5G in India has been the most talked-about topic in the recent past. While we’ve had 5G capable devices like smartphones selling in the country since as early as last year, however, after various delays and flexing of muscles by the cabinet committee, official 5G testing commenced only recently.
Given the current hype and anticipation around the next-gen connectivity, TechRadar India got in touch with Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) to understand the current status of 5G, commercial availability and a bit more about the cellular industry from a consumer’s perspective.
Director General, COAI
For those unaware, the Cellular Operators Association of India or COAI is a non-governmental body focusing on the Indian telecommunications industry and is considered the official voice for the Indian telecom industry. With Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio as its core members, COAI provides a platform for effective communication between various stakeholders including - Ministries, Policy Makers, Regulators, Financial Institutions, Technical Bodies and service providers.
Reiterating the fact that 5G is not just about faster mobile connectivity but way beyond, Dr Kochhar emphasized that it is a breakthrough technology that will enable the connected devices ecosystem and can play a leading role in the digital revolution. Apart from communications, 5G will be a game-changer in health-tech, agriculture, AR, VR, robotics, disaster management and more.
Though this was supposed to be a video interview, however, owing to time constraints we had to go the email-interview route and while we try to connect with him for our regular #TechTalks series of video interviews (opens in new tab), here are his responses to the questions we asked.
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TR: What is the current status of 5g Trials in India?
Dr Kochhar: DoT has allowed for trials to be conducted in both rural and urban. So far, the trials have shown momentous results with speed reaching up to 1Gbps. DoT has allowed 6 months for trials within which 2 months are for procurement and setting up of the equipment. After trials, we can expect the auction to begin next and soon we may soon see 5G technology available for all.
TR: When can we expect a commercial rollout of 5G in India?
Dr Kochhar: Once trials end, we can expect the spectrum auction to begin by the end of this year/ early next year. The subsequent rollout of the technology/ commercialization for the public will begin thereafter.
TR: 5G will connect devices and will boost the IoT ecosystem. This also means that there could be issues related to privacy and security. Do end-users need to be worried about security issues?
Dr Kochhar: A cornerstone of digital transformation highlighted in the survey across industry sectors, is data privacy and cybersecurity. Cybersecurity, therefore, becomes one of the key considerations and takes priority as transformative technologies become meaningless if we are unable to protect the businesses, consumer data and other vital assets. There is a sentiment in the industry that rules, and regulations introduced due to cybersecurity can slow down the progress introduced by digital transformation and also believe that it is not a simple process, but we need to change that mindset as it needs to be embedded in all sector networks.
Government must establish a new cyber regulatory archetype to reflect the new realities of the time. An adversarial relationship between the regulators and the regulated must now be reversed to give way to effective cyber relationships. Also, companies that embrace their cyber responsibilities should not be penalized by those that fail to step up. Consumer transparency should be promoted. Assessment and certification of connected devices for security should be done.
TR: In a vast market like India, maintaining the quality of service is difficult. Which probably results in call drops, network congestion and extremely low mobile data speeds. Telecom companies rarely pay heed to these issues. What can a user do in such cases?
Dr Kochhar: While there may be some voice or data quality issues in certain areas of geography, that doesn’t mean there has been an overall nationwide degradation of service quality across all operators. The QoS parameters, tracked by TRAI every quarter, are an objective indicator of overall Network Quality. We believe that all the service providers are meeting the QoS parameters set by TRAI. Otherwise, this would have been picked up by the TRAI as part of their oversight of the QoS of networks.
TR: From an era where we had to pay for incoming calls to the current one where call and extremely fast internet connectivity is available for telecom users. Where do we go from here? What is the next big thing in the Telecom industry?
Dr Kochhar: The Telecom industry is at the cusp of an imminent digital revolution. In the coming few years, the 5G dream will become a reality. For the telecom industry, 5G will be a gamechanger. It will disrupt the industry and enable a digital revolution in our country with the integration of 5G with emerging technologies like IoT, AR, VR, robotics, big data analytics, etc.
The Telecom sector will become the spine, the enabler, the catalyst triggering lucrative exponential growth in other sectors. 5G will be paramount in pushing the adoption rates of new technologies such as IoT, AI, AR/VR. As per available industry statistics, IoT in India will proliferate to touch 2 billion connections and yield revenues worth $11.1 billion over the next two years
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