Technology has become an indispensable part of life in the present time. The evolution of technology has changed the society dramatically. Technology has simplified access to information and improved education, medicines, industries, transport, etc. A vital part of technology is data and is rightly called as the fuel for information age. The most recent introduction in technological advancement is 5G or the fifth-generation technology. 5G is an advanced wireless technology for internet connectivity which provides faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage, stable connections etc. 5G works on a higher degree of flexibility and scalability than its predecessor 4G and hence will be useful in number of areas like health, education, transport, industry, industry, communication, finance, machines, robots, etc., but primarily it forms the backbone of AI and IoT. With a peak data speed of 2 to 20 Gbps, 5G will be a giant leap for information sector. As per World Economic Forum, ‘by 2023 the number of mobile subscriptions would be around 9.1 billion’. Further, according to networking giant- CISCO Systems, by 2020, ‘mobile devices will produce around 30 exabytes of data per month and it also pegged global mobile data traffic at around 360 exabytes’. In India only average user data per user per month is about 10Gb or even more. This humongous data flow cannot be handled by 4G network which is already congested due to the existing ocean of users. Adding to the sorry state is India’s dismal position of 109 out of 129 countries in Ookla speed testing rankings. 5G provides a suitable solution for this issue due to its ultra-low latency, latency being the time taken by data to move from source to destination. 5G has a latency of about 1 milliseconds compared to 10 milliseconds of 4G hence it will successfully give relief from congestion that is a real constraint for all operators today.
5G And Its Plethora of Advantages
5G developed by the standardization body- 3rd Generation Partnership Project Organization- offers numerous benefits which are not limited to any single sector rather spread over a vast spectrum. As stated earlier, 5G forms the base of IoT thereby it will play a significant role in 4th industrial revolution- Industry 4.0. Apart from super-fast internet, 5G also provide a sustainable network for full scale evolvement of virtual and augmented reality due to its low latency and consistency. 5G will help in expansion of wireless technology to healthcare sector by opening up opportunities for telesurgery and robotic surgery among others which will prove to be revolutionary in rural areas which suffers from lack of proper healthcare facilities and surgeons. The machine-machine communication in the form of driverless vehicles can become a reality by use of 5G technology. Beside these, 5G will boost development in other areas like agriculture by means of sensor embedded network to track real time delay and even health issues of animals in farming, sporting events by means of improved and efficient performance tracking, education by means of faster information delivery even outside classrooms, industries by automation of machines, public safety by means of sensors and alarms, advanced robots and drones etc. In India’s case, 5G will benefit the government projects like Smart cities and Digital India by providing fast network and smart infrastructure that will offer low cost and efficient services as well as infrastructure delivery. In terms of economy also 5G will earn huge profits for government. Spectrum auction is one of the major revenue sources for the government and in 2016 auction, government earned around 65000 crores by this auction. Also, as per government report, it is expected that 5G will create around 1 trillion dollar in India by 2035. Further, due to seamless network, 5G will augment high frequency trading in stock exchanges and will generate revenue. Lastly, it will also create jobs as workforce will be needed to setup required framework for rolling out of 5G and also for monitoring it.
Challenges to 5G
There are certain issues that need to be addressed before rolling out 5G. Primary among them is the exorbitant Pan-India reserve price set for 5G spectrum which is as high as Rs. 492 crore per MHz compared to low prices of other 5G nations like in South Korea auctions, the price was Rs. 130 crore per MHz, almost one-fourth of India’s set price. This unreasonably high price of spectrum comes at a time when the telecom sector is already under a debt of around 4 lakh crores. To bid for such a high price, operators will have to spend around 10,000 crores which seems impossible in the existing conditions. Reeling under financial stress, the operators will look for support from government if auction is to be held without price reduction. Subsequently this will increase the economic burden on the government which is struggling to deal with the rising Non-Performing Assets in banks. Resultant will be further down gradation of Indian economy. The high prices are not feasible, and it will unnecessarily overburden the operators as well as the government. This issue was seen in the last auction held in 2016 where due to high reserve price, operators did not buy spectrum and government was left out with about 60% of unsold spectrum. Also, in 7000 MHz 4G spectrum no buyers bid due to unreasonably high prices.
The apprehension of operators regarding absence of near-term business case for 5G which would not provide them with return on investment thereby further demotivating the operators. 5G Services would require fundamental changes to core architecture of communication system hence it will need enormous capital investment. As per Deloitte, Ernst, and Young Report, ‘About 60 million dollars of additional investment would be needed for seamless 5G implementation as it will involve cost of fiberisation, spectrum changes, licenses, infrastructure etc.’ Among the Indian operators only Jio has sole 4G network services and it will be easier for Jio to upgrade to 5G but other major operators like Airtel, Vodafone, still have 2G and 3G services along with 4G and it will be an elephantine task for them to go for upgradation. This issue will lead to monopoly of one operator, that is, Jio in the 5G network and will adversely affect other operators. India also faces a geo-political dilemma in the form of ongoing 5G rivalry between USA and China. The USA-China technology rivalry is eminently political, and India should refrain from taking any sides in this tug of war. USA has banned the Chinese telecom firm Huawei over national security concerns but if India follows the same path then it will land itself in a fix much in a similar manner as had happened during 1980’s India’s attempt to get a super- computer. During that time India got entangled in USA-Japan technology war and had to compromise with an older generation of supercomputer forced upon it by USA. This should serve as a reminder for India to maintain equidistance from both USA and China and India should take its decisions based on its economic self-interest by allowing all 5G players equal opportunities.
How to Achieve Seamless 5G Implementation?
Firstly, India should learn from its experiences and strictly follow a non-aligned policy in case of bilateral or multilateral 5G rivalries. India should give equal opportunities to all players and should primarily focus on acquiring or developing 5G equipment in order to develop a sustainable framework for 5G.This can be accomplished by forming techno-diplomatic alliances for information sharing and competency with Japan, France, Germany, etc. who are at similar situation as India with respect to 5G implementation. Second, government should move away from the existing unreasonably high pricing structure and set a suitable reserve price that all operators can afford. In this respect, the sectoral regulator suggested decrease of around 40% in reserve prices. The government should lay down a clear roadmap for 5G spectrum, pricing, network, etc. in line with global standards. Third, the government should opt for a partnership with network equipment companies to establish a national optical fiber network so as to develop commercially viable and desirable solution for operators as well as customers. Fourth, government needs to focus on establishing a multidisciplinary task force under the guidance of an accountable and efficient regulatory body in order to minimize security risks to critical telecom information, eliminate cyber threats by means of integrated threat assessment techniques and by use of advanced encryptions. Fifth, government should adopt efficient policy measures to create a balance between short-medium-long term goals for 5G network. Lastly, the government should focus on encouraging capacity building in Indian companies for 5G service development and providing skill training. This would ensure that India becomes self-sufficient in 5G information technology development and simultaneously it could create jobs for people in designing, installation, and monitoring of 5G network.
5G has a clear game changing role to play in the field of information technology. In the global scenario some countries like South Korea, USA, China, Germany etc. have already entered the 5G phase with commercial roll out of services in a phase wise manner covering certain areas and efforts being made to expand the services. India needs to implement 5G for developing its information sector at par with rest of the world, India must not further delay its target of rolling out 5G by 2020. 5G offers huge potential to boost development in all sectors and it is inevitable hence India must strive hard to establish a strong base for 5G as it is quite significant for exponential growth of all sectors. In the present era of Industry 4.0, 5G is the need of the hour and it should be implemented cautiously in an efficient manner.