The Indian telecom sector is at the cusp of the 5G revolution, as the country’s first 5G spectrum auction was concluded on August 1, 2022, with the total bids received crossing a whopping Rs 1.5 trillion. The government is now all set to push the pedal on 5G roll-outs in the country. With this, a plethora of opportunities are opening up for stakeholders including telecom operators, government agencies, towercos and other service and digital infrastructure providers, which are going to play a crucial role in the network transition process.
5G will be implemented in two phases. Some of the key elements for the introduction of 5G in 2022 are spectrum auctions and allocations, initial 5G launches, non-standalone 5G and evolved packet core, enhanced transport network capacity and enhanced mobile broadband, and fixed wireless access (FWA) services. The next phase, which will run from 2023 onward, will include the extension of 5G coverage, the introduction of new architecture such as standalone 5G and 5G core, and further evolution of the transport network. Technologies that would play a major role in 5G networks include millimetre waves, massive multiple-input multiple-output, anyhaul, cloud and open interfaces, slicing, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Capabilities of 5G beyond 4G/LTE
With 5G, the industry is looking at a three-step change requirement over 4G. First, 5G will deliver a speed increase of about 10 times to gigabit rates at the edge of the coverage, and almost tens of gigabits in the good coverage areas. This will enable use cases such as high definition real video. Second, 5G will offer a 10x improvement in delay and latency, almost taking it down to 10 milliseconds (and, theoretically, even 1 millisecond). This will enable use cases such as augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) and infrastructure control. Third, a 1,000 times improvement in device density will be witnessed. Typically, a 4G network can support nearly 1,000 devices per square km, and 5G aims to push this to 1 million devices per square km. This will unlock the true scope of internet of things (IoT) technology.
5G value proposition across segments
5G will enable huge value propositions across segments. As for consumer propositions, 5G will enable ubiquitous ultra-high-fidelity media; use cases in AR/VR such as entertainment and gaming; and digitisation benefits for areas such as transport, smart cities and lifestyle improvement. Similarly, enterprise value propositions will include nomadic secure mobile workers, telepresence, low information technology cost and improved agility. Additionally, there will be multiple propositions for verticals such as transport, manufacturing, hospitality, energy and public safety. Overall, 5G will enable a host of business opportunities and new revenue streams.
Such use cases will require significantly reduced end-to-end latency between services and consumers, which can be achieved with 5G, thereby creating a better quality of experience and enabling new business-to-business services, helping service providers become enterprise enablers and extend their business possibilities to use cases such as gaming, AR/VR and industrial automation.
5G TCO driving market potential
The roll-out of 5G capabilities requires new and more radios, denser cell sites, new in-building solutions and more backhaul and core capacities to handle the increase in traffic. The challenge for operators is to achieve efficiency in capital expenditure and scale up operating expenses to manage more complex networks. As per a study by GSMA, the total cost of ownership in the 5G era will constitute various factors, including cost drivers such as spectrum and roll-out strategies; cost accelerators such as radio access network (RAN) upgrades, energy, backhaul and the core; and cost optimisers such as automation and AI, network ownership/sharing, and RAN virtualisation. From India’s perspective, this would translate into approximately $18 billion-$30 billion for pan-India coverage.
5G is predicted to be the growth engine of mobile traffic, globally, from 2023. According to a report by Cisco, 5G will represent 10 per cent of global mobile connections by 2023, with an even higher concentration in key markets. Beyond mobile broadband, 5G will have an impact on segments such as smart cities, robotics, healthcare, agriculture and education.
In India, although 4G consumption will continue to grow, 5G traffic will start shooting up dramatically with the introduction of richer multimedia including new AR/VR content, the proliferation of FWA, new industrial IoT use cases, and a variety of infrastructure use cases. It will emerge as a flattener of the digital divide in the country, and pave the way for a more inclusive future. 5G, coupled with innovations such as open RAN and routed optical networks, provides an opportunity for service providers to reach a greater number of people in a cost-effective manner, rethink how their networks are built, and drive network transformation through simplification, cost reduction and increased efficiency. s
Based on presentations by Chandan Kumar, Head, OFC, Nokia; and Vinay Jain, Regional Sales Director, SP Architectures, India and SAARC, Cisco