Editorial > From 4G to 5G: Why India needs the 5G Tech Accelerated to Today & Now

From 4G to 5G: Why India needs the 5G Tech Accelerated to Today & Now

Dais Editorial | 25/08/2022 11:02 AM

Food, clothing, housing, education and public transportation are basic human needs as defined by the United Nations. But in 2016, in a non-binding resolution, the United Nations also declared Internet Access to be a basic human right. The resolution called on governments to “promote digital literacy and to facilitate access to information on the Internet,” as it can be “an important tool in facilitating the promotion of the right to education.”

As India rapidly moves towards its target of bringing the internet to 87% of its households by 2025, a natural shift of all its propelling and supporting industries towards the cause is a given. Because this time, it doesn’t just seem to be an announcement – it a full-fledged Government mission. - One to transform India into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy.

With India’s goals aligning with the UN SDGs and the necessary push required from the Government finally being in place, there is little doubt that India will soon embark on a path to embrace the latest technology in the Connectivity buzz-world – 5G!   

What is 5G?

Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest in cellular technology – designed to increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks through large numbers of small cell stations located in places like light poles or building roofs. These millimeter waves can travel only short distances and hence require a higher density of small cell stations to function effectively.

With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at multigigabit speeds that exceed wireline network speeds and offer latency of below 5 milliseconds (ms) or lower. 5G technology will also be able to ‘slice’ a physical network into multiple virtual networks. This means that operators will be able to deliver the right slice of network, depending on how it is being used, and thereby better manage their networks.

And while most of us are connected to each other and the world with fair internet speeds for work and for pleasure, the sudden push for this level of accelerated connectivity can sometimes be a little overwhelming. What is the need to make it a basic survival necessity, you ask?

Let's try to give you focused answers here next...

The world needs communication, more than you have seen yet!

It is nearly difficult to live in today's world without communication and the internet. What began with a simple computer and networking via email and Orkut has now evolved into a plethora of applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Reddit, Quora, LinkedIn, Tiktok and whatnot.

When it comes to technology, it almost seems as indispensable as oxygen, occupying every part of our lives to varying extents making us more and more dependent on it every day. And with the advancement of Tech, comes a variety of tools to accelerate development and exchange information more rapidly by the minute.

How we communicate too, has changed dramatically over time. The process of communication today has become more involuntary and sub-conscious than it ever was. Machines comprehending what we are thinking even before we word it, algorithms designed to make us think and behave in a certain manner, intelligence tweaked to support and propel human activity – all of it today functions mostly without human intervention. This is the power of the communicative world we have built around ourselves that now has become a self-fuelling juggernaut that we as humans cannot get off.

How will 5G improve our lives after implementation?

Urban livelihoods are going to be smarter than ever before. You will have improved control over smart homes and smart gadgets even when you are on the move or far away. Smart lights, your home AC or the refrigerator, your EV, all will get connected for and via different means. That not only means that you will have control, but that also means the service providers or the OEMs will also now offer better service, troubleshooting and bring in more features to empower and ease your living. Imagine faster diagnostics by doctors even when you are away and also more efficient and faster turnaround times for advanced diagnostics tools. The children will stop complaining about the slow wi-fi speeds. Multiple users sharing the same Wi-Fi will not slow down the speed of your internet. That also means faster TAT in almost all office environments. You can no more blame the internet speed at Office for a missed submission.

Rural lives can immensely benefit from the tech around the Social Development sector, education, healthcare and also law-keeping. Although, this will be highly dependent on Government’s priorities over whether they choose Rural first or not while implementing the infrastructure and we understand the private players will want to capture the more capital-abundant markets first before they eye anything else.

Whenever a new tech comes in, its mass adoption ensures the future capital and the ROI. We are yet to see which way the Government and the Private players are looking for their overall objectives.

What is the Indian Government doing for its faster implementation?

India recently amended its PLI scheme for telecom and networking products to include design-led manufacturing of 5G products. The expanded PLI scheme is open for applications for design-led manufacturing from June 21, 2022, till July 20, 2022. Additionally, there are now more incentives for MSMEs.

