The PHDCCI recently organized a one-day conference titled 5G Technology: Forging ahead into a Smarter India!
Addressing the audience, RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI, noted: “We are the second largest telecom market in the world. The telecom networks of India are transmitting more data than USA and China. Per capita data consumption in India is 9GB per month, as against 3GB per month in India.
“While the statistics related to telecom is 6%, telecom is actually a platform for delivering services. We have a lot of challenges and opportunities. Similarly, we need to find an answer: 5G or not! It may be 20-30 years ago that India is quite behind in terms of technology.
“We cannot afford to remain behind the technology curve. We have already developed the digital identity infrastructure. Think of payments, where we developed UPI. It may banking scalable. UPI is now seeing huge transactions, beyond credit/debit cards. We have developed lot of new software. We are certainly capable. Can we remain ahead on the technology curve? In India, we need to be able to give strategic importance to technology. 5G is extremely strategic from the view point of India.”
TRAI has recommended the government on manufacturing. What can we do on the domestic manufacturing of telecom equipment? It is very important to have strategic control on core manufacturing. The Government and Niti Aayog should support this from a strategic view point. 5G is important from other aspects.
There are three USPs of 5G. 5G is a quantum jump. It has very small latency. There are time-sensitive apps. Next, there are huge throughputs. Lastly, there is machine-to-machine communication. There are multiple categories of apps that will get fueled by 5G. We may not need driverless cars or remote surgeries. We certainly need smart cities and many such use cases.
India has a way of using technologies in a unique way, eg., missed call. We need to be careful on the way forward. We need to take wise decisions. From a pragmatic, strategic perspective, we should not close our eyes to these new technologies.
Shared infrastructure is also there. TSPs provide end-to-end services. The advent of technology can deliver both convergence and unbundling. We have a category of infrastructure providers. How can they set up active and passive infrastructure for providing services?
Once you unbundle services, all kinds of loads won’t come to the TSPs only. There will be network, software, maintenance providers, infrastructure, etc. Multiple SPs will engage into this new world. Today, the average tenancy on a tower, there are 3-4 BTS. We should understand how to manage all this. The wisdom of the businesses will bring out the entire synergy. We can have a system for sharing the infrastructure.
“We also have a Wi-Fi interface. We wait for the Wi-Fi to search us out. It will change. We need to have a common infrastructure soon, and that will make lives very easy. There should also be an in-building solution. There should be a common infrastructure or duct where things can be plugged in. Even FTTH will be possilbe to align. Things will not happen without business alignments. We need to figure out ways to make it a win-win situation.
“Once you have an unbundled situation, things will change. Many companies are buying towers. People can also make choices as to what services they need. We need to have aligned policies. In India, we have less than 1/3rd towers connected to the fiber. In 5G, data will come on to the towers. The backhaul will be on the fiber. In China, 1.8bn km fiber has been done.”
Telecom holds key
Earlier, Sanjay Aggarwal, Senior VP, PHDCCI, said India has about 120 crore mobile phone users. 6.5% of the GDP comes from telecom. It employs 40+ lakh people. The Internet users are likely to exceed 83 crores by 2021. The amount of data downloaded is second highest in the world. Telecom is one of the most important sectors of the economy. The sector has to survive and do well.
PHDCCI has asked for the domestic line of credit to buy PMI-compliant equipment from the Indian vendors or manufacturers. The easiest way out is to get a foreign supplier. PHDCCI has also asked to treat the sales of telecom equpiment of deemed exports. Regarding the AGR issue for telecos, PHDCCI has recommended Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, saying some penalties may be waived off.
Telcos should also supply a commitment to buy Indian-made PMI equipment. PHDCCI has also recommended a new Telecom Finance Corp. to be formed. All — central, state and city — should have telecom optical fiber cable laid, instead of digging for some pipeline. There are some questions regarding the pace of 5G. Let us take critical decisions in a planned manner. 5G release 16 is yet to be announced, while release 17 is still some time away.
India needs 5G!
Sandeep Aggarwal, Chairman, Telecom Committee, PHDCCI, added that India requires 5G. However, we need to see what we are going to invest in telecom. When we see that the size of telecom in the GDP is about 6%, we are not yet investing in proportion. For private investment, there seems to be a question mark over low price of data, AGR, etc., issues. Companies are also not able to provide good services.
