5G Is A Force-Multiplier For India's Trillion-Dollar Digital Economy – Rajeev Chandrasekhar
As someone who has been an entrepreneur and participant in, and spectator to, almost three decades of the creation, growth, and expansion of the Indian mobile telecom sector, the imminent coming of 5G fills me with a sense of tremendous anticipation.
5G is the 5th generation of wireless technology for people but it is the first generation for machines. 5G will deeply alter and redesign the current digital and mobile internet landscape by embedding ever more intelligent, autonomous sensors and devices into our internet. For India, 5G represents significant new opportunities for our trillion-dollar digital economy goals.
From Importer To Innovator
It was a proud milestone to recently witness the Director of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras Professor V Kamakoti—followed thereafter by Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw—making video calls on a completely indigenously designed and built 5G core and stack, a fully AtmaNirbhar solution.
This 5G testbed which operates at both non-mmWave 5G and mmWave 5G frequencies, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2022 for startups and industries, to develop and validate 5G applications and systems and ‘Make for India’ and ‘Make in India for the World’.
This development of India’s 5G capabilities and the recent inclusion of India’s 5Gi standards by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project as part of global 5G standards are big milestones for the Indian wireless sector. For the last three decades, through 2G, 3G, and 4G, India has largely been a consumer of technology with almost every piece of the network, software stack, applications, and devices imported.
What 5G Will Change In India
For India, mobile connectivity has driven the penetration and growth of our internet and digital economy with over 80 crore Indians online. One of our biggest priorities is to ensure that the remaining 40 crore Indians are connected and their lives too transformed by increasing the digitisation of government and services driven by Prime Minister Modi’s very successful DigitalIndia program. 5G will play a big role in this acceleration and in further reinforcing the growing reputation of India as a preeminent nation in deploying technology for benefit of its people. With 5G and the world’s largest rural broadband program BharatNet, India will soon be the world’s most-connected large country.
There are many pluses to 5G. Apart from faster speed and higher bandwidth, it is also the first generation of a truly active intelligent internet. 5G is poised to create tectonic changes in the way consumers, enterprises and governments experience and operate on the internet.
The proliferation of sensors and machines is going to create complexity and data intensity of a type never experienced before.
5G will dramatically catalyse the innovation ecosystem around the Fourth Industrial Revolution, internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomous systems. 5G and 6G soon thereafter will certainly transform the Indian internet landscape with deep capabilities designed and built in India. It will alter and catalyse manufacturing, healthcare, and education, along with the ability to empower farmers and agriculture in unprecedented ways. All these sectors will see dramatic changes as a result of 5G.
Prime Minister Modi has referred to the coming years of opportunity as India’s ‘tech-ade’, which will see a new wave of startups in electronic products, semiconductor design, AI/ML, internet, etc., in addition to transforming consumer experience and public services. The Prime Minister’s goal to accelerate digital governance and to ensure all government services are accessible to every Indian will also be realised by the advent of 5G.
Getting Regulation To Keep Up
While innovation will certainly explode, entrepreneurship and intelligent networks will expand, there are regulatory challenges that will also emerge around the government’s public policy goals of an ‘open, safe & trusted and accountable internet’ for all Indians.
The complexity of issues like privacy and safety will certainly increase and need careful yet light-touch regulation. Telecom companies that were only peripherally involved as pipes to the internet could also emerge as regulatory challenges given the 5G technology feature sets, like how the world struggles today dealing with Big Tech. Rulemaking and policies are being put into place in advance, like the National Data Governance Framework for AI and digital government, and a proposed new law to succeed the current two-decade-old The Information Technology Act.
Bold Steps Into The Future
Technology in general and wireless tech like 5G and later 6G will play a pivotal role in India's journey as a digital nation and in our economic journey from $3.3 trillion to $5 trillion and on to $10 trillion. This tech-ade of growth will be based on the energy and hard work of India's entrepreneurs and startups.
India is among the fastest adopters of new emerging technology – for example, it is one of the world’s biggest IPv6 adopters. GSMA Intelligence forecasts 5G connections in India to reach 6% of the total population by 2025 (72 million) and 93% by 2040.
Digital India is throwing up unprecedented opportunities in our economy, creating hundreds of thousands of young entrepreneurs and startups innovating across the digital spectrum. 5G can and will be a force multiplier for India’s Techade and its rise as a trusted technology partner for the world.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar is Minister of State, Electronics and Information Technology, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India; the founder of BPL Mobile; and a technology entrepreneur.
The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BQ Prime or its editorial team.