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Collaborative working will be key to harness 5G potential

India is on the cusp of 5G rollouts, facilitated by favorable government policies over the last one year. The bold steps taken by the government by way of unprecedented telecom reforms of 2021 and the recent auctions have set the stage for our enterprises and citizens to experience 5G in the quarters to come. Industry players have taken several concrete steps, enabling development of the ecosystem and facilitation of 5G use cases for Indian enterprises and consumers. This was necessary to build a strong foundation for 5G before we roll out networks.

India is, therefore, ready for 5G at the right time, as the market and ecosystem are maturing.

The rollout of 5G services will revolutionize the digital realm. With its high speed and ultra-low latency, 5G will not only dramatically accelerate Industry 4.0, streaming, and social media and e-commerce experience but will also take many social and economic functions into the digital realm.

In the last two years, we have witnessed how the robust telecom and digital infrastructure helped the country tide through the pandemic, ensuring that work, education, businesses, and livelihoods could carry on. Telecom has been the foundation of digital economy growth, and will play a crucial role in helping India meet its USD 5-trillion economy target with a trillion-dollar contribution from the digital economy, over the next few years.

The criticality of telecom sector cannot be emphasized enough. Bold government reforms have put the sector back on the right track. As we move forward into the 5G era, more policy support and facilitation will be needed for the country make to the most of the 5G revolution.

The path-breaking and bold reforms in September 2021 provided the much-required relief, covering structural, procedural, and liquidity aspects. This has helped the industry to stabilize and plan future investments in the business for further growth. The recent spectrum auction is a testimony to this.

Another big reform has been around spectrum auction, with more predictability on timelines and annual payment terms. All this has been a result of the government’s open dialogue with the industry, which is highly commendable.

The prompt allocation of 5G spectrum right on the day of spectrum payment was unprecedented. It is a clear signal of reformist approach of the government and the DoT, and is highly appreciated by the industry.

The government’s visionary programs – Digital India, Make in India, and Gati Shakti are built on the strong foundation of telecom sector and will be the cornerstones for Atmanirbhar Bharat. The industry remains committed to achieving the objectives of these progressive programs for the growth and development of our nation.

As we set to rollout 5G in the country, we will require continued facilitation through futuristic and enabling policy-making. Reforms 2.0 should offer relief, such as rationalization of levies and duties, settlement of old litigations, and for maintaining the optimum market structure of three private+1 PSU player in line with global trends from the similar-sized markets.

5G auctions have just concluded, and industry players will now start investing in roll out of services. However, 5G will require high CapEx for fiberization of towers, network densification, and specialized base stations. NDCP estimates investment requirements to the tune of USD 100 billion.

As per estimates, there are over 7 lakh 4G BTSs in the country, which will need to be augmented to 5G. Add to that the need for additional few lakh sites, which will be required due to densification of network over the next couple of decades.

Speedy implementation of RoW at all levels and fiberization of 85 percent of all towers in the next 2 years is a pre-requisite for establishing super-fast digital highways.

The launch of Gati Shakti Sanchar portal is a great step but critical to its success will be that all states/UTs/central agencies integrate their own portals on to this to facilitate speedy clearances on affordable rates.

To prepare for 5G rollouts in the country, telcos, such as Vi has developed India-specific 5G use cases for enterprises, consumers, and smart cities. Vi has conducted 5G trials on the government-allocated spectrum, and demonstrated a plethora of use-cases in areas, such as public safety, connected health services, connected schools, smart cities, smart construction and connected workers, drone-based surveillance, smart sports training, immersive cloud gaming, etc.

5G is going to give a major push to IoT adoption in India. New technologies like AI, ML, cloud, robotics, and blockchain are expected to boost economic growth and solve population-scale problems. Billions of IoT-connected devices and several Industry 4.0 applications will be the new order.

All this will require a fresh outlook for policy making. We not only need to draw best practices from other markets but also use this as an opportunity to move India ahead of developed nations and stay ahead of the curve in formulating the policy and regulatory regime of the future.

This approach will promote technology innovation and a vibrant sector for making India truly AtmaNirbhar.

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