Let’s begin with a few numbers! According to Statista, cellular subscriptions in India leveraging 4G/LTE technology are predicted to reach 925 million in 2024 from their current volume of 800 million.
Even though this adoption rate has fallen significantly compared to previous years, it’s because Indian network operators are preparing suitable infrastructures to roll out 5G subscriptions that are forecast to reach 487 million by the end of 2027.
This clearly indicates how India has achieved its second rank globally in terms of mobile network connectivity with 1.19 billion active subscribers.
However, as with any emerging technology, “5G” isn’t the marketing buzzword to tackle every major challenge in the contemporary cellular infrastructure.
While smartphone manufacturers often use the term loosely, the implications of commercial 5G rollout have much more potential to position India as the world’s second-largest smartphone market by 2025.
On the commercial front, 5G rollout is also expected to fuel the Indian economy by a whopping $450 billion to increase the pace of R&D and subsequent expansion.
As Anku Jain, Managing Director of MediaTek India, recently said, "5G is not just speed and connectivity. It is the differentiator to enable advancements, interoperability and newer opportunities. With 5G deployment at our doorstep, India has an exciting future to look forward to. 5G will disrupt the way we lead our lives, with the digital ecosystem poised to facilitate innovation beyond our expectations!”
5G Will Position India As An Industry Leader In Mobile Connectivity
What’s unique about mobile networks is that it’s infinitely scalable; therefore, with 5G connectivity at its core, India can unlock business potential with revenues worth $17 billion by 2030.
In addition to this forecast is the fact that India is the highest consumer of cellular internet as per the Ericsson Mobility Report, which also states that the potential of 5G in India is tremendous.
Possibility 01: Commercial 5G Connectivity for Indian Consumers
In a recent survey published on Statista, more than 55% of respondents showed interest in purchasing a 5G-enabled smartphone, with around 30% considering getting one, depending on the price of 5G devices in India. A 5G device in India costs $375 on average, so the future readiness seems promising for consumers.
Possibility 02: Intelligent Collaboration
Manufacturing facilities in India are already benefitting from Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). Moreover, with a 5G-enabled infrastructure, an enhanced production monitoring and feedback system will boost the speed of operations, improve reliability and safety, and reduce maintenance while working closely with other assorted machines.
Possibility 03: Making Crucial Connections Between Factories
With Atlas Copco being a noteworthy example, we are already seeing brands which have opted for 5G connectivity for their manufacturing operations. Mercedes-Benz leads the innovation, whose newly innovated and networked Factory 5G in Stuttgart paves the way for an efficient digitalisation, automation, and climate response.
Innovation Also Brings Technological Challenges
With the 5G spectrum auction in India right around the corner on July 26 this year, Airtel and Jio have already begun alpha-testing 5G networks in different metropolitans with trial spectrums allotted by DoT. But before we witness a successful 5G rollout in India, the telecom regulators, as well as the government, need to address specific challenges:
Challenge 01: The “Make in India” Hardware Challenge
As an outcome of the global pandemic, the restriction and indefinite ban on certain foreign OEMs, notably Chinese, means that the nation must encourage the R&D and production of hardware manufacturing.
Coupled with the ongoing challenges of fiber connectivity, India must develop technological advancements at an unprecedented rate.
Challenge 02: High Spectrum Pricing
Even compared to developed nations such as the United Kingdom, the spectrum pricing is as much as seven times higher and several times more expensive than the global average.
Telecom providers in India are already cash-strapped and prefer leasing spectrums rather than purchasing them entirely, leaving very few R&D possibilities for Indian telcos.
Challenge 03: Varying 5G Bands
5G connectivity has been divided into three spectrums to better balance speed, coverage, and reliability. While the lower band is excellent for the range, it’s limited to 100 Mbps.
The mid-band is fast but struggles with penetration. Lastly, there’s mmWave which can offer up to 20 Gbps but is limited to a couple of hundred sq. feet of network coverage.
Finally, Is India Ready For 5G?
If India is willing to benefit from a reliable foundation of 5G connectivity, it needs to allocate 5G bands tightly. What’s promising is that once the 5G rollout is successful, it can serve up to a million connected devices per sq. kilometre.
With the unprecedented advancements in connectivity, speed, and reliability, 5G internet is set to transform not only the education and healthcare space but will also hugely impact rural regions – all of which will be the hallmarks of Digital India.
Not to mention the revenue generation, which will further fuel R&D and expansion into remote regions.
Moneycontrol journalists were not involved in the creation of this article.