5G is the fifth generation mobile network. It is the next generation cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra-low latency. A government panel report points out that with 5G, the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabit per second (Gbps). This is in contrast to 4G link speeds averaging 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in India as compared to 25 Mbps in advanced countries.The standards for the usage of 5G are defined and driven by 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).
Benefits of 5G for communication sector:
- 5G is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 2035, according to a report by a government-appointed panel.
- According to a separate report by telecom gear maker Ericsson, 5G-enabled digitalization revenue potential in India will be above $27 billion by 2026.
- Additionally, global telecom industry GSMA has forecast that India will have about 70 million 5G connections by 2025.
- 5G is expected to form the backbone of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine communications.
- It would be supporting a much larger range of applications and services, including driverless vehicles, tele-surgery and real time data analytics.
- One of the primary applications of 5G will be implementation of sensor-embedded network that will allow real time relay of information across fields such as manufacturing, consumer durables and agriculture.
- 5G can also help make transport infrastructure more efficient by making it smart.
- 5G will enable vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, making driverless cars, among other things, a reality.
- The ultra-low latency offered by 5G makes the technology desirable for such use cases. Latency is the amount of time data takes to travel between its source and destination.
- Government has repeatedly spoken of India’s aspirations to deploy 5G and be a significant player in its development and growth. A high-level forum was appointed in 2016 to recommend a 5G strategy for India.
- National Digital Communications Policy, 2018, highlighted its potential and TRAI has recommended a reserve price for the auction of 5G spectrum in the 3.3-3.4 GHz and 3.4-3.5 GHz bands.
Challenges of Economies of Scale:
- Frequency allocation: Indian operators have far less spectrum in comparison to international operators. The high investment cost which makes telecom companies unsure about Return on Investment.
- Network investment: In India, the telecom sector is facing capital augmentation issues which need to be resolved. Non-availability of funds for investment: Many of the Indian operators are also weighed down by debt.
- Telecom operators seem reluctant to participate in the auction citing the reserve price of ₹490 crore per MHz as high and the amount of spectrum on offer being insufficient.
- Regulatory restrictions: Faster rounds of new technology introduction when prior technology investments have not been recouped add further complexity.
- Technical Challenges: Designing IT architecture that can be deployed globally, while still allowing for localized technology to cater for different regions is a challenge.
- Lack of Government incentives: Government has little incentive to forgo revenues, given the increasing pressure on its revenues, especially after the covid-19 induced slowdown.
- Discouraging Taxes: Current flat rate of 6% of adjusted gross revenue for licence fees and 3% for spectrum usage charges has dissuaded telecom providers from investing in new technologies.
- Poor auction design is ensuring that valuable spectrum is idle. This includes precious 5G spectrum in 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz, and the much sought-after E and B bands.
- Need to align Digital India with 5G technology.
- Incentivize design and manufacture of 5G technologies, products and solutions in India.
- Idle spectrum must be freed up, at least till it generates significant revenues.
Allocate funds and incentivise local technology and telecom firms to develop their internal capacities which would in turn help 5G technology succeed in the country.
- Promote 5G start-ups that enable this design and manufacturing capabilities.
- Promote generation of IPR backing the above designs.
- Reward efficient use of spectrum,
- Upgrade of narrow-band networks
- Development of markets.
- Manufacture of 5G chipsets, this may require massive investments.
- Appropriate test-beds and technology platforms to enable and help Indian technical ecosystem to have an edge in 5G.
- Accelerated deployment of next generation ubiquitous ultra-high broadband infrastructure with 100% coverage of 10 Gbps across urban India and 1 Gbps across Rural India.
Coverage, reliability, and scalability must be optimized and seamless mobile networks will require a unified management policy to ensure consistent standards.
The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2023 there will be a staggering 9.1 billion mobile subscriptions. 5G will act as the catalyst for Digital India—a watershed moment in digital transformation. India is at the cusp of a next generation of wireless technology 5G. It provides an opportunity for industry to reach out to global markets, and consumers to gain with the economies of scale. It can help in better service delivery, faster access to services and deeper penetration of digital services.