The key point is that 5G needs to be in India now. It’s not just because of some “cosmetic” use cases, like watching 8k content or playing games in AR/VR environments or, for that matter, enjoying the metaverse. Of course, there is money in it and these also contribute to the economy. 5G is going to be the foundation for the digital transformation of businesses, services and governance. A remote stand-alone surgery is one of those fantastic applications that can lead to the universalization of healthcare. Even today, patients travel from small towns to metros for advanced healthcare, and at the same time people in metros and big cities visit foreign hospitals, of course based on affordability.
Likewise, in manufacturing, we need to move quickly towards clean and green manufacturing where environmental risks can be minimized. This has already started to happen with the adoption of digital. With 5G, it will get a boost resulting in environmentally friendly manufacturing.
There is no need to advocate for 5G because everyone from policy makers to industry as well as the end user understands the value it brings. It’s not just from a communication or connectivity perspective, but 5G is becoming the foundation for innovation, sustainable growth and continuity.
Today’s telecom ecosystem of telecom operators alone cannot harness the benefits of 5G to make it a game-changing technology. We have an established track record in the telecommunications sector where operators have brought any substantial innovation to the ecosystem. It has always been partner-driven and partner-led, while the telco has helped channel it to end users. In fact, even for any service that an operator offers to end users – businesses or individuals, there is a technology partner whose solution is leveraged.
5G is based on use cases for which it must first be created. There aren’t many off-the-shelf 5G use cases that an operator in its traditional orientation can simply deploy and distribute. It is necessary to first create these applications, test them, optimize them and finally deploy them so that the end users can take advantage of them.
For example, in e-commerce, connecting to data and consumers is already done with platform owners. They can leverage data, customer connection and business knowledge and understanding and work with 5G technology vendors to create 5G use cases such as drone deliveries, metaverse purchases, etc. The telco doesn’t add much value here. Likewise, in all industry-led use cases, collaboration between industry and the 5G technology provider is paramount. This affects all sectors, including manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, retail, aviation, transportation, among others.
In view of the evolution of telecom operators, all over the world and not only in India, they have above all played the role of aggregator where they would gather technologies and offer them to their customers. With 5G, this is not the case. It will not succeed. A 5G use case must first be developed, which will be industry-specific if not company- or organization-specific. Unfortunately, in this configuration, a telecom operator has a minimal role to play.
The other benefit of opening up 5G spectrum to businesses is that it will fatten the pool of investment to drive 5G growth in India, at a time when operators are already struggling to raise the necessary funds.
For the industry, which realizes that the future is technology-driven and that digital transformation is not just the integration of technology but the re-engineering of businesses with technology at the core, end-to-end ownership of intellectual property would be important. This includes how the network is set up and the various components of the entire product or service value chain are intertwined. Since the industry also owns the spectrum, it will be in a better position to design and own the whole process with the technology at its core.
5G is about the serious integration of technology with living beings and their lives. QoS or Quality of Service will not just be a number whose impact will only relate to service degradation, call dropouts, etc. In many cases, it will be life or death. For example, if a single communication packet is dropped or delayed, it could mean a robotic surgery is getting out of hand, it could mean an autonomous vehicle is crashing into people, it could mean raw material wasted on a production line and so on. . Since the owner of the product or service also owns and manages the network, the quality of service can be better managed and controlled. At least there would be some level of accountability and identification of the weak link in the value chain.
Finally, from the point of view of telecom equipment, in India we have above all Nokia and Ericsson whose networks are deployed by the operators. However, our prestigious academic institutions such as IITs as well as respected R&D centers such as C-DOT have all the capabilities to collaborate in the development of such equipment. Perhaps scaling it up for end consumers is still a challenge.
Enterprise entry into the value chain would not only bring in the necessary investments, but also create segmented use cases that could potentially lead to a halt in large-scale deployments that could be managed by synergy developed between academic institutions, R&D centers and industry. This will be a huge boost for the government-led “Make in India”, “Design in India” and “Atma Nirbhar” strategic initiatives. Eventually, this could lead to India finally having its own equivalent of a Nokia, Ericsson or Huawei.
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