T.V. Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum

5G is being perceived as the foundation for expanding the potential of the networked society. We need a world where connectivity is like the air we breathe — ubiquitous, ever-present and never failing. According to a recent study by IHS Markit on the economic impact of 5G, between 2020 and 2035, the impact of 5G technology on global GDP will be roughly equivalent to adding an economy the size of India to the present global economy.

The success of 5G will depend on telecom operators opening up to, and connecting with, a multitude of industry verticals to understand their businesses and help them develop new use cases and business models. The combination of holographic imaging, augmented reality, driverless cars, smart factories, smart agriculture, smart logistics and 5G’s ultra-high throughput, ultra-low latency and massive capacity will significantly transform our lives and im­prove work efficiency. It may even ins­pire the creation of new business models and industries. 5G will be a major technology in enhancing industrial digitalisation and creating use cases such as immersive gaming, autonomous driving, remote robotic surgery, and augmented reality support in maintenance and repair. The biggest opportunity will be in the energy and utilities industry, closely followed by the manufacturing and public safety sectors.

Building a collaborative relationship with verticals will be the key differentiator for 5G. Colin Willcock, chairman of the 5G Infrastructure Association, and head of radio network standardisation at Nokia, stated, “This will be the difference between 4G and 5G. For 5G to be successful, it needs to integrate with verticals and if we fail with the verticals, we will fail with 5G.” The whole world is not telecom. The reality is that other industries have their own worlds, their own standards bodies and their own way of doing things, and according to Willcock, “If we do not understand and embrace this, we will not be successful with 5G.”

5G is expected to be a game changer for various sectors such as automotive, healthcare, manufacturing and energy/electricity. Almost every industry will be technology driven. Although not a very pre­­cise compa­rison, it would be a bit like electricity, which powered the modern industrial revolution. With no electricity, everything comes to a standstill – homes, factories, airports and railways. Likewise, 5G will power the digital revolution.


5G is expected to disrupt the automotive sector. Improved efficiencies in auto­nomous cars could have a significant impact, cutting the global toll of 1.3 million people killed in road accidents every year. The benefits of 5G applications in the automotive industry will not only be realised in the form of increased productivity and sales, but will also reflect in the social gains resulting from improvements in the traffic flow, reduced wear and tear of infrastructure and vehicles, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and collisions and fatalities. 5G is likely to provide a substantial boost to V2X communications, which in turn will augment and enhance the capabilities of autonomous vehicles. The advent of mobility-as-a-service, for instance, promises to change the patterns of car ownership and commuting, with a potential impact on the existing conventional models of ownership and provision of transportation. The car as an ever-richer connected device offers both challenges and opportunities for firms, but is likely to be highly beneficial for consumers and society.


In healthcare, 5G will transform the doctor-patient relationship by integrating electronic communications into medical care. It will help maintain wellness throu­gh massive internet of medical things, en­hanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and mis­sion critical services. Together, they will deliver a holistic and personalised view of the patient anytime and anywhere. According to IHS Markit, 5G will bring in investments of more than $1 trillion in products and services for the global healthcare sector.


Manufacturing is one industry that pro­mises strong market opportunity for ICT players from a 5G industry digitalisation standpoint. Manufacturing is currently impacted by a number of trends such as hyper competition, increased volatility from short business and product cycles, and smart factories. In this context, 5G technologies can help address and support these key trends and challenges, and make a significant impact. One key example is enabling and enhancing critical control of production line robotics. This includes tethered and untethered robotics, which can be controlled, monitored and reconfigured remotely. This technology could be used in factory floor production reconfiguration, layout changes and real-time analysis. It can also steer a robot’s movement from a remote location. Digital and additive manufacturing enables a more responsive and a faster design process, while industrial IoT allows increased control. Fully flexible and highly integrated cyber-physical systems enable automation of industrial processes.

We need a world where connectivity is like the air we breathe — ubiquitous, everpresent and never failing.


To fully appreciate the interplay between 5G and electricity, we need to first understand how far we have come. There has been an evolution of requirements with respect to the inclusion and distribution of new sources of energy. In the past, a set of simple transmission decisions was sufficient for a grid that drew from a limited set of sources (mostly fossil fuels), but electrical networks today have to deal with multiple sources. Unlike computing, electrical grids do not work in a plug and play fashion. Transmission upgrades are man­datory when the grid is dealing with multiple sources. Therefore, a modern grid needs to be intelligent and optimised so that it can be both reliable and affordably accessible.

5G will support smart grid and energy efficiency, along with providing other benefits within the energy sector. By allowing many unconnected, energy consuming de­vices to be integrated into the grid throu­gh low-cost connections, 5G enables their accurate monitoring, ensuring better forecasting of energy needs. By connecting these devices through a smart grid, dema­nd side management will be further en­han­ced. This would help support load balancing, reduce electricity peaks and energy costs. Further, capturing the related data through 5G connections will enable larger cities and larger jurisdictions to plan their energy infrastructure spending more efficiently and reduce the downtime. For example, by installing smart grid technology, Chattanooga, Tamil Nadu, a medium-sized town, reduced the duration of outages by over 50 per cent during a se­vere windstorm and saved $1.4 million in operational costs. Smart street lighting, a potential first step towards a smart city, would be another use case of 5G.

The way forward

These are just a few ways in which 5G will impact important verticals. The towers of 5G and other verticals are poised to interact and engage with each other and, as a result, change the way people interact with their world. The challenge is daunting, but the payoff is huge.

The move to the cloud and network function virtualisation will already begin to happen before 5G comes along. 5G-ready massive broadband will be needed in areas with millions of homes near to fibre but without the so called “last hop” connectivity via fibre to the home. Network security will play a crucial role. There will be some significant changes for the telecom industry, which will disrupt other verticals as well. With more than 50 billion connected things, sensors and devices, the changes for consumers and industries will be far-reaching, exciting and “game changing”.

(The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own views. Garima Kapoor provided research inputs for this article.)