The concluding session of the 5G Huddle was on the role of 5G in tackling the digital divide. If harnessed in the right way, 5G has the potential to help transform the lives of citizens in rural areas and developing regions, as well as in cities and urban hubs. For this to happen, there is a need to think creatively when developing connectivity technologies and solutions, and to ensure that the connectivity requirements of individual regions and communities are fully understood.
Adrian Scrase, CTO, ETSI, said that we are all looking at connectivity for everything, and not everyone.
Pranav Jha, Senior Research Scientist, IIT Bombay, spoke on the frugal 5G network. Cellular is the primary broadband platform today. At present, there are no real commercial reason for operators to target rural areas. High speed mobility is not that important for rural areas. The key is to provide fixed broadband.
There are challenges such as local content generation and storage. Some areas may also be too remote and difficult to access. There is scarcity of power from the grid as well. Ease of manageability is quite important.
In BharatNet, 130,000 villages have been connected with fibre till date, with the remaining offices to get connected by 2020. But, how do you connect the villages to the GP? The frugal 5G network architecture is now under development. Large coverage area cell will provide ubiquitous connectivity. Small cells or Wi-Fi hotspots can be access points for high-speed data connectivity.
Broadband from sky
Vipin Tyagi, Executive Director, C-DoT, spoke about how broadband falls from the skies. There are several high throughput satellites (HTS). The cost per GHz are coming down. Trials have been done for Harishtal village near Nainital, Talli Sethi village, and also in Tripura. We have the C-Sat-fi.
C-Sat-Fi is an innovative integration of VSAT with C-DoT BBWT Wi-Fi terminals. Satellite connectivity is used as the backhaul. The C-Sat-Fi (C-DoT satellite WiFi) will provide connectivity to unserved areas, including remote islands and difficult terrains based on the optimal utilization of wireless and satellite communication. The solution is suited to address disasters and emergencies. It does not require expensive satellite phones, but can work on any WiFi-enabled phone.
We have done a balloon Wi-Fi, and also inside a bamboo. There is 5GHz spectrum available in India. Deliberation will need to happen in 6GHz. That brings us to M2M communication. Matching appropriate connectivity to the use case adds to the complexity.
OneM2M standard is necessary. A lot of people have contributed to the standard. Horizontal IoT silos are meant for applications. There are details of common service functions. How do you do monetization, regulation, security and compliance of IoT M2M? 5G is the network, and not only core and RAN. Let us convert 5G into reality.
Basic Internet, pay for video
Sudhir Dixit, Co-founder, Basic Internet Foundation, Oslo, spoke about the Project Internet Lite. The Basic Internet Foundation looks to make digital inclusion happen to improve the life of every single human. There is a need for free and premium models. Static content is delivered for free, but, you need to pay for video.
There are forgotten needs of the developing world and the digitally disadvantaged. “Connectivity for all should be the pillar. 50% of connections in the world are still dependent on 2G. We have to worry about these people as we await the 5G bus. We are also looking at 6G for digital inclusion. In Norway, 8% don’t use the Internet, and 26% have no mobile broadband. Community involvement has to happen to make all this connectivity happen.”
For Basic Internet, there is long-term solution aligned with 5G network slicing. We have developed the Internet Light. 6G ought to be about the digitization of the society. We have rolled out this application in Tanzania, as well as some other parts of Africa.
5G in healthcare
Zainul Charbiwala, Co-founder and CTO, Tricog Health, spoke about how 5G can fit in healthcare. He said we are looking at AI in healthcare. We are looking at cardiovascular diseases. Lives have been saved by intervening within the golden hour. Now, ECG needs a specialist.
We have the Tricog Insta ECG solution. Data is processed in the cloud. We have a team of dedicated medical professionals who look at the data in real time, 24/7. In case there is an emergency, we connect to a remote center and a hospital, all of whom reach within 10 minutes. We also have a Tricog center and co-ordinator app. We have an AI app in Tricog, as well.
The cellular connectivity is very erratic. We want to go all out in remote cardiac care. 5G can help collect more data, and deliver better healthcare.
M-Pesa in Kenya
Knud Erik Skouby, Prof. Center for Communication, Media and IT, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, presented on beyond the Kenyan success story with mobile money. There are lessons to learn for Ghana, Africa. Ghana had unsuccessfully tried introducing the e-zwich or the e/m payment. The Gates Foundation said in 2013 that mobile money services are perhaps the most promising way to deliver financial services profitably and at scale to the poor.
M-Pesa is a success in Kenya. M-Pesa services target low-income earners without access to banking. Safaricom has helped M-Paisa. Now, a major part of the population has financial access. The interactions and dynamics of co-operation between the social and material players have shaped the enactment of mobile money.