When will 5G services be accessible across India?

Monica Sharma: A few days ago, Nokia released a detailed report known as the ‘MBiT Index’ sharing insights on mobile broadband performance in India. One of the most interesting findings from this report is about mobile data consumption in our country which has reached an average of 17 GB per user per month! Now that leaves us no option but to think about how the Indian national telecom industry is going to deal with the new change around the corner, i.e, 5G technology. 

When is 5G starting in India?

The DoT (Department of Telecom) had issued a press statement last year confirming that the 5G services will be available in as many as 13 cities across the country in 2022. The top telecom service providers such as Airtel, Jio, and others are already in the process of planning the deployment of 5G services this year. These cities include Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Jamnagar, Lucknow, Pune, and Gandhi Nagar

These cities will have the opportunity to experience the 5G technology first as they will serve as 5G trials before a national rollout. The other regions will therefore have to wait until the trial phase is completed and approved. 

The estimated timeline for the 5G services to be rolled out in the country is expected by the end of this year. The reason being, the auction of the 5G spectrum is still pending at the moment and there are a few other major steps in the process such as pricing recommendations, consultation matters, etc, only then will there be a scope of launch coming into place. 

Why is India behind other markets?

There have been quite a few reasons behind the delay in this telecommunication revolution. The industry has been affected by politics both domestic and international, struggling supply chains, laidback decision processes and of course, to top all that a global pandemic. When the reasons are these many, then it becomes difficult to pinpoint any one factor. 

Although, one clear culprit behind this delay has been Covid-19. As per the original plan, the auction for the 5G spectrum was scheduled to take place in the first or second quarter of 2020, but it had to be postponed instead. 

Also, let’s not forget that in a country of over 1.4 Billion people, doing any sorts of technological and infrastructural development is a complex and expensive process. There have been hurdles along the way, but the Department of Telecom, along with government support is ensuring to get the 5G movement back on track as soon as possible. 

What are the benefits of 5G technology?

Once India manages to roll out the 5G services across various regions, it will only be a matter of time before the country will start climbing the ladder in terms of 5G consumption rate. India is currently 2nd in the global smartphone market and the upcoming advanced technology is only going to ensure the maintenance of that global position. 

There are numerous factors and benefits that will come place with the launch of the fifth-generation technology. Of course, there are going to be a lot of similarities between what 4G had to offer and what 5G will have to offer, but the upgradation in those aspects will also be quite remarkable. 

First and foremost is the speed factor. We all know that 5G is going to offer speeds that have not been witnessed in the telecom sector yet. The downloads are going to become a matter of seconds rather than minutes. One of the recent surveys suggested that consumers who use 5G services saved around 23 hours per day in the downloading process.

One of the big questions on everyone’s mind will be the pricing. Most of us are expecting the prices of 5G plans to be much higher than the current 4G price models. But we have some news for you on that front. At one of the recently held events by Airtel, the company’s CTO mentioned that if we see globally, there’s not a huge difference between 5G and 4G tariffs, so we expect 5G plans in India to be similar to 4G plans. Well that’s some good news, isn’t it?

5G technology will also help major public institutions such as government services, hospitals, and more. Governments will be able to collect and store data across the country in a much more efficient manner and through the help of advanced algorithms, prepare and respond for emergencies or any other situation that requires immediate action. The healthcare industry is also going to benefit a lot from this technological advancement by being able to improve the quality of care, reduce costs and patient experience. For instance, transmitting large files will get so much faster than before. 5G will assist in quickly transporting huge data files of medical imagery, which in turn will improve the rapid response as well as the overall quality of service. Let’s not forget the inevitable growth of technology upgrades in the medical field with advanced machines, remote wearables and the increasing use of A.I. 

Remote monitoring technology usage is increasing but at a limited pace at present. This limitation is mainly due to the capacity of networks to handle heavy data, unreliable connection speeds, etc. With 5G coming into place in India, through lower latency and higher capacity, the healthcare sector can provide and manage remote monitoring for more & more patients in the near future. There are many other aspects related to Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence, and other technological services that will benefit from 5G. 

How will the mobile broadband sector grow in the near future?

One thing in this industry is certain and that is GROWTH. With the pace at which the consumption rate for mobile broadband is increasing, and also the upcoming deployment of 5G services, it is quite certain that the numbers are only going to head upwards. As per the report, the global momentum which is gained by 5G already, the projected revenue from 5G services in India due to that is most likely to grow at 164% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) within the next five years.

Having one of the lowest-priced mobile plans in the world, for both prepaid and postpaid connections, it’s no surprise that there’s a clear increase in usage of mobile broadband all over the country. Especially with the regular drop-in plan prices over the recent years, making the internet affordable for anyone and everyone. The number of mobile broadband users in India has reached a staggering figure of 76.5 Crores or 765 Million within the last 5 years.

The main consumers of mobile broadband services

The millennials and Gen-Z are said to be the game-changers of this industry as there’s a high number of smartphone users among this age group and the consumption rate of mobile broadband is also quite high. As per Nokia’s report, the tech-savvy generation spends about 8 hours a day online on their mobile devices. The whole culture of digital content creation thrives on a good internet connection and 5G will take content creating and sharing to the next level. The gaming industry, for example, has been seeing massive growth with online streamers on different platforms. India recorded around 365 million online gamers in 2020 and this number is estimated to reach around 510 million by the end of this year. 

What can we expect going forward? 

  • Although compared to some of the big nations of the world, India is lagging a bit behind with the deployment of 5G services, on the other hand, India will have a much faster and higher growth rate than most countries as well. 
  • Along with that, the developments towards the availability of 5G connections in India, the auction of the 5G spectrum around the corner, and around 30 Million 5G devices shipped to India in 2021, it will be very interesting to see how the telecom operators come up with their strategy of mobile plans and offers in order to gain market share as well as increase their consumer base. Well, we have a good feeling that 5G will be here to stay in India and for good! 

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