India must not get left behind in the 5G race, as it did at the time of 2G, 3G, and 4G.
5G would enable massive commercial deployments of technologies such as IoT, AI, RPA, AR/VR facilitating use cases across industries like automotive, media and entertainment, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and agriculture amongst others. Further, 5G use cases would have major application for initiatives like Smart Cities and pave the way for more widespread IoT application.
5G services are anticipated to create an economic impact of USD 1 trillion in India by 2035. Billions of new connected devices will come online for which wireless networks will need to be enhanced, extensive fiberization undertaken, and current technologies geared up. Telecom operators need cloud infrastructure, distributed network architecture, and an agile operating model to successfully operate a 5G network. 5G will also require a massive level of transformation and Indian telecom operators need to develop that capability in the form of skills, competence, and operating models. An entire new ecosystem will be required to support this development.
The questions that need to be answered here:
Are the overstretched service providers, with huge debts, declining ARPUs, an abysmal return on capital, delayed payments to DoT, crashing rupee, rising diesel prices, cut-throat competition in a position to make huge investments in spectrum, license fees, universal service fees, infrastructure, and equipment? Will the banks extend the credit required? It is anticipated that the industry might require an additional investment of USD 60–70 billion to seamlessly implement 5G networks.
Is the related ancillary industry geared up to provide the requisite service platform, delivery model, logistics support, and several other niche services?
Will the government, keen to have 5G so that its social programs are realized and spectrum auction revenue generated, take bold steps to restore the financial health of the service providers?
Will consumer demand justify these huge investments? Are the 5G use cases suitable for the 900 million plus telecom customers in India?
These are real issues, which will determine if India is in the running or not!