Roadblocks in 5G upgrade in India
Authored byAmit Singh, CEO, Teliolabs
India is the most conducive market for 5G adaptation across the glsobe and it is also not restricted by industry. The 5G adaptation is also the need of the hour if one has to compete globally in manufacturing products made in India. The current set of digital transformation in the country has been due to huge investments in the telecom space. This has kept the economy to come at a standstill and at the same time connected with the world during the pandemic where widespread lockdown was in place across the globe. Though 2020 was a bad year in general it also gave us a glimpse into the future where connectivity will be of the highest importance than ever.
2020 catalyzed the digital transformation in many industries across the globe, getting digital became the utmost important thing for the brands to discuss in their boardrooms. Though 4G saved the day for India from a complete economic paralysis but the pandemic also highlighted the very need for a faster network with more load capacity to be in place. The very fact as highlighted by CISCO, that the Indian internet userbase is set to be doubled by 2021 with over 2 billion connected devices is itself a huge factor to consider for the government to leapfrog to a better network like 5G. For doing so the government can invite international players to invest in India and become a part of the growth story but the focus also needs to be self-reliant in the semi-conductor and future technology sphere. So, what is keeping India from 5G upgrade?
5G Spectrum affordability
India is yet to allocate the 5G spectrum and the world has already taken strides in rolling out the 5G services. There is already a big strain on the telcos to keep the 4G spectrum costs low and rolling out 5G will add more strain on them as the costs of the 5G spectrum are too high. The telecom companies are in the catch 22 situations where 5G is knocking on the doors and 4G ROI yet to be materialized. Even if the 5G gets a nod but it may see a substantial price correction for the end-user. So making 5G a landmark for the Atmanirbhar Bharat's mission we need to develop indigenous software solutions, hardware capabilities to achieve the goal.
Connectivity to the last mile
India's network pre-Jio revolution was in a very bad state as even the metros were not getting great connectivity, where call drops, busy networks were always a challenge and the situation was worse for tier 2, 3, and rural areas. With Jio, last-mile connectivity was achieved but still, the penetration is not even 100 percent. Given the affordability constraint, up-gradation of hardware to achieve 5G connectivity will take years to get realized. Greenfield Projects like National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to connect 250000 gram- panchayats will be a challenge to deploy to realize the last mile connectivity.
Affordable 5G devices
The market has already seen devices boasting 5G support but unfortunately, these are devices at the high end so one has to take into consideration that the Indian smartphone market is still dominated by low-cost smartphones & feature phones. Thus, getting cheaper 5G devices when 4G services are already providing enough speeds to stream their favorite content will be a major challenge as people are still using 2G & 3G services. So, 5G may be a thing of luxury for many for quite a few years. This may seem an opportune time for the government to push for homegrown 5G chips by inviting global players in the market to develop infrastructure for world-class state-of-the-art semiconductor fabricating units.
Regulatory Hurdles in the Telecom sector
Indian regulatory structure is far too confusing for many, this, unfortunately, restricts many players in the global market to enter the Indian market. With the 2G spectrum fiasco, the companies are far too cautious to enter the market. There are so many bodies overlapping each other that there is no clear roadmap for 5G in India. If 5G has to become the nervous system of India the government needs to take strong steps in the direction so that 5G becomes the guiding principle above every other policy in the market.
Security & Privacy
W.r.t network speeds and attacks it is always said that the bigger the bandwidth, the bigger is the chance for the security to be compromised. However, this misuse of technology has been there since 1G days so that's human nature that cannot be changed. With 4G networks, India is already the 2nd most cyber-attacked country in 2020, 5G adoption is already a concerning factor as bigger bandwidth and speeds the window to compromise data becomes even smaller for cybercriminals. Thus, it poses a substantial question that with so many things that can be run on 5G can we be actually safe? Transportation, manufacturing, hospitals, public service, and many more can be relied upon as 5G will flood the market with insecure endpoint devices which can be easily hacked.
To conclude, we need to see how 5G will change lives and how it comes into the market with all checks and regulatory norms in place to make the 5G a truly novel experience for billions to enjoy and utilize. Though there may be challenges the opportunities associated with it will propel the whole ecosystem forward to make it a success.
Byline: Amit Singh, CEO, Yitsol Telecom and IoT labs