After receiving feedback from stakeholders, including already selected beneficiaries, the Department of Telecom (DoT) added 11 new telecom and networking products to the existing list. The Department of Telecom extended the PLI Scheme by one year – existing PLI beneficiaries can choose the financial year 2021-22 or financial year 2022-23 any of them to be their first year of incentive.

According to a News18 report “The gear makers expect telecom providers to give them a heads-up about their plans as well as the equipment required by July and have promised deployment in three to four months after that. India’s main telecom equipment makers are Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson. A top executive of one of these companies was quoted in the report as saying that the deployment time has become much faster now because of substantial automation.”

We will put the 5G equipment on existing installed infrastructure like towers which have a fibre backbone, so nothing has to be built from the ground up in this phase. With the large manpower already available with us for maintenance, it will take three to four months at most to deploy and launch 5G services," the executive was quoted as saying in another Business Standard report.

Data is the New Oil

Human technological development achieved in the last 150 years is understandably much more than the combined 2000 years prior to it. The last 5 decades have been unprecedented advances in computing prowess, artificial intelligence and machine learning, mobile and internet communications, transportation and logistics, medicine, sustainability, genetic and biomedical research and of course the storage of this data for current and future leapfrogs in mission humankind has set forth on.

Millions of tweets, hours of content, billions of emails, zettabytes of messages – all of this and more culminates into trillions of gigabytes of data and information that gets stored in data servers and data centres all across the world. And if this continues to grow at the current rate, in the next 100 years, we will reach impossible values of digital bits which will become a nightmare for storage and even more improbable for transfer.

But this doesn’t seem to be stopping us. Because this is what is propelling us forward to the next Big business idea, to the next big innovation, to the next necessary innovation, to the next step forward in governance and accountability – to the next step forward for humankind. We cannot afford to stop, we cannot afford to lose what we have. We can only store it and communicate it better.

The curious case of Amazon acquiring i-Robot that owns Roomba the floor cleaner?

What Facebook and Google have done to date around Data, used to be around your activities and preferences based upon your digital behaviours. What Amazon is about to achieve with Roomba is much much deeper than anything that has happened before. On the face, Amazon looks like an e-commerce giant but step back and see it again, it is a Data company by large. And hey, do not forget they own the AWS!

Roomba works on a mapping technology which will literally map everything at your home. Shapes and sizes and frequency of obstacles, and include voice commands to all those; Amazon will know the number of members at your home, no. of furniture, types of furniture, no. of family members(moving obstacles) and a lot lot more. We are talking about how 5G is going to help them harness Big-Data and apply ML & AI in a way you have not foreseen yet in our daily lives. And this is only a teaser of that life.

When social media gives way to the metaverse

What started out as a simple means of connecting with one another better – no matter what kind of an individual you are in real life – has now become a source of income for millions across the globe.

Love or hate it, millennial or GenZ, you cannot ignore the power of social media and it doesn’t seem to be going away at least for the foreseeable future. It will exist in some form or the other, keeping human beings connected in their own ways perhaps with some power restored to them on their data and privacy, but never once backing down from its core idea – communication.

From hunting and sourcing job opportunities to connecting with mom for an age-old recipe, social media had taken us hostage a few decades ago. Today, it touches the average Joe’s life more than we can ever imagine. Watch a dog being beaten on the street – while you may still think of rescuing the poor soul – 90% of the other onlookers are shooting it on their ‘smartphones’ ready to upload it to their personal handles and send it to social media vigilantes to like and share amongst their circles. This fascination of sharing one’s experience with thousands of others at the same time will take some time to peak before it finally dies out. A different age of virtual life awakens with 5G, Facebook(Meta) and other major players have already started biting into that real estate.

Where human limitation starts, metaverse takes up from there. The potential to serve end consumers as well as enterprise businesses is immense and that will take a jump with 5G. Your social media is already under a major transformation, you have not noticed it yet. 5G will break it for you NOW.

What kind of infrastructure are we talking about in the present and future industries at all?

To understand this better we must pay attention to some of those industries or projects the current Government had actively taken interest in, likely the EV (Electric Vehicle), EV charging infrastructure, Telecom, Highways, Drones, Big-Data & Industrial Robotics. PM Modi and his cabinet are pushing all these causes through Make in India and Startup India campaigns already.

