A panel distinguished subject matter experts to include Aruna Sundararajan, IAS, former Telecom Secretary, GOI, Shinya Kukita, Chief Architect, Global Business Unit, NEC, Rajan Mathews, Director General COAI and Dr KD Nayak former DG DRDO, was assembled at the Synergia Conclave 2019. The panel unravelled the intricacies of the 5G ecosystem in a lucid and comprehensive manner.
Wireless carriers around the world are in the race to adopt next-generation networks which offer faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, massive device connectivity and enable new applications. Business economies are all vying for the chance to be the front runner. The race for 5G is truly multi-dimensional, highly complex and fast-moving. If big data is the oil of the digital era, then 5G is the set of pipes that will deliver it.
The oncoming 5th Generation of Wireless Technology is expected to bring quantum improvements in data speed and latency. The advent of 5-G should also mark the arrival, in the market, of autonomous driving, smart cities and virtual reality amongst other technologies. Based on the experience of 2-G, 3-G, 4-G, First-Mover countries stand to gain billions in revenue, accompanied by substantial job-creation and leadership in tech-innovation.
Aruna Sundarajan painted a very vivid picture as to what 5G holds out for us. Unlike other technologies that we have fielded till date, 5G has many nuances- most critical is the security aspect and resilience of the system. It is no doubt revolutionary- movement of large volumes of data in high speed, real-time applications including robotic surgery and an era of connecting huge number of gadgets (over 1 million in an area of 1 sq km). Supported by the cloud, BlockChain, and AI, it can achieve an extraordinary convergence of intelligence, analytics, and connectivity.
Stressing on its importance, Sundarajan said that every industry and service will benefit in terms of productivity from the adoption of the technology. “Any industry that is not geared up for 5G will pay a heavy cost.” 5g network is not like anything before-It is virtualized and softwarised, non-homogenous, flexible and easy to adapt. Given that it will become critical national infrastructure, the integrity of data, therefore, becomes critical, more so as it can lead to weaponization of the network.
In addition to central policy, states must be brought on-board as stakeholders in the discussion since a lot of the applications will be state-level. The Centre must take a more active role in the rights of way issues in terms of getting states to provide resources like land for fiber and towers. With regard to spectrum, she said the DoT is in discussions with the Departments of Défense and Space since the industry will require fairly large amounts of spectrum to operate.
Today, India is in a much better position than we were during the 4G introduction in terms of data appetite, usage of apps, ICT literacy, broadband penetration etc. The 5G high-level task force (HLTF) has been constituted to strengthen the digital communication ecosystem in the country. Despite the fact that the telecom network deployment is capital intensive in nature, the Indian market has always demonstrated cost leadership. By the very nature of the need to provide ubiquitous connectivity in a telecom network, the aim is always to make the subscriber base as large as possible. India’s large market is a key factor that will drive 5G.
From the forecasts and successful trials abroad, 5G technology is proclaimed to have the potential of a general-purpose technology considering its high throughput, near real-time and high-quality services. Health, education, industrial automation, transportation, assisted-driving, security and surveillance, consumer experience and entertainment are quoted as potential sectors for 5G. New kinds of services, businesses, new streams of revenues are projected for both operators and enterprises in the years to come as per market reports.
K D Nayak, former DG DRDO, narrated his own experiences when introducing new technologies in the field. Why should India take it up? The large market, along with the demand that it carries. However, India must concentrate on building an indigenous network as it understands its complexities best.
5G technology has the potential for ushering a major societal transformation in India by enabling rapid expansion of the role of information technology across manufacturing, educational, healthcare, agricultural, financial and social sectors. India must embrace this opportunity by deploying 5G networks early, efficiently, and pervasively, as well as emerge as a significant innovator and technology supplier at the global level. Emphasis should be placed on 5G touching the lives of rural and weaker economic segments so as to make it a truly inclusive technology. This would require some effort as there are large segments of this class where even 3G and 4G have not reached.
Strategic-Socio-Economic impact of indigenous 5G is all-pervasive. Technology sovereignty is, therefore, essential. India is capable and can do it.
