5G technology has the potential for societal transformation in India by enabling a variety of sectors, such as manufacturing, educational, healthcare, agricultural, financial, and social, with the rapid expansion of the role played by information technology.
The evolution of the 5G market in a country is built off existing market dynamics and market readiness in that country. There are three key drivers for the adoption and evolution of 5G technology:
- Adoption of mobile broadband. A high share of 4G connections, high data usage, and a high share of video consumption (especially HD/UHD) drive adoption of 5G. The existing slow 4G mobile speed also enables adoption of 5G in a country. India is rapidly moving toward the adoption of 4G connections (50% of the subscribers are on 4G) and smartphone penetration is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years. Availability of affordable data plans have increased the mobile data consumption in India and Indian consumers are getting habituated of consuming high data volumes on their smartphones. The demand for high-speed mobile data can drive the push toward 5G in India; however, the affordability of the 5G data pack will remain an important factor.
- State of FBB infrastructure. Low penetration of fixed broadband, low share of FTTx/cable connections, and low fixed-broadband speed are the key drivers for 5G fixed adoption as 5G becomes a substitute for home broadband. In India, FBB penetration has been low (~6.5% of the households) and within the fixed connections the majority are slow speed DSL connections (65% of the total connections). As FBB infrastructure in India is underdeveloped, 5G fixed-wireless access can prove to be a way forward.
- Availability of infrastructure. High availability of infrastructure, such as fiber backhaul for towers will drive the deployment of 5G technology. Increasingly, operators in India are focusing on improving their 4G coverage by tower densification, and are also fiberizing the towers, which will be important for the deployment of 5G technology.
Though some of the key factors look favorable for the deployment and launch of 5G services, several challenges need to be addressed to make the deployment of 5G networks successful and efficient.
To enable efficient 5G deployment, a collaborated effort and initiatives from key stakeholders are needed. Key roles and major initiatives that require to be taken by three stakeholders are as follows:
- Regulatory initiatives. Regulators need to ensure that they facilitate supportive regulations for building of infrastructure, providing spectrum in required 5G bands, allowing new entrants to drive innovation, using 5G technology. Regulatory innovations also include setting and adopting the right standards for the deployment of 5G services.
- Government initiatives. The government needs to develop a national strategy on 5G, keeping industry vertical focus. The government needs to promote smart city initiatives to ensure development in IoT and 5G. The government can help in driving collaboration among industry participants. Finally, the government should invest in network testing and development to promote innovation in use cases, using 5G technology.
Telecom operators’ initiatives. Telecom operators are the key stakeholders who will provide 5G services to the end consumers. To enable 5G service offerings, telecom operators should conduct proof-of-concept trials for use cases in different industry verticals. Operators also need to coordinate with equipment providers for the development and deployment of the 5G network.