5G or the fifth generation is the next generation of technology in mobile broadband networks. While 5G networks are yet to roll out in India, most major telecom players have been testing out network capacity for the same. Adding to that, most smartphone players are launching devices, which will support the next generation of 5G technology. But what opportunities will 5G hold for customers and telecom players?
In an email interview, Nitin Bansal, Managing Director, India Head-Networks, Market Area South East Asia, Oceania and India at Ericsson explained why 5G’s rollout is so significant.
Below is an edited version of the interview.
What kind of opportunities does 5G hold for the consumers and telecom operators?
5G with its characteristics of ultra-low latency, increased capacity and uniform experience will enrich the end consumer experience. For instance, 4K video on a smartphone, augmented reality, virtual reality and mobile gaming applications benefit from capabilities such as ultra-low latency and ultra-high reliability for a good user experience.
The Ericsson Mobility Report (Nov 2021) also states that the average traffic per smartphone in India is the second-highest globally. It is projected to grow to around 50GB per month in 2027. So 5G will not only enable the operators to manage the growing data needs of consumers more efficiently but also help open new revenue streams for them. The initial payback from 5G to telecom service providers is the ability to produce one GB of data at almost 1/10th of the current cost.
What will be the use-cases for 5G in India?
Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are expected to be the early use-cases of 5G in India. These will help address the concern of the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in India and improve the data experience while on the move.
Over time with 5G, we expect more enterprise-related use cases to come up in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, education, etc. As per Ericsson’s report – 5G for business: a 2030 market compass study – the projected value of the 5G-enabled digitalisation revenues in India will be approximately $17 billion by 2030.
How soon will consumers shift to 5G with its arrival? Are they ready to pay a premium for 5G services?
From a consumer perspective, we see high interest for 5G in India with consumers willing to pay a premium for new 5G capabilities. Our Consumer Lab study states that at least 40 million smartphone users in India could take up 5G in the first year of 5G being made available with consumers even willing to pay 50 per cent more for 5G plans with bundled digital services, compared to just 10 per cent premium for 5G connectivity.
According to an Ericsson Study, Indian users have shown the biggest rise in their intention to upgrade with 67 per cent wanting to take up 5G once it is available.
What should be the roadmap to develop a robust 5G connectivity in India?
A robust 5G connectivity will require the availability of an adequate spectrum across all bands at reasonable prices. Given the ‘long-term benefits’ that 5G technology will bring to India, it needs to be viewed as critical infrastructure and the foundation on which the Digital India vision can be realised.
How will 5G help in bridging the digital divide in the country?
The pandemic has underscored the importance of connectivity in every sphere of our lives. The Indian Government’s ‘Digital India’ program which focuses on empowerment, inclusion and digital transformation relies on connectivity as its foundation – and the mobile networks in India continue to deliver on that promise.
We believe 5G is the answer to unlock the next phase of economic growth as well as bridging the digital divide in the country. Healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, and the energy/utilities sectors are some of the sectors that can leverage 5G and derive benefits from its high speeds, low latency and reliability features. Last year, Ericsson conducted India’s first Rural 5G trial in partnership with Airtel. The trial showcased the massive potential offered by 5G towards bridging the digital divide by enabling access to high-speed broadband through solutions such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) services.
How has Ericsson been supporting operators across the world in their digital transformation journey? How will you support Indian telecom operators?
Ericsson has an established global 5G leadership with 170 5G commercial agreements worldwide and 109 live 5G networks. We have been collaborating with leading service providers worldwide, more than 40 universities and technology institutes and 30 industry partners. We worked on use cases in numerous industries in Europe, Asia as well as in Northern America and have been supporting operators across the world on their digital transformation journey.
In India, we have been working with our operator partners as well as the academic community to test and develop various 5G use cases which are relevant to the country. The various 5G field trials conducted successfully have set the stage for the rollout of 5G services in the country. To that effect, Bharti Airtel and Ericsson demonstrated India’s first 5G live network in Hyderabad along with trials in Gurugram and Manesar. This was followed by a demonstration of India’s first 5G rural trial in Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi/NCR. Ericsson also partnered with Vodafone Idea Ltd. (VIL) to showcase the power of 5G to reach healthcare to remote parts of the country. The telco also demonstrated blazing speeds of 4 Gbps in November as part of the trial.
Ericsson’s Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015 enabling operators to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation. We are working closely with all Indian operators and continue to engage with them on their network evolution plans