The introduction of mobile phones over 25 years ago started the telecom revolution in India. Basic mobile devices connected people over voice calls and text messages. Today, we can watch full-length movies on our phones and make video calls. The time is ripe for yet another telecom revolution, which will not only connect people but also devices.
Over the past few years, diverse data-intensive workloads and high-performance expectations have made network transformation technologies essential—and 5G tops the list. 5G is a breakthrough technology that will accelerate digitalisation across industries and sectors in India. The revolutionary features of 5G—ultra-low latency, super bandwidth per unit area, reliable connectivity, up to 100 percent coverage, and the capacity to connect more devices per unit—are expected to drive an intelligent network ecosystem. This ecosystem will support new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT).
A KPMG and Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) report estimates that 5G deployment could unlock $48.69 billion for India Inc by 2024, and 5G’s contribution to India’s GDP could be between 0.35 and 0.5 percent. To realise the benefits of 5G, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT)—in collaboration with telecom service providers—is establishing 5G trials in key industries including education, healthcare, agriculture, public safety, and fintech to understand how the technology can be most effectively applied.
Reimagining healthcare systems
Beyond ultra-fast internet connectivity, 5G will support the Internet of Medical Things, enhanced mobile broadband, and mission-critical services to significantly strengthen healthcare experiences. According to a United Nations report, almost 75 percent of quality healthcare infrastructure is in urban India, which holds only 27 percent of the Indian population. The remaining 73 percent lives in rural India, where access to healthcare professionals and quality care is a real challenge.
With the advent of 5G, telemedicine and virtual consultation will connect rural villages to doctors and healthcare services. Further, these options will allow more people to access remote professional medical training and remote diagnosis facilities, amplifying reach and enabling proactive and faster treatment.
Gradually, remote care will become more common. Usage of a 5G-enabled AR/VR headset would allow healthcare professionals to examine their patients virtually and even perform surgeries remotely. Consultant surgeons would be able to remotely collaborate and provide guidance to their colleagues performing surgeries on patients in a different location.
Digitalising road safety
The number of deaths related to road traffic accidents in India is the highest in the world. According to the World Bank, India accounts for 10 percent of road fatalities when the country has only 1 percent of the world’s automobiles. In India, road safety is a consistent goal of policymakers, automotive manufacturers, and drivers alike. A study by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) states that 5G technology will support safety applications to reduce road accidents.
Digitalising road safety with 5G has the potential to positively impact public safety with the help of high data rates, ultra-low latency, and other associated benefits. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle to Everything (V2X) communication enabled by 5G will enhance in-vehicle safety mechanisms by providing warnings on imminent dangers ahead, traffic delays and localised broadcast messages from authorities. It will also merge telecommunications and informatics—diagnosing problems and alerting drivers when their vehicles need service.
Intelligent traffic and vehicular communication—the quick and constant flow of data between cars, sensors, and personal devices—are essential to 5G automated driving functionality. The customised network slicing solutions that 5G enables equip vehicles to exchange data with each other and with the infrastructure for enhanced transport fluidity and safety.
In the manufacturing sector, 5G will offer the opportunity to build smart factories, using AI, AR, IoT, and automation. Smart manufacturing units are supported by a network of industrial robots, sensors, and analytics engines that measure performance, maintain schedules and ensure that work on the shop floor is smooth. With 5G connectivity, not only can we connect a greater number of devices and sensors but do so with greater efficiency, and in a scalable manner.
There is now an urgent need to develop the ecosystem to derive benefits from the 5G revolution. We could begin with use-case scenarios—implementing 5G in smaller areas to test the ecosystem. These could be 5G networks in factories for automobiles, phones, or process industry—manufacturing processes that typically need a lot of automation.
Another use case could be enabling 5G for a small urban area. It would help address several current telecom challenges as well as scale up the implementation roadmap.
Robust policy and regulatory frameworks that allow both enterprises and consumers to benefit from 5G technology can be a force multiplier for our economy. A new era of opportunities, innovation and disruption is set to begin in India.
The writer is a Country Head of Intel India and VP, Intel Foundry Services.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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