5G is happening. The tremendous rise in data usage and fast changing usage behavior coupled with the growth in demand for IoT devices and applications presents a need for more powerful, more robust telecom networks that 5G can deliver.
Take the instance of video, which now accounts for over 50 percent of all mobile traffic – a figure that is expected to increase to over 75 percent by the end of 2023 and the rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will place new demands on networks in the future. 5G networks will additionally also be optimized for Internet of Things (IoT), which is expected to play a major part in the coming days as the country moves towards a more digital society.
Globally, many top telecom operators have already commenced their journey towards 5G with adoption of key technologies that essential for 5G including Massive MIMO, LAA, High Capacity Backhaul and others. In many evolved markets around the world, 4G rollouts are already complete, or are in an advanced stage. In India, on the other hand, LTE rollout is currently in progress and will continue over the next few years. In fact, the latest Ericsson Mobility Report indicates that India will have about 80 percent of 3G and 4G subscribers by 2020. This presents a very good scenario for the transition to 5G, considering that it will be an overlay network and will work in tandem with 4G. From a technological point of view, operators need to invest in their 4G networks today to ensure a smooth evolution to 5G.
5G – The Industrial Internet
The benefits and use-cases of the next generation 5G technology are exciting and concern both data users as well as various industry sectors. As per our latest 5G Business potential report, the 5G enabled digitization revenues in India will be $27 billion by 2026. The largest opportunity will be seen in sectors such as manufacturing, energy and utilities followed by public safety and health sectors. This will be over and above the revenue generated from traditional services which is expected to grow up to $63 billion by 2026. Even for end users, 5G will enable massive improvements in data connectivity and speeds enabling use cases such as 4K streaming. If we look at numbers, 5G will cover more than 20 percent of the global population six years from now and in India we expect there to be over 10 million 5G subscriptions by 2023.
Preparing for 5G
Globally, many operators and enterprises are already working on pilots for 5G. For instance, leading global carriers like Telstra, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, AT&T, Vodafone, and Orange as well as smartphone chip giant Qualcomm conducted 5G New Radio (5G NR) interoperability trials alongside Ericsson.
To capture the full opportunities of 5G, it will require an evolution of the whole network and not just parts of it. Automation will increasingly assume significance as the opportunities as well as complexities of the 5G business landscape evolve. For this, virtualization of the core networks is one of the most important prerequisites. It’s encouraging that all major operators in India and across the globe are talking about it. From an ecosystem perspective, the industry is readying for 5G deployments and we see 5G devices and second generations of chipsets that go into smartphones and tablets becoming available in globally around 2019-2020.
5G Readiness in India
The technological advancements of 5G will, in part, help the government make a renewed push for its “Digital India” initiative and cashless economy. There have been encouraging signs from the Government of India on 5G rollouts, whether it’s been in the area of spectrum or academic research. The Government has set up a 5G India 2020 forum comprising secretaries, experts and academics that will be working towards the vision, mission, and goals of 5G service in the country. The Telecom Minister as well as the other Government functionaries have come out saying that while India may have lagged in earlier technologies, it will be one of the early adopters of 5G.
5G rollouts in India will be a sum-total of various elements coming together, but from our perspective – Ericsson is already delivering 5G ready products. All radio products within Ericsson Radio System delivered since 2015 are upgradable to 5G through a remote software installation. We have already showcased the first live 5G demonstration in the country that received a great deal of interest from customers, partners, and the industry ecosystem. We also have a partnership with IIT Delhi to focus on research, innovation and industrial pilots that use next-generation 5G networks as an enabler. It will help initiate cross-industry research collaborations focused on the integration of ICT in industry processes, as well as products and services.
Nitin Bansal is Head of Network Solutions, MOAI at Ericsson