By Randeep Raina, CTO, Nokia India

It is a delightful coincidence 2019 that marks the beginning of the 25th year of mobile telephony, is also the year when we prepare to make India 5G ready.

Picture a world where you cross a street where the lights switch on only when needed, cameras track pedestrian movements, there are fully automatic vehicles on road, while you see an ambulance connected to a network communicating with traffic signals with a patient bridged to doctors at the hospital’s trauma centre. This is not a dream, it’s a glimpse of the reality 5G will bring to the world!

5G should not be thought of as just a new mobile technology, in the manner that we’ve seen GSM, 3G and LTE evolve, with achievement measured in terms of how long it takes to download a movie to a smartphone, or upload holiday photographs.  It will enable an entirely new array of ‘use cases’ and possibilities for smart and productive applications, connected to a multitude of devices in a wide variety of consumer, commercial and industrial sectors. And because of the range of use cases 5G can support for numerous industries, it has the potential to be a societal game changer – and an integral part of the 4th Industrial Revolution 

5G will mean different things to different countries in terms of use cases and applications. Closer home in India it has the potential to impact in areas which are key priorities for the government and can deliver real social impact 

Scenario in India

With the world looking ahead to 5G, India is at the cusp of adoption. From infrastructure to entrepreneurship growth, rapidly developing mobile device ecosystem and affordable price points, India is turning out to be a goldmine of opportunities.

India presently has the world’s highest data usage per smartphone at an average of 9.8GB per month, which is expected to double to 18GB by 2024. The smartphone user base in India will reach 1.1 billion by 2024, whereas mobile broadband subscriptions are expected to grow from about 610 million in 2018 to 1.25 billion in 2024.

These figures indicate the immense growth in demand for data in India where we face the trials of needing data at a higher speed and with lower latency. Indian operators are currently investing heavily in their LTE networks, deploying the most advanced versions which should enable an easier and more cost-effective migration to 5G.

5G enablement & Use cases

There’s a lot more to fifth-generation networks than the ability to download movies in a blink of an eye. The technology will spawn an intelligent ecosystem of connected devices, harvesting massive amounts of data that will change the way we live and work. The face of this will although be different for every country in terms of the time frame and social impact on the economy.

Given the broad reach of application areas, the use cases can be segregated at 3 Levels – Efficiency & Automation, Social Development and Consumer & Entertainment. These cut across 6 categories based on the time frames of short, mid and long range of implementation. These leading cases for India include Education for all, Smart Crop Management, 5G to Urban & Rural Homes, Public Safety & Disaster management, Integrated Public & Private Transport and Manufacturing Industry 4.0.

In this new hyper connected world, the concept of Smart cities will become a reality. Bringing last mile connectivity in sync with the Digital India Program, 5G will increase the penetration of high-speed broadband in urban & rural India with wireless access along with Smart Transportation, Public WiFi and landscape surveillance. Demos of Adaptive Traffic Management, Smart Water Metering and Integrated Operations Centre are already being held.

In the agriculture sector, Smart Crop Management will lead to smart irrigation & pesticide control. Addressing the need of the hour in healthcare, e-health monitoring systems & remote care will encompass varied use cases. India will also see progress in Smart Governance through pro-active & technology driven public safety systems and Smart Education with AR based remote consultation.

Under the Efficiency & Automation Level will be the development of Industry 4.0. There will be surge in smart factories with greater automation & interconnect in activities leading to improved productivity, staff safety and adaptability of flexible environment. This includes Smart Manufacturing, Smart Services & Logistics, Sea Port Tracking & Mining Operations.

5G use cases in long range will include Smart Entertainment & Distribution, supporting Explosive Content Communication and Tourism & Museums with AR/VR capabilities.

Key Enablers

5G has become a near reality due to key enablers of technology including spectrum, infrastructure, ecosystem & operational dependencies. The government has played a major role in paving the road for the Indian 5G landscape with formulating policy frameworks to enable new use cases. The newly elected government has shared their plan in initiating 5G trials in the next 100 days.

Telecom department will also make available harmonised and contiguous spectrum required for deployment of 5G technology. It has started harmonising spectrum in 3,500 megahertz & 26 Gigahertz band and has already harmonised spectrum in 700 MHz band.

While pinning a greater focus on wireless for achieving India’s broadband goals has been a step in the right direction, the liberalization of the spectrum would expedite the process. `

To make 5G a reality in India, creation of a more cohesive ecosystem through greater govt and industry collaboration coupled with early spectrum availability, launch of enabler technology and sustainable infrastructure development becomes an imperative. The transformational potential of 5G is prodigious and it will bring about a metamorphosis of the society. The shift to 5G will unlock future potential with innovation of applications that we are yet to dream!