5G The Sunrise Sector for Digital India
Published on : Wednesday 04-08-2021
The Indian market has its unique characteristics which must be considered while implementing the 5G use case, say Sreekanth Sasidharan and Manjunath Kulkarni.
India had an exciting last few weeks in the 5G arena with multiple telecom service providers announcing 5G plans and trial results. Earlier, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) permitted major operators in India to conduct 5G trials. The DoT has approved the reuse of the existing lower band spectrum (800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2500 MHz), the experimental new mid-band (3.2 GHz – 3.6 GHz) and Millimetre Wave (24.25 and 28.5 GHz) for trials. Operators now have ample flexibility to conduct trials on a wide range of 5G frequencies and test versatile use cases. India has landed on the 5G map, and an exciting 5G digital journey has started. The prediction by GSMA that 5G will be contributing USD 450 billion to the Indian economy by 2040 underlines the economic significance of this technology.
This article examines the impact of various aspects of 5G on the Digital India vision.
5G considerations for India
What makes India different from other countries?
Large and growing subscriber base: India has almost 700 million subscribers and is expected to add another 100 million in the next three to four years. 4G started a smartphone revolution in India, which will explode with 5G. There is also a rapid trend to migrate to mobile broadband. These positive trends point towards the need for a 5G Enhanced Broadband (eMBB).
Price sensitivity: Because of severe competition, mobile services in India are extremely price sensitive. This means that any enhanced service or use case based on 5G must be value-based positioning.
Newer policies and initiatives: It is well known that the Government of India promotes ‘Make in India’. This concept has opened new doors for operators and ecosystem providers to look at making solutions in a more India-focused way. Another policy is the New Education Policy (NEP) which makes education an important sector for 5G use cases.
Use case relevance in India: 5G use case relevance for any country or geography depends on the industries, buying power of customers and technology readiness. Accordingly, entertainment, education and manufacturing are expected to be the top industries for 5G adoption in India, followed by retail and health.
5G standard for India: Also known as Low Mobility Large Cell (LMLC), it is an India focused standard jointly drafted by the IITs and the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India (TSDSI). While LMLC is more cost-effective than standard 5G and aligns with Make in India, the interoperability with existing 3GPP aligned products needs some testing time. ITU has recently approved the standard, but we must wait and watch to see how this matures and gets adopted.
5G and Digital India focus
The Digital India vision aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. A prime focus is to have remote Indian villages connected digitally through broadband and high-speed internet. In the latest digital infrastructure plan, the government has acknowledged the potential of 5G in fuelling the industry growth and innovation in India.
5G presents opportunities to propel the country to the next generation of digital connectivity and generate new revenue streams. While the high bandwidth will certainly help consumers with an improved experience, the real power of 5G lies in bringing in industry-specific applications that can scale to India’s size, making our older factories smart and providing high-speed connectivity to the remotest areas.
Based on the research by GSMA and our interactions with the government and industry bodies, some of the key use cases include:
Digital manufacturing: The Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives enable small and large companies to develop Industry 4.0 capabilities. 5G use cases revolve around the smart factory floor, predictive maintenance, autonomous vehicles and robotics.
Remote Healthcare: Healthcare is receiving more attention in the current pandemic situation. Areas like telehealth, AR/VR applications, drone delivery and remote patient care are areas where 5G can create a real impact.
Smart cities and safety: Smart cities and smart villages are an integral part of the Digital India plan. The use cases around video surveillance and enhanced security will be key.
Agriculture: This sector will benefit significantly from 5G adoption. Use cases around bio stress identification, remote expert, connected livestock and smart farming will have a major impact.
However, certain hurdles need to be overcome to achieve the true vision of Digital India powered by 5G. The non-availability of the spectrum with enterprise is a primary challenge. Others include unorganised sectors requiring coordination across states, central and NGOs. Security and data privacy would be another important area to be addressed as we move forward.
How 5G can accelerate the Digital India vision
Ubiquitous high bandwidth connectivity (eMBB): Rolling fibre to remote villages might not be a practical solution for providing high bandwidth connectivity. Instead, low cost fixed wireless using 5G is a viable approach. Entertainment is a highly popular sector in India. High bandwidth enables remote entertainment experience anywhere and paves the way for a next-generation experience like AR and VR to become mainstream.
Realtime response enabling edge analytics (uRRLC): India must cover much ground to digitise distributed old factories. Private 5G with low latency would enable the factories to have RGVs, robotics and predictive manufacturing, accelerating digital and smart factory realisation.
Massive IoT and Machine to Machine Communication (mMTC): mMTC can enable use cases like remote patient care, tracking and tracing security and retail supply chain digitisation. The 5G mMTC slice enables massive IoT scenarios to become a reality.
Role of ecosystem integrators in bringing the 5G vision together
Ecosystem integrators have a pivotal role in bringing the digital vision together because of a multitude of reasons. 5G is not only about connectivity. It also involves integrating vertical B2B use cases with connectivity and edge analytics to influence business outcomes. 5G architecture is fully cloud-native and software-defined, making it a completely new software integration and deployment challenge. Open networking approaches like O-RAN will play a big role for 5G in India, especially with the emphasis on Make in India. While this brings disaggregation and hence flexibility and cost-effectiveness to operators, the critical role of bringing it all together will be played by a good integrator.
Hence, the integrators must focus on developing enablers that glue disaggregated components together and build vertical B2B use cases. Several white space areas like end-to-end automation, slice management, application-aware network and data-driven closed-loop assurance require solutions to be developed. Creating open labs where ecosystem players can work together, producing an integrated result will certainly help better the cause.
5G has a tremendous role to play in making Digital India happen. However, it is also clear that the Indian market has its unique characteristics which must be considered while implementing the 5G use case. For this, the ecosystem integrator’s role is crucial. The end-to-end enablement and acceleration which ecosystem integrators can bring would go a long way in achieving this ambitious goal faster.
Article Courtesy: NASSCOM Community – an open knowledge sharing platform for the Indian technology industry:
Sreekanth Sasidharan is an Associate Vice President and Senior Principal Technology Architect –Next Generation Network Engineering, Infosys Ltd. He has 20+ years’ experience in Networking and Communication domain as Technology Practice Lead, Consultant, Architect, Client Interfacing Prime and Technology lead.
Manjunath Kulkarni is an Associate Vice President and Global Delivery Head - Network Engineering and Services, Infosys Ltd. He has 22+ years of experience in managing engagements across Network product development, Network Engineering and OSS Services with Telecom service providers and Networking OEMs.