India’s preparedness for the roll-out of 5G technology dominated the theme of India Mobile Congress on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi setting the ball rolling by saying that timely roll-out should be ensured “to leapfrog into the future and empower millions of Indians”.
On their part, the top two telecom stalwarts, Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal, put forward the architecture of the technology and how their respective companies — Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel — are prepared to take it to the masses.
Ambani hinted that his company would roll out the 5G services in the second half of 2021 but added that policy steps are needed to ensure that the services are affordable and available everywhere.
Speaking on the occasion, Mittal said 5G would start to become the norm in the mobile broadband space in the next two-three years and the country was poised to derive full benefit of global investments on 5G standards and ecosystems as equipment prices come down and devices become available.
For the record, while talks around 5G technologies have started both in the government and among industry players, there’s no plan to hold auctions for the spectrum required for these services, at least in the first half of 2021. Also the ecosystem for this technology is still at a nascent stage and lot more needs to be put in place before it takes off.
It seems keeping such aspects in mind, Ambani called for developing hardware manufacturing in the country, stating the nation cannot rely on imports in such a critical area. “I assure you that Jio will pioneer the 5G Revolution in India in the second half of 2021,” he said adding that Jio’s 5G will be powered by the indigenously developed network, hardware and technology components.
Ambani also called for policy steps to ensure that a large number of users of 2G phone are also able to upgrade to smartphones to make the most of technology.
“As many as 300 million mobile subscribers in India are still trapped in the 2G era. Urgent policy steps are needed to ensure that these underprivileged people have an affordable smartphone so that they too can benefit from direct benefit transfer into their bank accounts, and actively participate in the digital economy,” he said.
On his part, Mittal termed space as the “next frontier of communications”, and said India’s proactive lead in the space industry and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and department of space’s call to private sector, would ensure that advantages move in the country’s favour in space communication industry, as well.
Mittal said the onset of pandemic has accelerated digital adoption of various products and services. The force multiplier of pandemic has pushed digitalisation of the country, he added. According to him, the next-generation 5G would start to become the norm in the mobile broadband space in next two-three years.
“As world settles down on 5G space, pricing of the equipment comes down and importantly the devices start getting available in plentiful, I think India in two-three years’ time will be ready to receive the benefit of the investments that the globe would have made on 5G standard and 5G ecosystems,” Mittal said.
In his address, communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked manufacturers to tap and explore the enabling atmosphere available in India. He said the production linked incentive scheme in mobile manufacturing has not just attracted global investment but also led to creation of millions of jobs directly or indirectly. He urged manufacturers to come to India to manufacture and export.