Change is the only constant in life. This quote by the famous Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, best suits the ever-evolving telecom industry. Telecom services have become an intrinsic part of individuals’ lives, and facilitate many other sectors, industries, and governments in discharging their obligations more effectively and efficiently. The rapidly changing technologies have the potential to change each of them radically. In the past two decades, the telecom sector has improved by leaps and bounds, starting with voice and SMS services on 2G, to 4G and 5G, making houses and cities smarter and intelligent through services like IoT, M2M, utilizing smart applications enabled with with Artificial Intelligence through Machine Learning, and Big Data, etc.
In the year 2022 and beyond, the sector is likely to have a considerable spotlight cast on it due to the emergence of new technologies which will also be available to Indian consumers, manufacturers, and service sectors. Some of the trends that will dominate the electronic communication world in the year 2022 and beyond are discussed here.
Convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications
Two unrelated technologies becoming closely tied with each other and even unified as they develop and advance is convergence. The convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications is anticipated ever since the beginning of the 21st Century. As consumers are shifting towards high-speed broadband services, the services which were available through broadcast platforms such as DTH and/or cable TV, are now easily accessible through the internet with more flexibility of watching content per choice and convenience. The biggest example in this regard is OTT platforms offering video on demand. As the lines between telecom and broadcasting communications are getting blurred, the industry needs to adapt to provide hybrid services to the consumers to stay relevant in the market. It is also up to the policymakers to provide enabling policies for the smooth convergence of the two.
Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Generative AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has grown into a formidable tool in recent years allowing robots to think and act like humans. Furthermore, it has attracted the attention of IT firms all around the world and is seen as the next major technological revolution following the growth of mobile and cloud platforms. It is even been dubbed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution by some experts.
AI can gather and organize vast volumes of data to draw inferences and estimates that are beyond human ability. It improves organizational efficiency while lowering the risk of mistakes. AI also identifies unusual patterns of communications and contents to generate alerts against suspected behaviors and frauds etc.
In India, NITI Aayog has released the National Strategy for AI, which focuses to leverage AI for not only economic growth, but also for social inclusion.
Generative AI is the new AI technology that creates new content by utilizing content itself. It is done by detecting the underlying pattern related to the input for the creation of similar content. It has multitudes of uses including deep fakes, film restoration, face aging, etc.
5G and beyond
The 5G technology is likely to bring disruptive changes in the communications behavior, currently in practice. These disruptive changes are feasible due to 5G technology which offers higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, lower power consumption, and a more uniform user experience to users. These features of 5G will open the world to many new use-cases such as VR/AR, autonomous driving, connected devices, and many improvements in practical fields like manufacturing, medicine, transportation, telecom, etc. Implementation of 5G often goes hand in hand with the usage of O-RAN, edge computing, and cloud services as these services and techniques are necessary for most 5G networks to be more effective. In India, 5G is not commercially available yet, but it is likely to be made available to consumers after the 5G spectrum auction in 2022. 5G use cases will be one of the top trends in telecommunications this year and in the coming years.
Some of the key features of 5G network systems are given below:
- Open Radio Access Network. O-RAN architecture is based on building a virtualized RAN on open hardware and cloud, with embedded AI-powered radio control. O-RAN is based on the standards defined by O-RAN Alliance;
- Virtual Network penetrations. Network Functions Virtualizations (NFV) is a process in which a network hardware element is replaced with a virtual machine for functions such as routers and firewalls. Due to NFV, new features can be deployed with much more ease as compared to dedicated network hardware architecture. NFV is likely going to be an essential trend due to the flexibility required in 5G networks to address the ever-growing network demands and will also optimize costs; and
- Efficient usage of spectrum through Software Defined Radio system. A SDR system is a highly flexible and versatile radio communication system that employs software-based components that can be reconfigured at different frequencies bands for processing and transportation of data signals. The overall cost of developing and maintaining an SDR is much lower than that of conventional radio systems. SDRs are very useful in networking because of their flexibility and high performance to build dynamic, efficient usage of spectrum and highly secure network components.
