Imagine A Connected India Powered By 5G Technology

By Sanjay Kaul, President of Asia, Pacific and Japan, Service Provider Business, Singapore, Cisco Inc.

Sanjay Kaul, President of Asia, Pacific and Japan, Service Provider Business, Singapore, Cisco Inc.Imagine a day where your device schedules your day even before you wake up, by taking care of your necessary appointments and other tasks. This is possible with the power of the fifth generation wireless technologies which is currently sweeping the world. And India, in a bid to join the technological revolution, India must create a viable model for telco to bring 5G to India. Benefits for the country are enormous.

This era of connected lives will have a far reaching impact not just in the daily lives of citizens, but will help improve the overall health of the economy. India is making great strides in this with the proliferation of smart devices in the country, backed by government schemes like Smart Cities, Digital India and Bharat Net. These schemes are aimed at connecting every household with broadband network and bring tech in every sphere of lives.

India, possibly the biggest beneficiary of 5G, Why?

Cisco’s VNI report states that there will be 2.0 billion networked devices by 2021, up from 1.4 billion in 2016. Also, the overall IP traffic is expected to grow four-fold from 2016 to 2021; a growth rate of 30 percent and reach 6.5 Exabytes of data per month in 2021, up from 1.7 Exabytes per month in 2016.

This is complemented by the increasing usage of virtual assistants which allows you to control your home devices, manage your appointments automatically without any manual intervention in a first towards achieving a truly connected world.

“While the road ahead for India is bright, it is also fraught with challenges, both regulatory and industrial in nature”

Adding to that, a growing start-up ecosystem will be the major beneficiary of 5G, leading to the creation of new markets and increase the connected devices market multifold. From an industry standpoint, this is the perfect recipe for a billion-dollar connected devices industry, which will add significant value to the Indian gross domestic product.

Hence, a high level of preparedness, both by government and private companies is required to completely tap into this billion-dollar opportunity. The Government of India in a bid to hasten the process, has set up a high level committee on 5G to chalk out a plan for its roll out and remove any teething issues that may arise.

Winning the 5G race-vital business cases that will make a difference

5G is not just a standard that supplements existing networks. It is a game changer, offering immense potential for businesses. For me, the most interesting statistic is that it will generate a staggering $ 12.3 trillion economic output globally by 2035. Fifteen years after its proposed rollout, 5G’s contribution to global GDP will equal that of India’s GDP. This is the best ‘design ready platform’ for the IoT (Internet of Things) and by extension, the IoE (Internet of Things). From a technical point of view, the standout features of 5G are the ability to keep billions of devices connected at the same time—all at blistering speeds of 10Gbps, with the lowest latency of 1 millisecond. And, in my opinion, the time is ripe for service providers and stakeholders to build business cases.

Machines – the bigger direct beneficiaries of 5G

Machines will offer more business opportunities to service providers than humans because of 5G. While the speed and network capacity will undoubtedly add to the experience of users, the bigger beneficiaries are machines. This has got to do with the low latency of 1 millisecond. Most of the prototypes and technology demonstrators of new products have not been able to realize the full potential of their concepts because lag takes away the magic of solutions. And 5G, because of its unified architecture, will be able to seamlessly integrate products of various access technologies into a single network. My take on how machines present business use cases for 5G.

• The network will support massive M2M communications – Applications that work on the concept of connections between machines have been cooking for some time. But have been unable to take off, because existing networks will be unable to support such applications in real time. For M2M to succeed, latency needs to be low, and the machines need to connect to each other without draining out power. Telemetry has been used globally in manufacturing, security, logistics, and agriculture. The large number of devices that will get on networks, in addition to the already existing and growing number of humans with smartphones will severely affect the performance of existing networks. This is where 5G networks will make M2M communications possible in networks that offer virtually unlimited capacity.

• Realizing the full potential of 5G - The Naval Postgraduate School in California got as much as 24 drones to swarm and ‘talk’ to each other. At the recent winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Intel flew over 1,200 drones with precision to form different shapes, creating a world record. This is an indication of the ‘connection’ of ‘things’ to come. 5G will permit things to remain connected with each other, in a way that does not require human interaction, working autonomously. At present, the available networks can only demonstrate the possibilities but will be unable to take the burden of many devices remaining connected at the same time, at high speed and with low latency. Here, 5G promises to be the platform that permits the full realization of IoT.

