Kumar Simli, Chief of Technology with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India to share the view from his lens here. “Imagine a life-saving application developed in an emerging technology that can help someone in a village, in a remote corner, and in real-time. Or think of stopping a criminal activity before it transpires. That’s where 5G would shine. We can collaborate on averting cyber-attacks and this collaboration can happen in real-time between states, between countries, and across the world.”
He shared that the first area that would shape well with 5G is the idea of a smart society. “This kind of society can reduce carbon footprint. It can use drones to provide government facilities in a disaster scenario. Once 5G is with us, we can blend it with emerging technologies like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and the cloud. Then we can create the next level of experience for the society.”
Tiwathia also triggered a reflection on how data will work in a privacy-aware environment, and how it will move in a cloud ecosystem. Can we utilise data sets in the ecosystem, with adequate anonymization of data to avoid serious incidents? Simli answered it with another question: “Do we really understand our data sets well? That’s the first point to start on. Like – inception to what’s happening inside it. Like the difference between fiduciary data and public data. Once we understand these layers well, we should know how to drive a simplified and holistic data governance model.”
He candidly acknowledged that we do not have this now but that’s critical to fully leverage the potential of data without missing compliance, regulation, privacy protection of personal data. Simili suggested classification based on quadrants like people, model, rules of engagement, and deployment tools. This will spur us to ask things like whose data it is, how it is being collected, where it is stored, how is it used etc.
Tiwathia was also curious to know what verticals would be early adopters of 5G. Kaw explained that instant gratification can be the new norm of data consumption. “With Edge computing, the industry would have capabilities to instantly consume and monetize data. Immersive experiences, augmented reality cases, virtual reality cases, real-time video-monitoring, connected machinery, would be hot areas here. That leads us to adoption areas like public safety, transportation, mining, asset tracking applications, etc.”
Fiber in the air, network slicing, digital asset protection, distributed ledger technology (DLT) also came up as significant topics during this multi-dimensional discussion.
Tiwathia cited examples like sports stadiums, milk production, cement factories, and refineries for automation of the network. “We are very keen to expand connectivity in the rural areas. We are looking forward to a better spectrum and a clear roadmap. We are requesting and working with the government to streamline these areas. Spectrum is a public asset. If it is not utilized at this instance then its value is not realised, especially when we are thinking of better healthcare, agriculture, etc. 5G is about use-cases. Telecom companies are demanding spectrum for better services only,” he added.
He highlighted how the early release of spectrum bands from the government would help the space a lot. In the same vein, Simli explained how services like passports can take advantage of technologies like blockchain. “Any digitization has to keep the fundamental aspect of security in place. 5G will definitely create digital assets in the country. We are witnessing a proliferation of devices and they are talking to each other now. Static devices can be IoT-ized or digitized at both business and consumer level. That just changes the value of an asset. How are we going to protect these assets? We need a thorough security framework and the right infrastructure in place for that.” Kaw suggested.
Categorization, collaboration, governance, fibreization, responsibility for assets, and co-leveraging other technologies – that pretty much sums up the 5G dots in a clear and actionable way for the country.