Shinya Kukita spoke at length on the areas attracting 5 G technology- the remote control of the machine and the entertainment aspect. To create a smart city that functions like a smooth-running machine, this urban ecosystem relies on data. At its simplest, a smart city is built upon the Internet of Things (IoT) devices collecting and analyzing data from sensors, lights, and meters throughout the city. Based on that, city managers make decisions about improving infrastructure, services, and utilities.
Since the utilization of various data across the boundaries of organizations and business is important for the implementation of smart city, strong national government leadership and a solid organization overseeing the adoption of technologies is critical for success. This ensures investment and knowledge are shared across agencies, and efficiencies are maximized.
5g security is important because our threats are from different parts of the internet. Leverage the technology trends proven effective in the IT domain, such as open architecture, virtualization, and multi-vendor ecosystem. Building a pool of trusted vendors and devices. This requires national certification rules as also verification technologies. Tampering detection of equipment is difficult to predict because of the nature of IoT. Trust sharing comes with sharing equipment IDs and user profiles among carriers or virtual networks.
Rajan S Mathews gave the operator’s take on the entire debate as they are the ones who stand to gain or lose the most. While limited participation from telecom operators is being speculated in the upcoming 5G spectrum auction, the telecom industry representative body has made it clear that the current spectrum pricing is not appropriate and the industry would need an affordable spectrum to take up 5G. Secondly, they need a clean spectrum because now there appear to be all types of contention among various government, space and satellite agencies.
Globally when everybody is looking at 28 GHz to be added to what we call as the mobility band of the spectrum; India is finding that it is locked out of that because of the use of that band by the satellite industry.
There is no doubt that commercial deployment of 5G will necessitate major ecosystem changes in terms of spectrum usage, network infrastructure and devices. It is therefore imperative for the government to price spectrum reasonably and rationalize myriad levies and taxes so that 5G services can be implemented seamlessly. 5G will not only have use cases unique to the country, such as driverless vehicles, smart healthcare, smart agriculture, smart transportation, etc., but it would also revolutionize business landscapes and networks.
- 5G falls under the category of inventions called General Purpose Technologies (GPT) which tail other socio-economic mainspring inventions like electricity, the telegraph, and the internet. Established through a ubiquitous adoption of technologies, across multiple industries, GPTs often acts as a catalyst for transformative changes that define how we live and the way we work. 5G will be a medium that thrusts mobile technology into the exclusive realm of GPTS.
- 5G is likely to add US$ 666 billion to the Indian economy and enable foreign exchange savings of over 273 billion in over 10 years. It has the potential to create 60 million direct and indirect jobs, four times faster than the current rate.
- Market access is the single most important tool in the hands of the government that provides the opportunity to create an indigenous 5G ecosystem.
- Securing the critical infrastructure of undersea submarine cables will be extremely critical. The subsea cables carry nearly 98% of all internet traffic, connecting 4 billion people, 25 million pops and a similar number of the embedded intelligence systems.
- India is projected to have countrywide deployment by 2021. This is highly ambitious, considering that a large part of the country has only 2g or 3g. Only highly urbanized areas may qualify for this. Keeping this in mind, we must not be in a mad rush to match the South Koreans and Chinese and land up in a situation wherein we cannot exploit the ecosystem. We must allow the infrastructure to develop at its own pace, deliberating at each stage and developing India specific technology and our own vendors.
- Indigenous development has advantages; this cannot be disputed. It will have huge jobs windfall. But the infrastructure will not come cheap, and with our economy already in doldrums, we need to be circumspect as to how we manage this huge investment.
- While we may, theoretically have all the building blocks to create 5G backbone, our past record in turning out cutting edge technology is poor. Perhaps space is one field where our indigenous efforts have left a mark. A government-led approach, as in the past, may not be the best way forward. Our prestigious IITs, our tech companies and other stakeholders must pool their resources to create an Indian solution.
- The fundamental issue is even today, 90% of our telecom eqpt is imported as we do not have the IP. Can we develop 5G IPs within the short time available?
- A mission mode kind of approach is demanded to prepare for 5g- a specific national initiative that should be industry-driven with govt providing the necessary policy support.