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5G Perspective

Preparing for the edge-powered 5G revolution in India

The year 2021 saw the telecommunications industry focusing on preparing the networks for 5G as the country recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand for high-speed connecti­vity continued to grow as the communication networks helped people to ensure business continuity and remain connected with family and friends.

India has one of the highest mobile data consumptions at 12 GB per user per month, and this will continue to surge as India adds 25 million new smartphone users every quarter. Apart from the fact that the digital economy is becoming all-pervasive, there is a considerable push from the government to use technology to improve people’s lives through initiatives like Digital India. Nearly 50 percent of the country’s population is connected right now.

The 5G era
With greater dependency on high-speed broadband, there is an urgent need to bridge the digital divide and connect the unconnected. The upcoming 5G technology can make it easier for the service providers to expand the coverage and benefit of broadband. India stands to benefit from several 5G use-cases like telemedicine, smart cities, and Industry 4.0, among others.

The 5G connections in India are likely to touch 88 million by 2025, according to the GSMA report. With the Indian service providers conducting 5G trials and tests, India is at an exciting point in its journey toward 5G. The country is all set to conduct a 5G spectrum auction in the coming year.

As telcos prepare for 5G, they would be investing in fiberization of the base stations and densification of the networks with small cells and picocells to deliver on the promise of 5G.

In the coming year, the Indian communications service providers (CSPs) would be focusing on software-defined networking, network function virtualization, and cloud-native computing to build a robust foundation for programmable networks. These will be required for network slicing, which is one of the key capabilities of 5G. It allows CSPs to build independent virtual networks for different service-level agreements for each network slice.

Moving to the edge cloud
Apart from 5G, another big trend in India is edge cloud, which promises to not just drive new revenue opportunities for the service providers but also allows the government to provide high-speed connectivity to remote areas of the country by placing content closer to the end-users, where it is created and consumed. The coming year is likely to witness heightened investments in edge cloud.

As online learning and telemedicine become mainstream, the service providers are realizing the growing relevance of edge cloud to deliver digital experiences. With 5G just around the corner, the Indian service providers will invest in edge locations to ensure that they are able to deliver on the promise of pathbreaking 5G use-cases.

It will also allow them to enhance the delivery of new-age services and applications, like smart manufacturing, cloud gaming, telemedicine, and autonomous vehicles. These kinds of use-cases demand ultra-high-speed networks and extremely low-latency network experience.

Focus on autonomous networks
Increasingly, the Indian service providers are using software to manage better, and monetize the networks. They are using analytics to monitor the network in real time to keep track of performance metrics and proactively respond to a network-related issue, leading to improved customer experience. Automation can help service providers identify and quickly address network faults in real time. These networks can also self-configure, self-optimize, and self-heal. Further, automation is crucial to help service providers simplify the networks for greater efficiency.

It also allows the service providers to mine the data to provide the right product to the subscriber at the right time, thus helping them to increase their revenue. The use of software is also growing to automate the network for greater network efficiency, even as the service providers are able to bring down the cost.

As India stands on the cusp of 5G and other new technologies, there is a growing need for the service providers to reimagine the networks to be open, agile, dyna­mic, programmable, and automated for improved cost efficiencies, and be able to deliver better customer experiences. The coming year promises to bring 5G and its several innovative use-cases to India even as the service providers leverage edge cloud and use software to automate the network functions for improved network experience.

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