• Better business cases of 5G - machines score over humans - 5G will be a lot different from its predecessors, not just in its performance, but also in the business cases for its growth. 5G will offer operators additional revenue of 34% through 5G enabled opportunities by 2026. This is because, 5G will allow machines to perform better in the network, thereby creating better opportunities for business use cases. Superior reliability and lower latency are necessary for mission-critical applications. And capacity needs to be greater to permit many ‘things’ to talk to each other. I foresee a future, where machines will contribute and change the quality and convenience of life. For this to happen, 5G is the design ready platform that will allow optimum performance.

More importantly, 5G will generate 8,70,000 jobs by 2021, and this value addition will help create new revenue streams for service providers. SPs will look at other customer bases, where new business use cases will bring revenue. 5G will not be of small incremental value but will become a necessity in a connected world. And, I am excited that India has taken the right initiative, with the establishment of a high-level panel that plans to develop a product portfolio targeting 50 percent of the Indian market and 10 percent of the global market. It is now the turn of SPs to reach out to businesses with design ready solutions and business cases. Yes, the telecom revolution has indeed arrived at the ‘business end,’ and it can only get better from here.

Opportune time to Execute on New Telecom Policy

There couldn’t have been a more opportune time to implement the new telecom policy to supplement the 5G technology and help telecommunication providers gear up for the challenging task ahead.

If executed properly, the telecom operators are expected to post 34 percent higher revenues worth around $582 billion by 2026 on the back of a 5G-enabled industry digitalisation market.

The ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018' aims to provide a speed of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) and attract $100 Billion investment in the world’s second largest telecom industry. This will help expedite the process of creation of a 5G-enabled infrastructure. Besides, it will also speed up the evolution of 3G to 4G and towards 5G across the country in a shorter span of time.

The policy is aimed at enhancing the contribution of the digital communications sector to 8 percent of India's GDP from 6 percent in 2017. Further, it will propel India to the top 50 nations in the ICT Development Index of ITU from 134 in 2017, enhancing India's contribution to global value chains.

However, bringing affordable internet to the masses would be a major task for the telcos in the backdrop of tough pricing competition and high spectrum prices. This can be achieved by decoupling software from expensive proprietary hardware by using Software Defined Networking (SDN) and automation. This will provide an on-demand bandwidth along with achieving higher flexibility for the telcos.

Therefore, the introduction of 5G will give a new lease of life to this industry by transitioning them from network developers to service creators. They will be able to find new revenue streams by solving the key challenges in digitalization of several industries. Among the many sectors that will reap the benefits of 5G, healthcare, auto and manufacturing sectors are likely to be the early adopters.

Improving health and securing wealth

As a technocrat, I am a strong proponent of using technology in Medicare to improve a country’s ranking in the healthcare index. Using tech to send out SMS reminders to tuberculosis (TB), malaria and diarrhea patients to ensure treatment compliance could be a game changer in rural India.

This would also pave way for high adoption of predictive medicine by keeping a tab on one’s health through wearable devices. This will allow doctors to predict the probability of diseases and institute preventive measures in order to either prevent the disease altogether or significantly decrease its impact upon the patient.

Another trend in recent times is the concept of connected cars that allows for internet-enabled navigation, or controlling your car through a mobile device without you having to plug in your smartphone or enabling Bluetooth. And, its success can be ascertained from the fact that its adoption has been on an upward trajectory since the past few quarters, according to Nielsen.

The second aspect to this is the app-based vehicles, which have already taken the automotive industry by storm. Here, 5G would allow for large scale deployment of app-based fleet of vehicles through its strong bandwidth thereby significantly reduce accidents, reducing fuel cost by 10–15 percent and reducing idling and stoppage time by 40–80 percent.

Other than reducing accidents, connected technologies can also help you manage water by anticipating the requirements during special events or holidays using predictive analytics. This will be done by deploying sensors across the water network, thereby helping authorities determine the water requirement for the entire population accurately. Manufacturers too have the opportunity to adapt processes with high speed connected technologies to lower costs, optimize operations, improve productivity and manage the supply chain.

Teething issues in adoption of 5G

While the road ahead for India is bright, it is also fraught with challenges, both regulatory and industrial in nature. Starting with the lack of supporting infrastructure followed by large scale deployment of the same would be the key to achieving success of 5G. This should be complemented by awareness campaigns to shed the reluctance of citizens in adoption of digital technologies and ensuring its security.

While India is clearly on the right path of taking to 5G technologies, slow adoption of faster fibre-based network over microwave backhaul has been a teething issue. Currently, the country has only 20 percent of the total towers fiberized while the remaining is still running on the old network.

However, the long-term picture seems bright for the Indian sub-continent with the confluence of schemes like Digital India and Smart Cities project. This coupled with an increasing focus on e-governance and higher investments by global technology firms like Cisco will pave the way for a new India running on 5G technologies.

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