Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers, Cisco India and SAARC
In the blink of an eye, the world realised how critical the internet is to our daily lives. Videoconferences replaced physical meetings, workspaces turned hybrid, online consultations became a household norm, and over 1.2 billion children began distance learning. Today, India is at the cusp of a digital revolution propelled by increasing internet penetration, and the government is focusing on digitalising critical services and sectors. Now combine this accelerated digital transformation with 5G, and it will be a complete game changer. According to McKinsey, implementing faster connections in mobility, healthcare, manufacturing and retail can increase the global gross domestic product (GDP) by $1.2 trillion-$2 trillion by 2030. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, this can have a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion on India by 2035.
5G will not just be about access to technology and more throughput, latency and speed, but also about a new framework to cater to the evolving needs of consumers, small businesses, enterprises and the government. In short, 5G will push us into a world of interconnected networks, devices and applications.
5G, a true catalyst for India’s digital revolution
According to a Cisco report, by 2023, 5G will represent 10 per cent of global mobile connections, with even higher concentrations in key markets. Beyond mobile broadband, 5G will have an impact on segments such as smart cities, robotics, self-driving cars, healthcare, agriculture and education.
The fourth industrial revolution is bringing together cyber and physical systems, automation, and industrial internet of things (IoT), and is enabling better integration. The network has a starring role in digital manufacturing, connecting people and applications in any location to factory-floor assets such as sensors, actuators, cameras, and industrial automation and control systems.
Future-generation 5G networks will allow companies to leverage technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, augmented reality/virtual reality and private long term evolution to support the revolution. Moreover, advanced predictive maintenance can enhance equipment availability, and remote maintenance will lead to lower operational costs. We need to bring logistics costs below 10 per cent of GDP, since digitalisation can unlock a value of $30 billion by 2025.
Digitally enhancing our cities is a major step towards empowering India’s citizens and laying a robust foundation for a knowledge economy. Cities contribute about 63 per cent of the GDP, which is expected to increase to 70 per cent by 2030, according to a report by Invest India. 5G networks will support a wide range of use cases, from simple, smart water meters all the way to autonomous emergency medical service vehicles. Additionally, innovations that utilise 5G connectivity, IoT and data analytics can provide critical information that will help in crowd management, ensuring smarter governance. Technology and data can thus be used resolutely to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.
According to a Deloitte report, the medical device market envisions a rise in value to $50 billion in 2025, from $10.36 billion in 2020. Not only does 5G promise lower latency, which can improve the performance of critical-care applications, but the dense, distributed-access architecture of 5G networks also has the potential to unlock data from IoT sensors and devices. Most importantly, mobile health and telemedicine will increase accessibility to quality healthcare in the remotest of places.
According to a report by CLSA, the value of digital payments in India will grow threefold to touch $1 trillion by financial year 2026, as compared to $300 billion in financial year 2021. Banks and financial institutions in the country have realised how digitalisation offers them new opportunities to expand their services for customers. With 5G networks, established financial institutions can not only offer the agility customers are looking for, but the higher speed will also enable services to be improved and enriched – data exchange will become faster and data volumes larger. As more and more devices and IoT systems go online and data traffic goes up rapidly, 5G will help create reliable, high performance infrastructure to enable future network traffic.
The last two years have forced an experiment that moved education to digital classrooms, propelling students to embrace online learning and new learning models. However, the lack of affordable access to higher education and the intermittency of internet connections in remote areas remain concerns, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this digital divide. With 5G, high quality interactive virtual classrooms and content can be streamed all over the country from anywhere, bridging the gap between rural and urban India and building a more equitable future for all.
A NASSCOM study found that India suffers 40 per cent post-harvest loss, and Indian farmers have one of the lowest income growth rates globally at 3.4 per cent. Against this backdrop, technology can act as a great enabler in removing the major roadblocks in Indian agriculture. As connectivity evolves and 5G becomes commonplace, bringing lower latency, higher bandwidth and faster speeds, the use cases it creates, especially across sensors, IoT, analytics, etc., will revolutionise farming, giving rise to smart farming and precision agriculture.
5G creates new avenues for future growth
If 4G was about speeds and feeds, 5G will be about creating experiences – opening up a world of opportunities for telecom service providers. 5G can put us on the path to connecting the next billion users and fundamentally change the economics of the internet, so that it works for everyone. It will act as the ultimate flattener of the digital divide, enabling society to level the playing field and power an inclusive future for all. However, some use cases will only be enabled as the networks expand and the technology components mature; hence, fostering innovation and collaboration to accelerate 5G deployment is crucial. To go ahead on the road to a profitable mobile network, organisations need to scale their innovation in cloud-based packet core, seamless business-to-service provider network connections, automation advances and trusted secure infrastructure. Lastly, regulators, industry bodies, network operators and service providers must come together to address the challenges facing widespread 5G adoption worldwide, and maximise the opportunities it will bring across sectors. After all, 5G and advanced technologies will propel India to transform and move into the future as a tech-enabled global power.