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5G Will Be Critical for Indian Economy: Ericsson India

Ericsson India is ready to roll out 5G in the country. Investment in 5G is critical to unlock the next level of growth for the country, Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania & India tells ASHISH SINHA of BW Businessworld. Excerpts:

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How prepared is India for 5G connectivity? 
We believe India is ready for 5G and affordable 5G needs to be made available to the operators. Given the ‘long-term benefits’ that 5G technology will bring to India needs to be viewed as a critical infrastructure and the foundation on which can realize the Digital India vision.  

From a technology readiness perspective, Ericsson is ready to roll out 5G in India having deployed it across 79+ live networks across the globe. The Ericsson Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015 enabling operators to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation. As India embarks on its journey to deploy 5G, we are committed to working with our customers, partners, and the academic community to design and curate India-specific use-cases and to create the right ecosystem for 5G in India. 

From the consumer perspective, there is a high interest for 5G in India and more importantly, they are willing to pay for the new capabilities that 5G brings. India remains the market with the highest usage per smartphone per month across the globe at 15.7GB/month (Year 2020). This number is expected to grow to 37GB/Month by 2026. In the initial phase, 5G will help in managing the data traffic. Enhanced mobile broadband will be a way for service providers to manage the cost and the quality for end-users. This will help meet the customer expectations of better performance such as faster speed, better reliability and lower latency from 5G, according to the Ericsson Consumer Lab study. Over time, new innovative 5G use cases will emerge in the areas of 5G for business and IoT use cases. 

Why do operators need to introduce 5G? 
As per the recent Ericsson Mobility Report, traffic growth in the country continues an upward trajectory and India remains the region with the highest monthly usage per smartphone. In India, the rapid adoption of 4G combined with people working from home and their reliance on mobile networks to stay connected has contributed to the average traffic per smartphone user increasing from 13.5GB per month in 2019 to 15.7GB per month in 2020. Thus, with the ever-growing data demand and thrust on digitalization, it is important for operators to manage the data loads and at the same time ensure the quality of service. 5G technology can help operators optimize the cost per GB by a factor of 10. Apart from this, 5G will also enable operators to tap new revenue streams over time - Ericsson's report on ‘5G for business’ estimates the industrial digitalization market for service providers globally could grow to USD 700 billion by 2030 and in India, this number is estimated to be USD17 Billion. Hence, there is a strong business case for service providers to continue investing in cost-effective solutions to efficiently manage the data traffic for providing a seamless network experience for end consumers as well as the new use cases that will come up leveraging the 5G platform. 

How did COVID-19 affect this preparedness? 
There was considerable growth in data traffic globally and in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. An Ericsson Consumer Study revealed that the average time spent on mobile broadband increased by one hour globally on average but in India, it went up by 2.2 hours per day. As opposed to the global trends where consumers are relying on fixed-line networks, the Indian consumers are relying more on mobile broadband. We believe COVID has really emphasized the need for connectivity and 5G underpins the need for accelerated and seamless experiences for both consumers and enterprises. 

What are some 5G use-cases we will see for the Indian consumer? 
In India, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are expected to be the early use-cases of 5G. These will help address the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in India and enhance the data experience while on the move. The Consumer Lab study on ‘expectations from 5G’ states the Indian consumers expect 4K streaming and AR app usage to increase with the availability of 5G and are willing to pay a premium for 5G services. Over time, we expect more enterprise-related use cases to come up leveraging the benefits of 5G in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, education etc. 

Do you think investments in 5G are critical for the Indian economy?
5G technology is going to be critical for the Indian economy as it has been instrumental for ensuring growth in the countries that have taken first-mover advantage by deploying the technology. Across the world, 5G, is already transforming industries by kickstarting the 4th Industrial Revolution and by enriching network experience. 5G is a platform for innovation. It enables new services for consumers, enterprises, and industry, including large-scale IoT use cases. Healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, and the energy/utilities sectors are some of the sectors that can leverage 5G and derive benefits from its high speeds, low latency and reliability features. Ericsson’s 5G for Business: a 2030 market compass anticipates that by 2030 up to USD 700 billion of 5G-enabled, the business-to-business value could be addressed by service providers globally. In India, the projected value of the 5G-enabled digitalization revenues will be approximately USD 17 billion by 2030. Thus, investment in 5G is critical to unlock the next level of growth for the country. 

How is Ericsson supporting Indian operators in 5G deployments? 
Ericsson’s Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015 enabling operators to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation. Along with our partners we have been working on 5G for several years in the labs and in advanced outdoor field trials. In India, we have been working with our operator partners as well as the academia community to test and develop various 5G use cases which are relevant for India. To that effect, Ericsson and Qualcomm successfully collaborated at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019 to showcase India’s first-ever live 5G video call using a 28 GHz spectrum. Ericsson took the lead at the India Mobile Congress 2019 to demonstrate the reliability, speed and low latency of 5G through the Connected Music use case during the inauguration of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019. 


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