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Why 5G Will Become More About Enterprise Use Cases Than Consumer

Enterprise use cases will become a major driver of operators’ return on investment compared to consumer use cases

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A cursory glance at social media users to gauge their excitement about the launch of 5G services in India reveal two things. First, the majority of them have serious concerns regarding internet speeds which have been promised with 5G. 

Almost all social media news posts about the launch of 5G in India on 1 October were flooded with comments where users complained of not getting peak 4G services and did not expect to get the promised speeds with 5G.

Second, a few who are optimistic about the rollout are excited about blazing fast speeds, ensuring seamless buffer-free streaming of high-quality video content and gaming. A customer survey this year by Ookla, which monitors 5G speeds worldwide, showed that about 70 per cent of consumers listed video streaming followed by gaming (68 per cent) as consumer use cases that matter the most.

While the consumers are correct in their place but in the future, as we achieve pan-India coverage, 5G will become more about enterprise use cases than consumer use cases. This has been the biggest takeaway from the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2022, where all the companies in this space displayed enterprise use cases possible with 5G connectivity.

A study by ABI Research, a global technology market advisory firm showed that 5G enterprise market is key for operator return on investment (ROI) and consumer uses will not provide enough revenue to independently reach ROI within 10 years of 5G entering the consumer market.

“Without the enterprise market, 5G would reach ROI by 2034 or 2035. With the enterprise market, 5G is expected to reach ROI by 2030, just five years after 5G's entry into the enterprise market in 2025,” said ABI Research.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech, while launching the 5G services in the country, urged the industry to take the use cases to the masses and asked citizens not to keep it limited to watching videos or calling.

“5G is coming in a form to change our lives. For this reason, I would urge industry leaders and associations to highlight the various aspects of 5G in schools, colleges, universities, and every district of India and then the people will add value to those aspects,” he said.

“This technology should not be just limited to calling or video streaming,” he added.

Apart from the usual enterprise use cases displayed at companies’ respective pavilions at the IMC, India’s top telcos, Jio, Airtel, and Vi, demonstrated use cases in the field of education and infrastructure development at the time of public launch, where even Prime Minister Modi interacted in real-time with the participants of those use cases.

Industry use cases will be most prominent in Healthcare, Education, Retail, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Retail. Another development that will be keenly watched here will be the development of standalone 5G.

Critical use cases of 5G, like robotics, fixed wireless access, remote operations, and connected vehicles, require stability and reliability where the non-standalone infrastructure may fall short. Airtel and Vi, for example, will use non-standalone infrastructure for their 5G rollout. Jio is the only player in the Indian market developing a standalone infrastructure.

Not just in India but even in the United States and other developed economies, telecom operators are holding upgradation to standalone 5G because they do not see significant monetisation opportunities from enterprise use cases at the moment.

Last week, Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, while speaking at a JP Morgan Investor Summit, admitted that monetisation of consumer and enterprises use cases will take time to evolve. With Jio planning a faster rollout than competitors and developing standalone 5G infrastructure, it will remain to be seen if Mukesh Ambani will force other players to “run and catch up” once again.