5G: The springboard to $5 trillion economy?

For the new government, 5G is a great opportunity to establish India’s leadership in the digital age and enhance India’s global clout

Updated: Aug 23, 2019 06:31:06 PM UTC

Rajib Bose is a Senior Managing Consultant in IBM.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Since ancient times, there have been sudden breakthroughs in science and engineering that have stimulated societies to adopt newer ways of living. From the discovery of the wheel to modern-day steam engine and electricity to combustion engines and, lately, the Internet, have human lives have been propelled to newer stages of evolution. 5G technology, which will be the underlying platform for our digital future, has the potential to unleash the next big leap for mankind.

The telecommunications revolution has impacted billions of lives across the globe. 5G offers two critical differentiators over current mobile technology—first, it provides ultra-speed connectivity (1+ Gbps against today’s standard 2-5 Mbps); and second, it offers very low latency (no buffering while watching movies!). However, 5G, unlike 3G or 4G, cannot be looked as a stand-alone technology.

5G, when fused with modern technology innovations that are engulfing the world— mobile-first computing, real-time processing at the edge, mass-scale cloud technology adoption, AI and analytics, IoT etc, promises to be a disruptive game-changer for society. 5G emerges at a time when social collaboration and ecosystem plays have become the new norm and technology is increasingly focussing on human-centric experience creation. The world is rapidly becoming ubiquitous with more and more objects and devices intelligently getting connected to each other.

In the 5G era, the key technology drivers will work in harmony to create a new world with unlimited possibilities. Here are some likely scenarios:

  • Ultra-fast connectivity, paired with AI-powered language translation with voice recognition and voice-over capabilities will ensure that language will no longer be a bar for communication
  • Robotics, IoT, Automation, 3D-printing coupled with big data, analytics and AI can revolutionise manufacturing in states such as West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala. With strong technology manpower may become future manufacturing hubs leveraging tech driven industrialisation (Industry 4.0)
  • Driverless cars and drone-based delivery of our e-commerce items would not be very far
  • Mixed reality will be the future of mobility, with large-scale adoption across industries and all walks of life, thanks to enabling 5G. Mixed reality bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds creating a new ‘phygital’ area. This will have dramatic impact in areas of education, healthcare, entertainment, travel and tourism and many more.

At the Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona in March 2019, global technology giants demonstrated their vision of the new world riding the 5G wave. 5G trials have started in many countries. While 5G mobile devices may take some more time to hit the markets, currently, the most common use of 5G is the last-mile technology for fixed broadband connectivity. The current trade dispute between the US and China and the consequential banning of Huawei can largely be attributed to the fight for domination of new 5G economy and the hegemony over the colossal data the new 5G economy will generate.

The Indian government announced that the 5G airwave auction will happen later this year and that commercial trials will start soon. With the ongoing financial distress in the telecom sector, the two leading incumbent operators have demonstrated no visible enthusiasm for the 5G rollout. Further, the Indian industry is not yet geared up for the 5G era, which requires significant collaboration and community plays. 5G is as much important to the telecom operators as it is for other industries who will be relying on the new technology. The government and industry bodies should play a more orchestrating role by bringing together key industries and major beneficiaries of 5G along with the telcos, and develop an innovative mechanism for 5G airwave auction.

The 5G world is very complex, full of uncertainties, and demands enormous investments. The 5G-driven development architecture, if designed well with a holistic approach, can usher in unprecedented socio-economic upliftment across India. The key government schemes in education, healthcare, manufacturing, financial inclusion, skill development and others can be recalibrated from 5G perspective. For the new government, 5G is a great opportunity to establish India’s leadership in new digital age and enhance India’s global clout.

Wayne Dyer once said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. 5G preparations call for a fundamental political reimagination and this could be the cornerstone towards the vision of a $5 trillion Indian economy by 2024-25.

The author is a Senior Managing Consultant in IBM. The views are his personal.

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