NEW DELHI: India finally got its own 5G network, ushering in a new era of communication and opportunities, as Prime Minister Naredra Modi put it at the launch function in New Delhi on October 1. “Today, 130 crore Indians are getting a wonderful gift in the form of 5G from the country and from the telecom industry of the country,” the Prime Minister said at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2022 as he launched the fifth generation wireless telecom services for mobile phones.
Making his intent clear, PM Modi said, “The New India will not remain a mere consumer of technology, but will play an active role in the development and implementation of that technology.” He said while the nation was dependent on foreign countries for technology for 2G, 3G and 4G telecom services, India has created history with indigenous technology playing a major role in 5G. “With 5G, India is setting a global standard in telecom technology for the first time,” he said.
At the event, the Prime Minister tried his hand at operating a driving simulator that uses 5G technology to run a remote-controlled car in Europe. He also spoke to industry representatives about the development of end-to-end 5G technology and how it can help bridge the gap for healthcare delivery and education.
The country’s 5G-journey has begun with the rollout in 13 cities, including New Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, and Chandigarh. The plan is to cover the entire country within two years. The 5G technology enables much higher speeds than 4G and a low latency, which are important in an age where Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), meta-verse, and other smart platforms are becoming common for individuals and enterprises.
Though smartphone connections, as a percentage of the total mobile connections, have increased from 40-odd per cent in 2017 to a little less than 90 per cent in 2022, the average revenue per subscriber (ARPU) is still under Rs 200, almost one-fourth of what it is China, and lower than that in Russia, Brazil, Philippines, and Indonesia.
As per forecasts, 5G penetration will increase from 2 to 4 per cent in 2023 to around 18 per cent in 2028 and from 60 per cent in 2033 to 90 per cent in 2040. While 5G adoption steadily increases, driven by penetration and pricing factors, the real shift will happen as people shift from 2G and 3G to 4G. Even today, there are over 300 million 2G users in India.
The impact of steadily growing 5G penetration will be felt in the gig economy, e-commerce, logistics, warehousing, entertainment and OTT platforms, content creation, social media influencer economy, financial services, gaming, and media, to name a few sectors. 5G, as both an enabler and a standalone offering, opens up India’s digital economy to a new avenue of opportunities. The economic impact will be in billions, but the socio-economic impact will be worth trillions, and this is before operators in India begin looking at 6G trials a few years from now.
Already, Telecommunication Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said that India will take a lead in 6G. The sixth generation mobile system standard is currently under development.