By Lt Gen Dr S.P. Kochhar
The year 2022 is not just a proud moment for the Ministry of Communications, but also for each citizen of the country. The overwhelming response to the spectrum auction indeed marks the first step towards multi-dimensional growth through revolutionising 5G technology.
5G, with its full capability, has the potential to transform the country into this digital era. 5G has given hope for seamless connectivity, and robust data availability, enhancing the user experience and solving many technological challenges. In the post-Covid scenario, this has become the need of the hour as telecom and broadband form an important infrastructure backbone in the country.
We are happy that the country will soon witness the launch of commercial 5G. It will be able to reap its benefits and will put India on the global map with a boost to the sectors like education, healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture and e-governance in the initial phase. The new-age technologies like AI, VR, M2M, IoT etc., which are dependent on the high-speed network will also have better-performing platforms.
Currently, we already have approximately 100 million customers with 5G-ready smartphones in the country. 5G is projected to account for 500 million connections, representing 40 per cent of mobile customers, by the end of 2027, as per Ericsson Mobility Report 2022.
Over the period of 2023-2040, we estimate that 5G technologies will make a contribution of approximately $450 billion to the Indian economy (0.6 per cent of GDP by 2040). Companies like Nokia and Ericsson which have their manufacturing facilities in India can increase the production of 5G equipment to meet the demand and support the deployment of 5G services.
Optical Fibre Cables (OFCs) are the main pivots to drive the progressive 5G innovation. The Ministry of Communications has decided to extend assigning backhaul frequencies to help networks with weak fibre connectivity for a quicker upgrade. It is expected that by March 2023, India will have nearly 75,000 5G sites.
The Government is expected to get a gross amount of Rs 1,50,173 crore from the recently concluded 5G spectrum auction, now, a better spectrum availability will improve the quality of service and telcos will ensure robust 5G connectivity for our countrymen. 5G has the potential to transform the country by catalysing a digital revolution.
To make the dream of 5G network come true, telecom operators may have to shell out further Rs 2-3 lakh crore in a span of coming two to three years towards upgrading the network and ensuring the improved quality of services.
Deployment of 5G will also need more manpower which may result in increasing the employment level in the telecom sector by over a 100 million in a couple of years. It will also enable telecom and related sectors to generate more indirect employment.
Considering the importance of the telecom sector and the need to ensure it's smooth functioning, the government has announced initiatives like National Broadband Mission to ensure last mile connectivity in every corner of the country.
The introduction of Gati Shakti - National Master Plan for Multi-modal Connectivity, a national project worth Rs 100 lakh crore for developing 'holistic infrastructure' - was yet another initiative to build a robust telecom ecosystem through the renewed focus on Bharat Net and Production Linked Incentive Scheme.
India's first 5G spectrum auction and the deployment of its services is being considered a milestone at the national level and can be counted as an achievement for 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav'. 5G will be a major force in realising India's vision to become a $ 1 trillion digital economy by 2025. It will also pave the way for the rise of new technologies that can transform the digital ecosystem and put a step forward to achieving the 'Digital India' vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Spectrum is a very important component of telecom connectivity. The quality of services will improve with the increased availability of the spectrum. Spectrum allocation will be completed within the timeframe, and 5G services will be available by September/October.
Furthermore, it shows that the telecom sector is on an upward trajectory.
(Lt Gen Dr S.P. Kochhar is Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India)