5G in India-The Road Ahead

  • Ranjana Kushwaha
  • Policy Research Associate
  • ranjana@igpp.in
  • Oct 4, 2022

5G in India- The Road Ahead

On 1st October 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the 5G network in India at the Indian Mobile Congress. This 5th generation of cellular technology will be the foundational infrastructure for developing further and making better the functions of other technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud gaming, Metaverse, etc.
5 G technology is based on the wireless connection, which uses radio waves to transmit data packets. It has a frequency range of 30-300 GHz, divided into three parts: -low, medium, and high. Some of the advantages that it offers above the 4G technology that we already have in India are:
Ultra-low latency rate- which takes reduces the time to transfer data packets. For comparison, in 4G, it took around 10-100 milliseconds, but in 5G it will take less than 1 millisecond. This changes the paradigm of data transfer, speeding up all other related technologies like IoT, AI, etc.
Increase capacity and bandwidth- It offers increased bandwidth and capacity to hold data.
Energy Efficient- A report by Ericsson in 2021 highlighted the role of 5G in reducing carbon emissions by around 15 percent by increasing the efficiency of the devices.
The application of 5G technology hence, comes as a blessing for almost every sector- health, education, agriculture (precision farming), and has immense potential to be the driver of India’s socio-economic and technological development, leading to an increase in GDP and employment.

However, this transition is not easy and is a complex task. The 5G technology requires India to build its foundation by increasing optical fiber penetration. The lack of adequate optical fiber infrastructure impedes progress as optical fiber penetration in India is very low, i.e., approximately 30 -35%, while in Thailand it is 90% and 50% in Malaysia. Hence, fiberization and robust telecom infrastructure are imperative for India’s development. This vision has been incorporated into recent policy changes like Gati Shakti. High investment is required for developing digital infrastructure, it was estimated to be around 1.8 lakh crore – 2.2 lakh crore in the coming next 3-5 years to cater to the demands of the 5G technology rollout. The investment in indigenous R&D is equally important to make our telecom infrastructure safe from cyber-attacks.
National Digital Communication Policy, 2018, speaks out for equitable distribution, affordability, and accessibility to this technology. It formed an essential part of the recently released Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 as it talks about the Telecommunication Development Fund (TDF). Apart from infrastructure, to enable a conducive ecosystem for digital India to thrive, India needs to come up Data Protection Bill or the Digital Indian which makes it not just bill proactive in relation to technology and not just reactive. This new digital era needs a comprehensive policy and strategy in order to be pre-prepared to deal with any technology that might emerge in the future.
India should be in action mode to implement these changes as soon as possible and be digitally future-ready.
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