5G networks, and promises of revolutionary advancements in technology and ultra-fast mobile speeds, are on the way to markets across the globe. As countries like the US, China and South Korea lead the way to a full roll-out of 5G, India’s government and industry stakeholders are working in tandem to make 5G in India available. While initial projections from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) targeted 2020 for making 5G in India available, industry analysts suggest a more extended timeline. Trials are set to begin mid-2019, and spectrum auctions have been delayed until later this year.
All parties involved see the opportunity 5G offers, but significant investments and collaboration between the public and private sectors are necessary to keep up with the development of 5G-enabled devices. DoT predicts that creating nationwide 5G infrastructure will attract an estimated US$100 billion in investment from 2018 through to 2023 or 2025. Compared to more developed markets, India may reap great value from bringing 5G to market since it has the potential to leapfrog countries that have previously invested heavily in physical infrastructure – to achieve smart infrastructure capabilities.
IHS estimates that in 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion USD worth of global output with manufacturing having the largest worldwide share of 5G-enabled economic activity. 5G in India will help manufacturers keep factories connected to suppliers, and other stakeholders in the value chain, in real-time. Technologies such as robotics can improve process efficiency, while the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality can enable automation and improve back office operations respectively.
In the automotive space, the internet of vehicles (IoV) covers a lot of aspects of connectivity. Some vehicles today include cellular connections, but the usage is often limited to basic apps. The new autonomous vehicles being developed will require ultra-reliable, low latency connectivity that won’t be available until a few years into 5G; however, the reality of fully automated vehicles in India will be realized much later – not because of technology constraints but due to low compliance to traffic rules.
Healthcare is also poised for transformational changes to the way care is delivered throughout the country with the introduction of technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The emergence of tele-health services has been a boon for a variety of societal reasons, and moving beyond the flat screen to an immersive, realistic experience – with extended reality (XR) technologies – will require an ultra-low latency, ultra-efficient cellular connection of sufficient bandwidth for the application.
5G is not only building on an evolutionary growth in bandwidth, but also better use of wireless spectrum, and improved connection reliability. These developments will improve existing uses of networks, and provide essential flexibility and innovation space for new applications. For example, a big market opportunity for 5G is in replacing home broadband. Home broadband would be replaced with a plug-in device that delivers Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) anywhere in the home, converting a 5G connection into home Wi-Fi so that all devices have the benefits of multi-gigabit bandwidth. Additionally, 5G enables much better spectral efficiency, or better use of available wireless space. If you are at a venue with thousands of people, such as an airport or shopping mall, where many people are using smartphones this is a real advantage. 5G can provide this kind of capacity through better use of wireless air-space, so everyone in an area should see no noticeable difference in user experience.
The possibilities become even more futuristic when looking at how 5G can mix with sophisticated technologies. In the development of smart cities, “operational intelligence,” or technology that reacts to the real world rather than being fixed, is central to delivering the wealth of benefits promised. Sensors and cameras will do the bulk of the data gathering, while cellular connectivity such as narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) will relay it to a cloud service for analysis. These are just a few of the devices that are expected to join the IoT ecosystem in the next decade. Some will do edge-processing, but most will require some form of remote connection capacity that’s likely to rely on cellular rather than unlicensed bands.
As efforts continue to bring 5G to India, our goal is to make 5G in India accessible, affordable and available so that the full benefits can be enjoyed. Right now the world is looking at opportunities – or guessing – what 5G will change. But we are basing that on being in a 4G or 3G mindset. The jump for 4G to 5G is like going for horse and buggy to the automobile. The car changed markets, industries and how we live. 5G has the same potential to change economies and lifestyles and industries. But until 5G is in the hands of the people we can’t fathom all the opportunity and innovation it will spur. Get ready for innovations with new applications that would not have been possible with 4G.