Can we find a novel way to fund these things? Can our current infrastructure get into unused funds? Those would need a common infrastructure.
The main aim is to monetise those assets. Regulations need to be controlled. We may need 5 to 10 times more towers for good 5G services. New software are being developed. We need to know the real users of 5G. It may be a point of contention later on. Spectrum may be later available for use at lower prices. We also need to have a shared infrastructure.
The import of goods into India should become buying the technology. You can also manufacture the technology in India. ITI and C-DoT can also be used for manufacturing and research. Foreign companies will be forced to sell in order to make inroads into India. As per China, every electronics item should be made in China. The security afforded is also tremendous. We need to look at this aspect and start investing in technologies. There are various issues right now that need to be addressed.
5G expands tech domains
Ajit Pai, advisor, Niti Aayog noted that the telecom sector is very important to us. It supports a lot of other sectors, including services. With 5G, we will start impacting the other sectors, including manufacturing, and Industry 4.0. Scale is less of an issue. Speed to market is more important. 5G expands new technology domains.
The revolution of telecom services saw break up of AT&T. In India, many operators drifted away and consolidated. Things have got commoditized. Anyone that has a new infrastructure may think it is more modern. They will be also regarded as favorable. The GoI has done a tremendous job in bringing the costs down to maybe, the lower in the world. We are now at an interesting point. SPs cannot be taking on additional debt.
So, who will finance 5G? Is there room for a shared infrastructure? Investment — what should it look at? Where will the money come from? The GoI should also look at asset monitization and recycling. People also talk about towers. They may be given out as separate models. These are some ideas to get the finance for 5G. How much govt participation do they need? Are they looking at asset monitization?
Delivery of service holds key
Prof. NK Goyal, Chairman President, CMAI and TEMA Association, moderated a session on what’s required for 5G.
Sarvesh Singh, CMD, BBNL, remarked that mobile communications has been a success story in India. The prices are very cheap. With regard to data, India started a little late. 4G coverage may not be enough for rural areas.
As far as 5G is concerned, the major points of change, the delivery of service will be the use of more sensors, etc., which will later get connected. There will be multiple end points for service delivery. Globally, there are 3 major use cases: eMBB, for user centric apps, eg., VR and gaming. MMTC is another area for IoT apps. URLLC is the third one. There is so much flexibility available in 5G. One other area is LMLC (Large Cell Low Mobility), which has been used in rural areas. It is also part of the PM’s e-governance services.
Backhaul is a major constraint in 5G. Today, 30% of the towers are fiberized. Major investments will come in that area. We also need to have an inclusion technology. There is a lot of money to be made as well. There will be more focus on the enterprises. We also need to look for 5G use cases specific for the country. Health care, smart metering, transportation, etc., are areas to work on. BBNL is laying the fiber for BB-RAN. It is going to come out with recommendations as to how can fiber can be used by the others.
Tilak Raj Dua, DG, TAIPA, noted that we need to look at shared infrastructure and asset monetization. We started the concept of shared infrastructure from India. This concept is now being emulated by China. The emergence of 5G will offer an unprecedented opportunities for the companies. There are some initiatives taken by the Indian government.
With densification of small cells, there will be greater role of 5G. We need to enhance the scope. The small installations should be mandated. There should be a common telecom infrastructure, as well as tower fiberization. Right of rules should be mandated. There should be enhancement of scope for the infrastructure providers. There should be mandatory provisioning for small cells.
Satya N. Gupta, Chairman, India and BIMSTEC Asia Bluetown (India) Pvt Ltd said we are required to have 5G. The US companies have lot of money. We need to bring them in the active sharing infrastructure. The same goes for the independent infrastructure providers. Frugal 5G is looking at low mobility. Release 16 is coming shortly. It is talking about the integration of 4G and other technologies.
Bharat Bhatia, President of ITU-APT, said India was the first to put in the LMLC requirement. “We will find out in Feb. 2020 whether LMLC will be part of 5G. 5G is also different and is suitable for small cells and industrial development. It is the core of Industry 4.0. 5G will provide the fuel for the next industrial revolution.”