The advent of 5G in India and its impact on businesses

The massive shifts ushered by 5G will cumulatively make a total contribution of USD 450 Bn to the Indian economy, 0.6% of GDP, by 2040

How many of us can think of spending even a single day without our smartphones or without being connected to the Internet? In today’s scenario, none of us can. Now, let’s look back to the 1960s and 1970s when no one ever imagined a world with mobile connectivity. Waiting period for a fixed telephone line used to be several years back then. And in rural communities, connectivity used to be extremely poor or non-existent. The first breakthrough in indigenous electronic exchange was a 100-line electronic switch developed in 1973. These efforts got a boost in 1984 with the establishment of the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT). A rural telephone exchange was developed that solved the problem of telephone connectivity in rural areas. The transition from fixed-line to mobile connectivity occurred in the mid-1990s when the first mobile networks were rolled out in India. A quarter of a century hence, mobile connectivity is the lifeline for many in India, including in rural communities, where fixed-line penetration is still scarce.

The Indian telecom sector has come a long way and reached significant milestones. We are successfully riding on the fourth generation (4G) of mobile communications technology. It has been a catalyst for phenomenal growth in mobile data consumption and applications, leading to a modern digital economy. India has firmly established itself as a leader in the global telecom industry with more than 1200 million subscribers.

Moving along the road to 5G

Whether it is in terms of network modernisation, developing a new architecture that combines open, disaggregated, on the edge, and intelligent compute or setting the right policy framework, India is forging its path swiftly towards 5G. A combination of affordable manufacturing and technology prowess and a buoyant startup ecosystem is helping us to realise the 5G dream with an impetus on “Make In India”. Telcos like Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have made some big strides towards 5G. Airtel announced a collaboration with Intel for 5G network development by leveraging vRAN / O-RAN technologies; Reliance Jio has installed a 5G network in their data centres with data speeds of 1 Gbps. These firm steps towards 5G could actually lead the industrial digitalization market for service providers to reach US$17 Bn by 2030.[1]

5G has the potential to usher in a massive societal shift. 5G will strengthen Digital India, Smart Cities and Smart Village missions for India. Moreover, it will place India as a global player for the design, development, and manufacturing of 5G-based technology and products. This all, cumulatively, will make a total contribution of USD 450 Bn to the Indian economy, 0.6% of GDP, by 2040.[2]

It will enable rapid growth of IT across manufacturing, education, agriculture, healthcare and financial sectors. India is embracing this opportunity by deploying 5G-enabled clean networks, investing in R&D and developing a robust supply chain of equipment and components. With 5G promising better capacity, bandwidth, scalability and lesser interference, let us deep-dive into the businesses that will be impacted by this technology revolution.

5G will have a long-term impact on businesses in India

The 5G revolution will generate new growth channels and increase industrial productivity. 5G will allow 3 major technology-led impacts:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband – resulting in extreme data rates and enhanced user experience
  • Massive Internet of Things – leading to ultra-high-density connectivity, ultra-low bit rates and deep coverage
  • Mission-critical control – for strong security, ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency

These technology-led impacts have the power to drive major industrial transformations. Here are the top major business transformations that will emerge in the 5G value chain:

Enabling Smart Manufacturing & industrial automation – We can imagine creating a manufacturing ecosystem with smart factories equipped with advanced machines like automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robots, and sensors – all connected to the cloud. This will evaluate performance, manage production schedules, maintain supplies and coordinate all the activities on the factory floor. Manufacturing is expected to have the largest share of 5G enabled economic activity in 2035, up to USD 3.4 trillion.[3]

The significantly greater speed and near-zero latency will supplement high-speed manufacturing with greater flexibility. A 5G-enabled factory with sensors and AI at the core will connect anything for improved equipment and process efficiency.

Increasing agricultural productivity – The India agriculture sector fulfils only 50 to 60% of the potential yield for most of the crops owing to mismanaged land and water use, infrastructure constraints, and lack of field data analysis. Technologies like IoT, Big Data Analytics, AI, and drones will benefit the sector by increasing yield productivity, bringing transparency across the value chain, and ensuring smarter supporting infrastructure.

Creating Safer cities – A digitally empowered safe city ecosystem is the need of the hour. A safe city ecosystem involves technology enablement at all steps. 5G-enabled technology will ensure safety and security through a 24X7 surveillance ecosystem with CCTV and video analytics, smart LED streetlights equipped with sensors, real-time police patrolling, GPS tracking enabled public transport. 5G will fast track the Indian government’s safe cities project, augment police networks with next-gen technology so that a robust communication backbone can be formed.

Expediting e-learning and online education – We all know how pandemic induced lockdown impacted school-based learning in 190 countries and India was one of the most impacted ones. Though online education and e-learning were offered, many children could not avail the facility due to the lack of broadband connectivity. 5G will bring the promise of high-speed connectivity in India and enable e-learning platforms to reach every nook and corner of the country.

Making way for diversified service offerings – All the technology advancements in the telecom domain – right from 2G to 4G, have only focused on traditional revenue streams like voice and data. 5G, through improved network performance and next-gen technologies like IoT, AI and robotics, will enable enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) capabilities for applications like high-speed gaming, UHD video, and uninterrupted video calls during virtual meetings

Transforming healthcare at large – Diagnoses can be made faster and more accurately using AI-powered decision support systems. Many tasks can be completely automated so that caregivers can spend more time with patients. In a country like India, where there are many regions that are not adept with adequate medical facilities, 5G could be a boon. Healthcare could be completely transformed by connected gadgets and smart networks. Patients can be monitored in real-time at home, thanks to low-latency networks and large densities of linked devices and sensors. This could be a game-changer in the treatment of chronic diseases.

These are only a few businesses that will benefit from the advent of 5G in India. The promise of 5G is far greater. We have just reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impending 5G revolution which will give rise to creative business models with a focus on connectivity, service differentiation, content, and application.

This article is authored by Rajesh Gangadhar, CTO – Access Solutions, Sterlite Technologies






Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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