5G readiness is a capital-intensive exercise, Accenture says

The telecom companies are aiming to evolve to digital technology companies with the roll-out of 5G   | Photo Credit: Accenture

As the world prepares to adopt the long-awaited 5G network, here is how India is getting ready for 5G technology. The Hindu interacted with Saurabh Kumar Sahu, managing director and lead of communications, media and technology, Accenture in India. During the interaction Sahu spoke about India’s readiness and challenges to adopt 5G, some of the biggest trends in 5G and the evolution of telecom with the new technology.

Edited excerpts of the interview below:

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How are Indian enterprises faring in terms of 5G readiness?

Sahu: 5G is well positioned to transform consumer experiences, business, the economy, and society in the next decade, owing to its faster connectivity speeds, ultra-low latency and greater bandwidth. But it is important to understand that 5G readiness is a capital-intensive exercise. Telecom companies in India were quick to initiate discussions with partners, set up labs and innovation centres and prove the functionality of the use cases. They have been working on creating the ecosystem and in fact, some of them have already deployed edge computing for businesses.

When it comes to enterprise readiness, large businesses recognise the opportunity 5G offers. They are exploring and trying to firm up use-cases that will benefit from it. For instance, automation has proven to be important for the manufacturing industry in recent years. This has led many enterprises to now accelerate their offerings and bring 5G enabled edge computing devices to the forefront.

Hence, the movement and interest towards 5G readiness is strong, and that reflects in the upward curve as enterprises prepare for its commercial rollout as well. From use case-based rollouts of 5G services (Internet of Things, private networks, interactive sports arenas) to optimising the customer experience and targeted marketing, telecom companies and enterprises need to consolidate their decision making and incorporate performance, planning and deployment most optimally.

Is India going to be a late adopter of 5G? What are the challenges we are facing to adopt 5G?

Sahu: Globally, there are countries that have already witnessed greenfield 5G deployments and there are regions where the commercial deployment of 5G is happening faster enabled by spectrum availability. India has been making steady progress in that direction. The key challenges being faced by telecom companies include a viable business and pricing model. Depending on the target segment, the pricing approach taken for small and medium businesses compared to premium enterprises will have to vary.

For example, consider a situation where an enterprise is spending a large amount of money on worker safety to cover their insurance, and different semi-automated or manual ways of explaining their safety around machinery, equipment. If a use case based on video analytics is enabled in this situation, it can prevent worker incidents and ultimately bring down the overall cost. Therefore, the question of adoption is more about understanding the business use-case and value that can be brought to the enterprise. Focusing on the business value and return on investment will help in faster adoption.

What are some of the broad trends in 5G and network modernisation that you are witnessing?

Sahu: Cloudification of the network is the single biggest trend that is shaping the 5G and network modernisation agenda for telecom companies. It encompasses components such as Open RAN, cloud, and virtualisation of the network. To manage a cloud-native network and its services, the enabling technology trends include automation as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to make the network more self-reliant and responsive. The telecom companies are aiming to evolve to digital technology companies with the roll-out of 5G and network modernisation.

5G offers telcos a clear opportunity to pivot from ‘dumb pipe’ operators to facilitators of 5G ecosystems, like the Internet of Things (IoT). It can help to build secure, high-speed infrastructure and put them in pole position to consult on creating and integrating IoT networks.

Artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing and advanced data analytics are similarly important as they will enable outstanding user experience, we envisage which when enabled by 5G connectivity, will reach the height of their potential in the Future Home.

5G is capable of enabling edge computing and cloud to help prevent wildfires and boost innovation in a wide range of industries around preventative measures, near real-time response and consistent improvements through advanced analytics. This is where the wildfire risk can be better controlled. If sensors are installed and monitored, fire threats could be mitigated before an event occurs, and utilities can take proactive measures before the situation gets out of hand.

How do you foresee digital technologies shaping the future of the telecom sector in India?

Sahu: The evolution from the traditional network to 5G and cloud-native networks is accelerating the transformation of not just technology and ecosystems, but also innovation, competition, and entire markets. At an application layer, both the infrastructure and platform can now be offered as a consumable service. For example, the opportunity to provide infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. Another opportunity that 5G edge computing can bring to the market is application programming interface (API) management, which is the democratisation of applications regardless of the platform. These technology trends will redefine the future of the telecom sector in India.

Why do you think we need 5G? Isn't 4G enough?

Sahu: 5G presents a huge enterprise business opportunity. The addressable industry digitalisation market for service providers could grow to about USD 700 billion by 2030 according to an Ericsson report. The ability to offer network slicing could be the largest benefit. The time to develop the right 5G innovation strategy and process is now – enterprises should focus on creating custom use cases and creative business models to reap the full benefits of 5G investments in the future.

How will 5G impact the prices of smartphones and other devices like tabs?

Sahu: It is too early to comment on how 5G will impact the prices of smartphones and other devices, but we know telecom companies can’t just keep increasing the price of handsets and monthly tariffs, so they need to look at driving down costs in their businesses elsewhere and create new revenue streams to realise the potential benefits from 5G.

How will it impact the prices of mobile tariff plans?

Sahu: Different countries have different pricing models, as long as it meets the minimum regulatory mark. With India being among the regions with the lowest Average revenue per user(ARPU), affordability can be expected. However, it is still early days to predict the actual impact.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 5:31:15 PM |

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