By Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Providers, Cisco India and SAARC
In the last couple of years, the internet has emerged as a de facto way for people to stay connected and carry out their professional tasks. It became the digital foundation for everything from online education, virtual healthcare, eCommerce, etc. The accelerated digitization has proven beyond a doubt how far and deep the internet can go in removing even the most formidable obstacles and improving our lives.
Today, India is accelerating rapidly in its digitization journey and is staring at a 5G revolution in the next couple of years. 5G will not just be about access to technology and more throughput, latency, and speed but about a new framework to cater to the evolving needs of consumers, small businesses, enterprises, and government. It can also support complex applications of emerging technologies like IoT, AR/VR, AI, big data analytics, and more. According to McKinsey, implementing faster connections in mobility, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail can increase global GDP by $1.2 – $2 trillion by 2030, and according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, this can have a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion on India by 2035.
Additionally, it provides an opportunity to support sustainability efforts and bring greater connectivity to rural or less connected areas, opening doors to inclusive access to opportunities for all.
5G will pave the way for a more inclusive future
The importance of connectivity for the social and economic development of the country cannot be underestimated, but for those on the wrong side of the digital divide, working, learning, and staying healthy is a constant challenge. Geographic obstacles, lack of existing infrastructure, inadequate electricity, and high cost are a few reasons for this divide. Since 5G is an inherently more spectral efficient technology coupled with innovations like OpenRAN and routed optical networks, it provides an opportunity for service providers to connect a more significant number of people cost-effectively. It allows service providers to rethink how networks are built and drive the network transformation through simplification, cost reduction, and increased efficiency. This will fundamentally change the economics of the internet so that it works for everyone.
From powering secure and seamless hybrid work to empowering small businesses and enabling access to quality healthcare and education, 5G will act as the ultimate flattener of the digital divide and an enabler for society to level the playing field and power an inclusive future for all.
Ushering in a new digital revolution
According to a Cisco report, by 2023, 5G will represent 10% of global mobile connections, with even higher concentrations in key markets. Beyond mobile broadband, 5G will have an impact on segments such as smart cities, robotics, self-driving cars, healthcare, agriculture, and education. It can revolutionize critical sectors like agriculture and manufacturing and turn them into key growth engines of the economy.
A NASSCOM study stated that India suffers 40% post-harvest loss, and Indian farmers have one of the lowest income growth rates globally at 3.4%. In this context, technology can act as an enabler in removing the major hurdles in Indian agriculture. 5G can create use cases across sensors, IoT, analytics, etc., that will revolutionize farming – giving rise to smart farming and precision agriculture.
Similarly, the internet has a starring role in digital manufacturing, connecting people and applications in any location to factory-floor assets like sensors, actuators, cameras, and industrial automation and control systems (IACS). According to Mckinsey, developing globally competitive manufacturing hubs represents one of the biggest opportunities for India to spur economic growth and contribute towards becoming a $1 trillion economy by 2025. Powered by 5G, leveraging technology such as segment routing and providing fit for purpose bandwidth, businesses can deploy technologies such as IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) to improve safety standards at factories, using predictive maintenance to cut unscheduled downtime, lower maintenance costs of machinery, reduce wastage to become more sustainable and gain more agility. Segment routing is a way of transporting data that brings operational efficiencies and lower costs.
Helping build sustainable and smarter cities
Today, we have the opportunity to impact not only what the future of work will be but what the future of our planet will be. Firstly, with 5G, hybrid work will become commonplace, and moving to the cloud is one of the easiest ways for an organization to reduce the environmental impact of its data center and IT operations. On the other hand, security will be a prevalent domain, and network segmentation will be critical. This will give rise to cybersecurity awareness amongst the citizens and develop robust cybersecurity policies.
Secondly, digitally enhancing our cities is critical for empowering India’s citizens and laying a robust knowledge economy foundation. According to a report by Invest India, cities contribute about 63% of the GDP, which is expected to increase to 70% by 2030. 5G networks will support a wide range of use cases– from smart water meters to autonomous EMS vehicles. Additionally, by utilizing 5G connectivity, IoT and data analytics innovations can provide critical information that will further help in crowd management, ensuring smarter governance – using technology and data resolutely to make better decisions and deliver a better quality of life.
Therefore, without a doubt, 5G opens up vast and hitherto unexplored possibilities. From inclusivity to building innovative and efficient businesses, 5G has the potential to transform the lives of people and take India closer to its vision of Digital India. It will propel our country to transform and move into the future as a tech-enabled global power.