Is India ready for 5G?

In many ways, India has played the role of a consumer of technology, as opposed to an innovator. Historically, technologies such as 2G, 3G and 4G have been adopted and deployed in India much later than in the rest of the world. However, the Government and the telecom industry are catching up, and preparing for the 5G rollout – this time, in unison with the rest of the world.

5G technology is characterized by low latency and high capacity, and is recalibrating the operations of many sectors in the Indian economy. Education, healthcare, infrastructure, tourism, automobiles and many other sectors are internet and telecom-driven industries, and it is hard to name any sector that are left untouched, if not completely transformed by 2G, 3G and 4G technologies. 5G shall be no lesser in its impact.

The Positives: India is Preparing Itself

The Government has established a panel to ensure that there are no policy hurdles in the way of rolling out 5G technology by 2020. The panel is tasked with developing a competitive product portfolio for 5G, with an objective of targeting 50% of Indian market and 10% of global market, over the next seven years. It has also kept aside a fund of ₹500 crore for the research and development of 5G. An optical fibre network is already being put in place to serve as the backbone for 5G. Additionally, the National Digital Communications Policy 2018 is aligned to welcome 5G and effectively execute its adoption across states.

The commercial rollout for 5G technology is expected to start towards the end of 2019. Fortunately, it is expected to take far lesser time for adoption if compared to the preceding technologies. Operators are readying themselves, and many have announced the end of 2G and 3G services after their discussions with leading equipment vendors to test and experiment with the potential of the new technology.

The Hurdles to be Overcome

Given the Government’s push towards domestic production, the import duties on crucial equipment for building networks is likely to be rather high. India cannot immediately meet the requirement of such equipment from a volume perspective, and a large chunk of it will need to be imported. Once infrastructure matures, the concern will ease out.

Despite the potential hurdles in the rollout, the benefits of 5G are soon to take the country by storm. 5G will deliver a three to four times increase in average data speeds compared to what we have available today on 4G. It will enable the operators to reduce the cost of data production to 1/10th of the present cost.

It is clear that 5G opens up a plethora of opportunities in terms of business models, better education, healthcare, smart cities, smart manufacturing, smart logistics and more. It will also help the already financially stressed out telecom sector to rebound.  The vast array of steps being undertaken on the policy and commercial fronts will go a long way in ushering the 5G era in India, both in letter and in spirit. India is most definitely prepared for 5G. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project which is a group of 7 Telecom technical groups across the world (also known as Organization partners) are responsible for putting down Globally recognized Specifications and standards for GSM, 5G Network deployments.

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