The recent visit of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the ongoing trade war between China and US has put the spotlight on 5G. While there is no doubt that 5G will be a game changer when it comes to data speeds, in reality, avoiding imported 5G will be by far a much bigger game changer.
If India develops this technology indigenously, she will gain technical superiority, economic leverage and above all, much-needed diplomatic muscle, besides boosting the industries that deploy this indigenous and futuristic technology.
Companies in China, USA, South Korea, Japan and Russia have developed 5G technology and they are lobbying with India to buy and use what they have to offer.
This is where India needs to understand that 5G for this country is not just about technology; it is about India’s future and about a whole new ecosystem.
Since India is projected to be the world’s biggest 5G market after China, and the Internet economy in this country is likely touch the $1 trillion- mark by 2025, it is important for Indian policy makers and lawmakers, cutting across party lines, to consider the following.
The successful roll out of domestic future generation (FG) technology will be a test of ‘Make in India’, Digital India, Start-Up India and indeed, the idea of ‘New India’ itself.
Since no country is going to deploy 5G before 2020, what is our hurry to borrow technology? It is a better idea to build something better and cheaper indigenously, rather than import.
Make India count. This country has a population of 1.3 billion-plus. Our techies are world leaders, but we have been reduced to a body shop of white-collar workers. Indian tech institutes keep tom-tomming about being the best in the world, and we claim to make India a ‘vishwa guru’ (world leader). India was a global knowledge super-power and aims to become one in the next decade. If we want to become the world’s third largest economy, 5G is an opportunity to create our own niche and leap frog over the others in the technology queue.
Whenever sanctions have been imposed on India, we have shown that we possess the wherewithal to deliver and withstand the challenge.
The success of Mangalayan (Mars Orbiter Mission) is a recent and good example of how Indians can beat the West, when it comes to certain aspects of technology. We developed Mangalayan at one-tenth the price of US’s Maven and landed on Mars in the very first attempt.
The biggest test of nationalism, therefore, will be when we have developed indigenous future generation technology, deployed across the country.
Development of indigenous FG technology will prove India’s prowess as a tech-hub and a super-power, who no one can take for granted. We must leverage this opportunity, instead of falling for a borrowed Russian, US, Korean or Chinese technology. We must not remain digital slaves anymore!
Atal Behari Vajpayee showed us the way and made us a nuclear power. Narendra Modi can make us a tech super power. It is important for us to realise that 5G is important, but not urgent. India can wait for two-three years.
Challenge the Indian mind to deliver. We must trust the Indian intellect to take up the challenge and deliver something that the world will acknowledge.
Till then, let us use 3G-4G and optimise, but let us not lose this opportunity. Indian telecom companies are under acute stress and 5G auctions carry the risk of putting them in a Catch-22 situation – if they bid, they raise more money adding to their existing debts and if they don’t bid, they lose out the 5G upgrade. So, it will be in the interest of the nation, consumers and the industry to wait a while longer.
5G network is being designed for less than 1 millisecond latency and India must develop FG technology, which is a step ahead of 5G.
We need to set up an independent body — the Futuristic Technology Mission (FTM) — a joint initiative of DST, DRDO, ISRO, IITs, C-DAC and C-DOT, NITI Aayog and Start-up India, and give them a corpus of Rs 5,000 crore to develop a FG solution in the next 600 days. I believe, we have what it takes to achieve the seemingly impossible by 2021.
Today, the world is trying to sell the 5G technology to India, but if we develop our own technology in the next three years, countries would line up to use India’s FG technology, like they use ISROs’ satellite launch vehicle to put their satellites into orbit.
Success of FG technology will also boost the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) market for FG — IOT devices in India and catalyse Indian industries and add tremendous power to brand India. We have a once-in-a-century opportunity. Let us not fritter it away by becoming digital slaves of the First World.
Let us not undermine our talent. Let us leverage this lifetime opportunity to put India atop the global map. It is safe to assume that this country can deliver it and if all the right assistance is provided, better than most others. Provide the money, repose trust and keep the bureaucracy out. Indians should not be labeled as a bunch of body shopping H1B visa seekers.―DNA India