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India’s 5G Bet: Opportunities & Challenges

India’s 5G Bet: Opportunities & Challenges

  • The DoT has allowed Telecom Service Providers to use their existing spectrum for the 5G trials.

Recently, the Department of Telecommunications has greenlighted Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance JioInfocomm Ltd, Vodafone Idea Ltd and MTNL to conduct 5G trials. To that end, the TSPs have partnered with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung and C-DOT. Interestingly, the TSPs have not opted for a Chinese original equipment manufacturer or technology. Meanwhile, Reliance will use in-house technology for the trials. More 5G announcements are expected at the Reliance AGM scheduled for June 24.

The DoT has allowed Telecom Service Providers to use their existing spectrum (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz) for the 5G trials. The experimental spectrum is given in multiple bands including mid-band (3.2 GHz to 3.67 GHz), millimeter wave band (24.25 GHz to 28.5 GHz) and in Sub-Gigahertz band (700 GHz).  The trial period is set for 6 months.

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The deployment of 5G has become a priority to meet the connectivity, flexibility, and resiliency requirements of the post-pandemic world.

In India, the economic impact of 5Gis projected to hit $1 trillion by 2035. 5G can unlock new economic opportunities and societal benefits and help India leap over the traditional barriers to development and further the ‘Digital India’ vision. 

Global scenario

IHS Markit projects a 10.8% spike in global 5G investment and R&D from 2020 to 2035. In 14 years, the 5G value chain will generate $3.8 trillion in gross output and 22.8 million new jobs. Furthermore, seven countries will account for nearly 84% of the contribution to global 5G-related gross output and over 88% of the contribution to new employment.

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Image Credits: IHS Markit

China, the US and Japan together account for 2.72 trillion, i.e,  more than 70% of the gross output. The trio will further generate around 80% of the global employment in the 5G value chain. Globally, 5G remains critical for the progress of a broad range of sectors, with manufacturing, information & communication, and wholesale & retail, being the major industries to benefit.

Image Credits: IHS Markit

Indian government set up a 5G High Level Forum in September 2017 to lay down the Vision for 5G in India. The three priorities for India are:

  • Deployment – rolling out early, efficient and pervasive 5G networks to maximise the value offered by this new technology 
  • Technology – building India’s industrial and R&D capacity in the design and IP dimensions of 5G
  • Manufacturing – expanding the manufacturing base in 5G for both semiconductor fabrication as well as assembly & test plants. 

5G technology is key to ‘Digital India’ ambitions. The technology provides a better user experience in terms of data download rates. It is ten times faster than 4G and has up to three times greater spectrum efficiency and super low latency, to usher in Industry 4.0. India will see applications across agriculture, education, health, transportation, traffic management, smart cities, smart homes, and most importantly – the Internet of Things (IoT).

India’s mobile subscribers are expected to reach around 920 million by 2025. India will continue to be the world’s second-largest mobile market, trailing China. India is witnessing rapid migration to 4G-enabled devices with a number of 4G data users at 598 million, as per MBiT Index 2020.

Image Credits: GSM Intelligence

Wrapping up

  • Regulators must support streamlined network deployment regulations to solve the rising issues of network densification for speeding up the commercialisation of 5G.
  • Good spectrum policy with modest reserve prices keeping a long-term perspective in view.
  • Flexible regulatory approach.
  • Supportive taxation and investment policies to spur growth

The National Digital Communications Policy issued by the Department of Telecommunications has three core aims – “Connect India,” “Propel India,” and “Secure India”. We need large-scale infrastructure deployments, a stable investment climate, a competitive market structure, and robust privacy and data security framework to cash in on the 5G opportunity.

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