As the COVID-19 pandemic raced through the world, many countries, including India, utilised social distancing, movement restrictions and other lockdown measures to support public health.
India’s 68-day lockdown, along with other movement restrictions, slowed economic activity to a halt, as India’s GDP contracted minus 24.4 percent in the second quarter and minus 7.3 percent in the quarter of 2020, year-over-year.
The crisis put the spotlight on digital connectivity as an absolute necessity of modern life, and a tool that can be depended upon to protect citizens and save lives. While India’s 4G networks cover more than 90 percent of the population, only 64 percent utilise mobile connectivity, leaving a large usage gap – defined as people who live in an area covered by mobile broadband but don’t subscribe to the mobile internet. Mobile connectivity via these 4G networks will play an important role in providing mobile internet in India in the foreseeable future.
However, the importance of mobile broadband in India cannot be underestimated and there is an opportunity to increase mobile broadband penetration further with the roll-out of 5G networks. According to GSMA’s “India-becoming-5G-ready” report, 5G connections in India are forecasted to reach 88 million by 2025.
As India begins to rebuild its economy, it is turning to the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) to drive post-pandemic economic recovery and build a resilient economy for the future. Industry 4.0 describes the exponential changes to the way we live, work and relate to on another due to the adoption of cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). India’s implementation of its Industry 4.0 vision is focused on the implementation of smart cities, improving efficiency in resource utilisation and quality of life for citizens, enabling the country’s large number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to take their businesses to a wider audience, both within India and globally.
According to GSMA’s 2020 Asia Pacific Digital Societies report, India has made great strides in becoming a fully-fledged digital society but more needs to be done for India to compete within the region. Intelligent connectivity – 5G, IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data – is at the heart of Industry 4.0 and there is a huge opportunity for policy makers and the mobile ecosystem to work together to ensure India can capture value, boost economic growth and benefit society.
While markets for Industry 4.0 solutions will continue to grow, most of the value is from the data and from the applications, platforms and services. Private networks will be used to tap into the advantages of Industry 4.0. Strong partnerships between mobile network operators, integrators and radio/platform vendors will be vital for Industry 4.0 as no single organization is able to deliver a full end-to-end industrialized solution.
According to a recent GSMA report, sectors such as manufacturing, retail and agriculture are going to experience significant socio-economic impacts with 5G mmWave spectrum expected to deliver USD 150 billion in additional GDP for India from 2025 to 2040.
India has wisely started the process of launching Industry 4.0 via its Samarth Udyog Bharat 4.0 initiative from the Department of Heavy Industry, National Infrastructure Pipeline, and Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. These holistic, Whole-of-Government approaches are key to launching Industry 4.0 by streamlining initiatives, preventing information silos, and making clear who is responsible for deliverables. 70 percent of respondents to a recent GSMA survey believe that a Whole-of-Government approach is extremely important to Industry 4.0 and a report from India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology suggests that a holistic, cross-sectoral approach has the potential to generate almost double the revenue, and from more diverse sectors, when compared to a traditional approach.
Along with a Whole-of-Government approach, reasonable spectrum pricing and a timely and sufficient availability of spectrum for access and backhaul will also be key, as mobile network operators continue to invest in networks to meet demand while preparing for 5G, all while fighting the economic headwinds and operating in a country that has one of the lowest ARPUs in the world.
By utilizing a Whole-of-Government approach to launch Industry 4.0, there is huge potential for companies to increase efficiency and productivity, SMEs to access new markets and people to train to learn new skills for new jobs so that India’s economy may be better suited to withstand a large-scale disruption in the future.