The 5G Boom: The Power Of Network To Decide Net Worth

As per a report, the 5G spectrum is projected to account for nearly 40 per cent of mobile subscriptions in India by the end of 2027 enabling Indian mobile service providers to generate $17 billion in incremental revenue from enterprises by 2030

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All eyes are set on the 5G spectrum auction later this month. As a growing economy, India has a dynamic mobile services market complemented by the ever-increasing demand for reliable network connectivity.

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The 5G spectrum is projected to account for nearly 40 per cent of mobile subscriptions in India – 500 million – by the end of 2027. In the region (India, Nepal and Bhutan), the share of 4G has grown from 9 per cent of mobile subscriptions in 2016 to 68 per cent in 2021. "This has had a significant positive impact on India's consumers, economy and society. With a low penetration of fixed broadband, consumers have mostly relied on mobile broadband for remote working, education, healthcare services, shopping and other services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mobile traffic has grown by around 15 times in the past five years and is expected to more than double in the next three years," said an Ericsson Mobility Report, released in June 2022.

In the current scenario, the 5G discourse in India is becoming a heated debate. In June, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal by the Department of Telecommunications to conduct a spectrum auction for 5G services. The Cabinet also decided to enable development and setting up of private captive networks. However, the telecom operators are contesting the move.

One of the latest entries in the field is the Adani Group. While the company has denied plans to enter the consumer mobility space, the announcement of its participation in the auction is enough to raise speculations.

Challenges abound

Indian service providers have been raising the price of data (the average price of 1GB of mobile data reached $0.68 in 2021) and mobile services revenue has been growing. Despite this, service provider ARPU remains low. Moreover, India has some of the highest prices for spectrum in the world. "This constraints service providers' ability to invest in infrastructure. With the projected traffic increase, service providers would benefit significantly from the efficiency gains provided by 5G," the report added.

According to the government and department of telecom's findings, the large-scale network infrastructure necessary for the 5G India launch is still not sufficient. "There is a need for fiber infrastructure deployment in India. Four to five times more fiber will be required to deploy a high quality 5G network. We would need to showcase at least 200 to 300 mbps download and 50 to 60 mbps upload," Ankit Agarwal, managing director at STL told Entrepreneur India in an interview earlier.

Tower and small cells are required both for indoor and outdoor coverage. "More than 80 per cent of the data will be consumed indoors. Moving from outdoors to indoors, we will need these small cells to support seamless 5G connectivity," he added.

What's next?

Even as the government continues to work on the process of auctioning 5G spectrum, India's leading service providers are testing 5G at multiple locations. Recently, Bharti Airtel announced the successful trial of India's first 5G Private Network at Bosch Automotive Electronics India Pvt Ltd (RBAI) facility in Bengaluru. Airtel's on-premise 5G captive private network was built over the trial 5G spectrum allocated by the Department of Telecommunications.

According to another report, titled Ericsson-Arthur D Little study, 5G will enable Indian mobile service providers to generate $17 billion in incremental revenue from enterprises by 2030. Much of this is projected to be driven by the adoption of 5G in the manufacturing, energy and utilities, ICT and retail industries.

"Indian enterprises consider 5G to be the most important technology for their digital strategies as it can play an important role in achieving India's digital inclusion goals, especially in bringing broadband to rural and remote homes. Trials have proven the potential offered by 5G to bridge the digital divide by enabling access to high-speed broadband through fixed wireless access (FWA)," the Ericsson Mobility Report added.