Moving onto a business perspective, various industrial applications are likely to open up with 5G.
The fifth generation of mobile communication i.e. 5G is not going to be a mere traditional upgradation of Internet speeds from the already available 4G mobile communication technology. But it is expected to be the key to unlocking the future wave of disruptive innovation in a digital economy. Known to propel the Internet of Things (IoT), and be a catalyst for a world of interconnected devices, 5G is set to upscale the impact of digital technology driven products and services on a variety of stakeholders, in multifaceted ways. Some of them, we do not even know today, but will happen tomorrow due to ingenuity and need. Therefore, we need to welcome it in India as well.
Looking at the history of the telecom sector, every transition from 1G till 4G mobile communication brought with it various benefits. This evolution not only marked a growth in mobile technology, but also demonstrated how the technology underwent a shift in terms of its utility functions. It was around two decades ago that mobile Internet was introduced through 2G. Despite the breakthrough, it served limited purposes due to its various capacity constraints. It was 3G which gave a thrust to the development of mobile apps, such as for urban mobility, instant digital communication, e-commerce, mobile banking, etc. This was especially beneficial for developing countries such as India, which had missed the bus for adopting fixed line broadband services. 4G bolstered these use cases, with its advanced capabilities in terms of better speed and reduced latency, thereby opening the doors to high definition (HD) video streaming and communication, along with many other data driven use cases.
It’s safe to say that starting from a point where voice calls were so expensive that one would be conscious of the duration of the call, to reaching a point where video calls are virtually free with mobile data being cheaper than ever before. The lives of modern consumers have been made much easier today, with constant upgrades in mobile communication technology. So what more will 5G do for consumers, and how will it disrupt business as usual, is what needs to be understood.
5G is being seen as more than just a mobile communication service for consumers, but instead as an advanced technology acting as the backbone for integrating several other technologies for simplifying mechanical functions, as well as large scale industrial applications. Not only will its enhanced speed enable Ultra HD video streaming and lightning fast downloads, its capability of Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is set to transform businesses as we know it. The three specifications of 5G, i.e. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications (uRLLC) and Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC), will enable a host of nuanced use cases, which are set to impact a variety of stakeholders.
Seen from the lens of consumers, 5G is set to bring real-time augmented reality and virtual reality services, enable massive content streaming and real time HD gaming, introduce smart retail and also bring autonomous vehicles to life. Many social and public utility services such as health monitoring systems/tele-health services, Public Protection and Disaster Response (PPDR) services, smart grids and metering, mission critical security and safety services, etc. are also some of the known use cases which would be reliant upon the successful deployment of 5G.
Moving onto a business perspective, various industrial applications are likely to open up with 5G. These include smart logistics and smart factories, robotic applications and industrial automation, etc, which are believed to lead to operational efficiency, cost and time saving for businesses, improve manufacturing productivity, etc.
Apart from these already known use cases, 5G will also present various opportunities for start-ups for devising new business models and services in various sectors such as entertainment, transportation, healthcare, education, etc. Advanced services such as remote surgery, smart interconnected cities, value added services permeating through big data analytics, content creation, etc are areas in which start-ups may act as intermediaries or even lead innovation.
Notably, one needs to remember that 5G is not the mere end, but the means to an end. It may not be considered as a standalone technology, but as the bedrock of future innovative technologies, which paves the way for new services, solutions and applications.
Recognising this potential, leading US-based chip designer, Qualcomm, whose chips are most popular in mobile phones, will be investing $200 million in looking at the range of utility of 5G technology beyond mobile phones. This will help us in India too.
Summing up, if no 3G would have meant no mobile apps, no 4G would have meant no HD video calling, then no 5G would mean no M2M communication and no IoT. However, there are various policy and infrastructural roadblocks in releasing what a 5G future holds for us. Overcoming them would be crucial for the successful commercial deployment of this G!
The writers work for CUTS International, a leading global public policy research and advocacy group