After the launch of 5G services in India during 2022, roll-outs have gained momentum and are progressing at a rapid pace across the country. The advent of 5G is expected to accelerate data cons­umption, revenue growth and 5G smartphone sales in the country.

The latest edition of the Nokia Mobile Broadband India Traffic Index (MBiT) report assesses 4G and 5G data traffic gro­w­th and trends across India, including circle categories. It also captures data consu­m­ption per user and provides an over­view of the current device ecosystem in India. Further, the report highlights how 5G is enabling private wireless networks for Industry 4.0 applications and gives insights into 4G/5G adoption in various sectors, including manufacturing, utilities and transportation.

A look at the key highlights of the report…

Mobile data traffic

Mobile data traffic in India is witnessing an increase in adoption owing to the combination of 4G and 5G networks. With 5G gaining momentum, 4G and 5G together account for almost 100 per cent of the total mobile data traffic.

The Nokia MBiT report categorises the 22 telecom circles into four groups for the purpose of study: Metro circles, and A, B and C circles. Metro circles are de­n­sely po­pulated centres in the largest In­dian ci­ties of Delhi, Kolkata and Mum­b­ai. Mean­while, A, B, C circles cover different geographical regions with varying population sizes, with Category A having the lar­gest and Category C having the smallest population.

As of October 2022, Categories A and B together accounted for 75 per cent of the overall data usage in India. Category C witnessed the highest growth of 20 per cent due to the aggressive deployment of 4G in rural areas. With the launch of 5G in the same month, infrastructure build-up is still in process. Considering all these fa­ctors, 5G service providers are planning to expand their availability across India.

As per the latest data, as of December 2022, there is a visible increase in data traffic when comparing the two years 2021 and 2022. The year-on-year growth was 8.9 per cent in Metro circles, with the 4G+5G payload rising from 1.2 EB per month in 2021 to 1.3 EB per month in 2022. Categories A and B experienced a 15.1 per cent and 11.3 per cent year-on-year increase respectively with payloads increasing from 4.5 EB per month and 5 EB per month in 2021 to 5.2 EB per month and 5.5 EB per month in 2022. On a pan-Indian level, there was a year-on-year growth of 14.2 per cent with payloads rising from 12.6 EB per month in 2021 to 14.4 EB per month in 2022.

4G remained dominant with a 99 per cent data share in 2022. 5G data started gaining traction by December 2022, when new 5G-driven applications and services were used for data growth. There was a 20 per cent year-on-year data growth reflected in major service providers.

The average monthly data traffic per user grew to 13.6 per cent (year on year) in 2022. Further, the compound annual gro­wth rate (CAGR) between 2018 and 2022 stood at 19.02 per cent, with mobile data co­nsumption of 19.5 GB per user per mo­nth in 2022. The data consumption is expected to grow even further with the new 5G-driven applications and services.

  4G/5G device ecosystem

A significant increase in 5G uptake is projected starting from the second half of 2023, with the expected 5G data usage reaching 43.7 EB per annum by 2024. The expected 5G subscriberbase by 2024 is projected to be 150 million and that of 4G and 5G combined is 990 million. 4G subscriber addition will stabilise after five years of consistent growth. Mo­v­ing ahead, subscriber addition will be driven by 5G and the mi­gration of existing 2G subscribers (350 million) to 5G/4G.

In terms of devices, India had around 730 million active 4G-capable devices in 2022, of which 85 million were 5G-ca­pable devices. Further, 70 million 5G de­vices were shipped to India in 2022. Going forward, improved 5G availability will further accelerate 5G smartphone gro­wth to around 62 per cent in 2023.

India’s private wireless network

Private wireless networks have gained im­mense traction globally, especially in Eu­rope, the Asia-Pacific and North Am­erica. Indian markets can be seen to be evolving, with future enterprise business revenues estimated at almost 40 per cent of overall 5G revenues.

The global private/5G LTE (capex and opex) spend is expected to reach $7.7 billion by 2027, with the CAGR increasing at 48 per cent (2021-2027). Global private LTE/5G revenues are projected to reach $7.5 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 23.5 per cent (2022-27). Operators globally are addressing this opportunity using a mix of technologies and are predicting that the private 5G market will eclipse the private LTE market by 2024, with enterprises le­ve­raging 5G as a foundational platform for digital transformation.

The total expenditure on private wireless networks in India will reach around $250 million by 2027, which will include managed services, equipment leasing and direct capex by enterprises. The primary deployment model to be used in India is NON-DIY managed services. Globally, the number of LTE/5G wireless networks is projected to grow at a CAGR of 65 per cent between 2021 and 2027.

With 1,900 private wireless deployme­nt sites  as of 2021, it is expected that the number will increase to 39,000 by 2027. India’s private network site roll-out is pr­e­dicted to constitute 6 per cent of the global deployment. The number of BTS/4G+5G sites was 684 in 2022, and this increased to 915 in 2023. Based on this pattern, it is expected to keep increasing and reach over 2,000 by 2027, of which 372 BTSs will be for 4G LTE and 2,090 for 5G across sub-6 GHz and mmWave.

In order to fulfil these requirements,  India needs to increase its manufacturing, utilities and transportation capabilities so that they make up a significant portion of private wireless network deployments. Glo­bally, manufacturing, energy and utility, transport and logistics, and healthcare are expected to constitute over 76 per cent of the total private wireless network market revenue by 2027. In India, manufacturing, utility and transport are projected to make up over 44 per cent of the total private wireless network sites by 2027. The transport sector is predicted to reach 205 private network sites by 2027 from the current 52, manufacturing will reach 380 in 2027 from the current 72, utilities are expected to touch 315 in 2027 from 85 in 2023, and healthcare from 13 in 2023 to 157 in 2027. Finally, all other categories, such as government, education, resource and construction, and other industries will collectively reach 971 in 2027 from 104 in 2023. In co­mparison to 2022, 2023 has seen a significant increase in activity with scaled up private network deployments and increasing maturity of ecosystems.

Marching ahead in the digital era

By 2024, mobile data usage in India is expected to more than double, primarily driven by 5G. Private 5G networks will play a crucial role in driving efficiency, productivity and sustainability as new en­ter­prises continue to evolve into Industry 4.0. India is expected to emerge as a global manufacturing and supply chain hub for 5G/4G-driven Industry 4.0 adoption. 5G will enable a leap towards a greener digital economy.