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Towards 5G: Set to change the telecom landscape

September 27, 2016
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By Sanjay Kaul, Managing Director, Service Provider Business, Cisco India and SAARC

Imagine the Netflix video that streams seamlessly on your mobile phone, notwithstanding a weak cellular connection. This is the brave new world of 5G, a new frontier of connectivity that will be a reality by 2020.

For a country like India, with its large young population, connectivity is the key. We are already seeing a significant shift in behaviour patterns. Farmers want to sell their produce directly to buyers, teenagers want to purchase the latest fashion items through online apps and people living in Tier II cities are voting more intelligently.

First- and second- generation networks were mostly about voice and texts. The advent of 3G transformed the landscape with voice, messaging and data, and 4G made it even better with superfast connectivity. The impact of 4G-superfast internet is evident with governments, businesses and services leveraging the internet for greater access, communication and tapping new revenue streams. The advent of 5G will bring together people, devices, data, applications, regions and systems in a smart and networked environment.

5G means super speeds

A 5G network means ultra-high speed internet connectivity with low latency, better flexibility and higher performance. A completely networked society becomes a reality when new business models, revenue streams and lifestyles can be enabled through internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, virtualisation and augmented reality. This will be a transformative network that can deploy connectivity-as-a-service, leading to each device using bandwidth as per its requirement. A totally secure transaction across IoT devices that have 10 times the battery life will translate into better energy efficiency and access to unlimited computing power.

The future with 5G

Globally, there is tremendous interest and expectation regarding what this technology can achieve. For instance, the US is investing more than $400 million in an Advanced Wireless Research Initiative for the development of 5G, building on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to open up four new high spectrum bands for 5G. China Mobile plans to conduct 5G trial operations by 2018, with full commercial offerings by 2020. Telstra intends to give the world the first taste of path-breaking 5G at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018. Leading network players, like Cisco, are investing in hardware and infrastructure, and collaborating with one another to bring high speed internet to homes and businesses. Governments and private players are making key investments in creating a smart networked environment that pushes the boundaries of communication technology.

India and 5G aspirations

India, with its phenomenal growth in mobile connectivity over the last decade, is expected to be a vital market for 5G technology. With a billion mobile subscribers in India, mobile technology has transformed communication, and the socio-economic and market dynamics, apart from bringing about changes in day-to-day life.

The role and impact of mobile technology has received a boost as a result of the government’s move to make the country into a digital economy with projects such as Digital India, Make in India, the BharatNet, the Smart Cities Mission and Jan Dhan Yojana. Engaging in public-private partnership models is the best way forward. These projects can gain immensely with the help of a robust platform on mobility innovations backed by 5G technologies.

India will see radical changes with new disaster alert technologies, agricultural connections, better first responder connectivity, wireless cloud-based offices and augmented reality that can create highly mobile and proactive systems.

The road ahead

The 4G roll-out has already made inroads into the Indian landscape and the country is expected to have 230 million 4G connections by 2020. Going forward, significant commitment and investment are required to build futuristic 5G networks, along with solutions for high costs, spectrum availability, legislative challenges and a foolproof architectural backbone. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology has earmarked Rs 365.1 million for funding 5G research and technologies. Leading players, like Cisco, are getting 5G ready by devising analytics-based dynamic and agile networks that leverage cloud and virtualisation, which are capable of delivering futuristic IoT devices and solutions. With partners like Ericsson, Intel and Verizon, the company is creating a next-gen 5G router that will provide the foundation for future connectivity. Cisco is actively involved in defining the standards, requirements and leading engagements involved in 4G LTE networks evolving to 5G by 2020.

A bold new frontier awaits humanity. 5G preparedness is a priority if one is to create a smart, connected environment that will further augment a knowledge-based society. A mobile-connected society that provides scalable, agile and sustainable solutions is essential for tomorrow’s India.

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