IoT and M2M
The IoT refers to the billions of physical devices worldwide connected to the internet, collecting, processing, and sharing data with peer devices. This is made possible due to affordable and widely available microcontroller chips that can be used in any electronic device connected to the internet. As per Statista, the number of IoT-connected devices is 13.8 billion in 2021 and is likely to be 30.9 billion in 2025. This increase is mainly driven by reduced hardware costs and the emergence of cost-effective private cellular networks. Several Indian smart city projects are using IoT devices such as smart meters, smart homes, smart parking, etc. IoT will grow in leap and bounds in various sectors in 2022.
The metaverse is the next step in the internet’s evolution. It is the convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. The metaverse is a 4D version of our current internet.
Key driver technologies for metaverse are Blockchain, AR and VR, 3D reconstruction, AI, and the IoT.
The metaverse is not a service that operates on top of an application. It is neither a world nor a game. It’s the next generation of the internet, allowing for real-time interactions.
The metaverse would require extremely high internet speeds, high bandwidth, and low latency, especially when the user enters a vast virtual world with highly detailed textures and unbelievably high polygon counts. 5G opens up possibilities like VR experiences that include the sense of touch and AR experiences that let visitors have in-depth conversations with AI characters in real-time. Eventually, 6G (not available at present but research is on in many countries) will replace 5G and this will make it possible for cyberspace to support human thought and action in real-time.
All these disruptive technologies combined with metaverses could be the biggest sector in the future, globally. Intelligence will be embedded into every industry, to make it almost subconscious or contextually aware. However, just as the internet created challenges for safety, privacy, and security, the metaverse will add even more challenges such as stalking, bullying, and uncivil behavior in virtual or mixed reality worlds. The metaverse could provide forums for misinformation and manipulation. All these issues are to be addressed by the experts to safeguard society.
Indian startups have already started working on the metaverse revolution and we will see several utilities being introduced in India in 2022.
Holographic or hologram technology is a 3D imagery projection technology that can be witnessed without the need for any specialized glasses or cameras. It works on recording the light scattered from an object and then projecting it as a 3D object. It was invented in the late 1940s by the Nobel prize winner, Dennis Gabor. This technology has many uses in data storage, security, medicine and imaging, military, education, and gaming/entertainment sectors. Holographic technology is still work-in-progress, but in the coming years, it is likely to impact many sectors with the wide array of use cases available. The holography market in India continues to grow as counterfeiting remains pervasive in the country. India can offer wide-scale growth as law enforcement and the national government intensify their war on counterfeiting.
Homomorphic encryption algorithms for data in cloud environment
With the widespread application of cloud computing, more and more sensitive information and private data are stored in the cloud by users. To protect the privacy of user data, cloud data should be stored in the form of ciphertext. But encryption adds computational cost. Solutions offered in this regard were through homomorphic encryption technology, which supports the management of ciphertext data under privacy protection. It can directly retrieve, calculate, and count ciphertext in the cloud and return the results to users in the form of ciphertext. Compared with traditional encryption algorithms, homomorphic encryption technology does not require frequent encryption and decryption between the cloud and users, thus reducing the cost of communication and computing. Homomorphic encryption technology is the key technology to ensure the confidentiality of data in cloud environments.
The homomorphic features of homomorphic encryption technology address the key security issues in cloud services and the applications of cloud computing can further promote the development of homomorphic encryption technology for meeting futuristic requirements.
The above-mentioned trends are just the tip of the iceberg. With one of the lowest-cost data in the world and access to more than one billion wireless subscribers, the Indian telecom market is increasing its penetrations in the vertical sectors as a sell. The year 2022 will surely see several Indian startups working and getting recognized for these technologies. NDCP-2018 has made some provisions to harness emerging technology more efficiently to propel India into the Top 50 in the ITU Development Index by creating roadmaps for emerging technologies, simplifying licensing and regulatory frameworks, and earmarking adequate licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Indeed, we are heading for interesting times ahead.