From a car that keeps tabs on your driver’s activity to an aerial disaster management vehicle that can conduct search and rescue operations, telecom operators are set to offer a flavour of 5G-enabled applications at the second edition of the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi.

Telecom industry leaders Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Kumar Mangalam Birla of Vodafone Idea and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Ltd will attend the inaugural session of the three-day flagship event on Thursday, where cabinet ministers Manoj Sinha, Nitin Gadkari and Ravi Shankar Prasad will also be present.

“(We) will be showcasing India’s readiness for 5G...we will be positioning India as a global telecom hub for investments and manufacturing as well as for services in the future. The domestic industry has seen a major phase of consolidation, which is almost complete. So we expect that there will be robust growth in the times to come," telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on Wednesday.

The event will showcase a high-end connected car which has screens for passengers to view content and also offers an option to monitor your driver through your mobile. A user can get notifications on fuel usage, over-speeding and prevent accidents through smart emergency brakes. A user can also get notifications on fuel usage, over-speeding and prevent accidents through smart emergency brakes.

The event will also showcase SKYSHIP, a 5G emergency rescue platform developed by Korea Telecom.The platform operates a balloon-shaped aircraft with a mobile communication centre on board, which can remotely control drones and robots to carry out search and rescue operations in case of disasters.

“In case of a disaster, you can float the SKYSHIP. It has an air interface to provide mobility coverage and surveillance. There is also a camera attached to it through which it can find missing people," a person aware of the matter said.

Through India Mobile Congress, the government aims to promote India as a vibrant telecom market. “India is the fastest growing telecom market in the world...we will not only be showcasing our telecom sector’s capabilities in terms of services but also in terms of manufacturing where big strides have been taken," Sundararajan said.

The event is being held against the backdrop of a brutal tariff war following the entry of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd in September 2016, which forced several telcos to shut shop or merge with rivals to survive. Revenues of all operators except Reliance Jio have shrunk over the past several quarters.

While Bharti Airtel acquired Telenor India and Tikona Digital Networks, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have merged to become the largest telecom operator in India. Aircel is in the midst of insolvency proceedings while Reliance Communications awaits final approval to sell assets to Reliance Jio.

According to data from the telecom regulatory authority of India (Trai), the sector’s adjusted gross revenue was 36,552 crore in April-June, a decline of 8.1% over the same quarter last year. India’s telecom sector also faces a shrinking mobile user base as the number of wireless connections has shrunk from nearly 1,187 million in April-June last year to around 1,146 million in the same quarter this year.

There seems to be no respite from the hyper-competitive environment either at least in the short-term. “Consolidation points to three to four player market (in India) with a more rational pricing environment emerging in the longer term, but no near-term catalyst for a rise in average revenue per user," Moody’s Investors Service said in a research note.

While Australia, Japan and South Korea will be pioneers of 5G, and China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines are expected to be early adopters, countries like India will be late adopters of 5G as telcos in these markets are still focused on densifying 4G coverage and while they have announced their intentions for 5G, details and timelines are unclear, the Moody’s note said.

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