How robust?

5G means faster streaming of Audio-visual data and faster communication between different Data nodes. In the EV sector, 5G is the magic towards ultimate safety and reliability. While the EV sales finally start touching a tipping point, by then there will be approximately 40-50 million EVs running on the roads, say…maybe around 2030-32. This will stay extremely important for the Telecom sector as well as the Automobile sector to provide a supporting infrastructure and charging network for all these vehicles. There is much to understand beyond the word “infrastructure”.

Within the EV market, network slicing will play an essential role to ensure flawless connectivity. The operators will need to be better prepared to assure low latency and reliability in the need to conform to changing eventualities. In the event of a Calamity, then, an EV will be able to automatically switch to 5G without disrupting or interrupting communication with its charging stations and management control systems. As the natural disaster gets over, it will need to dynamically switch back to fixed connectivity.

Similar requirements need to be ensured for Drones doing surveillance in remote or risk-prone areas. Those 1000s of kilometres of highway networks (probably unmanned too) having millions of EVs commuting 24X7 across states will pose a different set of requirements altogether than we can even foresee today.

Increased automation of orchestration and assurance in 5G edge management and network slicing creates a strong use case for enterprise solutions, be it for industrial robotics or commoners’ benefits.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently said that 5G services in the country are expected to begin in October and the Indian telecom sector will remain one of the most affordable in the world, even with 5G.

Everything we create is Smart now

Smartphones, Smart cars, Smart doorbells, Smartwatches, Smart keychains – everything we create or manufacture today is smart i.e. context-aware and capable of performing autonomous computing and connections for data exchange. Dumb won’t do and archaic speeds won’t do too anymore on communication between human beings and their devices. We may still make do with the buffering and laugh at the ‘millennial pause’, our devices wouldn’t be so accommodating. And unless we want to suffer a lag in our adaptability to what’s hot and trending in the world, buckling up on data and communication speeds is the only way to go.

In India, more than 80% of devices are connected to a 4G network, and 742 million of the 765 million smartphone users rely on the 4G network for their daily data and calling consumption.

It is said that 5G technology or 5th generation wireless mobile networks are designed to connect objects, machines and devices together at high speed and unblinking seamlessness. It is a wireless global standard network after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G. The tech is intended to provide faster, less latent, dependable, capable, available and uniform experiences to millions of users at the same time.

For the expectations of the data-hungry world population, 5G seems to be the new manna from heaven.

All good, but can India deliver?

Hon'ble Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology and Railways, Government of India Mr Ashwini Vaishnaw announced on 19 May 2022 the first trial call on 5G at IIT Madras utilising indigenously manufactured telecom gears expecting the country to be able to access 5G networks by mid-August/Early September.

Diktats being issued to some of the public enterprises that have been languishing on the side as India took massive strides in getting connected and the hugely successful 5G telecom auctions show the Government’s seriousness in getting the job done before the 2024 elections determine their fate.

5G is expected to aid the expansion of mobile ecosystems, pick up the good work done by 4G LTE broadband networks in elevating the economy and impacting overall advancement, enable safer mobility, remote healthcare, computerised logistics, precision agriculture, universal digital literacy, Geospatial Information systems for decision support systems and development and a cradle-to-grave digital identity that would help manoeuvre a large democracy like India in a timely and efficient manner with Government policy and initiative.

It is also said that 5G network rollouts in India would transform lives and boost India’s economic fortunes by a whopping $450 billion in the next 15 years.

Countries like China, the Philippines, and the United States have taken 5G communication as their top priority and have brute-forced execution amongst their network operators to ensure their constituents and their devices have uncompromised connectivity across an average of 50% per cent of their nation. South Korea, Canada, Spain, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia are next on the list.

With such advancements in the other developed and fast-developing economies around it, India – the 6th largest economy in the world, cannot afford to loosen its grip on this crucial piece of technological adaptation if it plans to stay and advance in its race to become one of the world’s top 3 economies in the next decade.

The ‘Why’ is now firmly in place, the ‘How’ and the ‘When’ would be on our keenly watched list over the next few months as India goes 5G ready.

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