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NEW DELHI : Ericsson is betting big on the 5G roll-out, pegging 5G-enabled digitization revenues at nearly $17 billion for India. But spectrum should be made available at affordable prices for 5G to take off, said Nitin Bansal, head, Ericsson India, in an interview. At least 40 million Indian smartphone consumers are willing to pay a premium to subscribe to 5G plans with bundled digital services in the first year of the launch, he added. Edited excerpts:

With the 5G roll-out expected in the second half of 2022, what kind of network expansion is required to offer a seamless experience?

5G will require a lot of spectrum. So, it is critical that more spectrum is made available at reasonable prices, which will ensure additional capital for subsequent investments in network deployment. We hope every operator gets at least 80-100 MHz of spectrum in 3.5 GHz, 400 MHz in millimetre-wave, and sufficient backhaul spectrum in E Band. In terms of deployment, telecom operators can start by providing contiguous 5G coverage in major cities and then expand the footprint. According to Ericsson’s consumer lab report, one in five 5G users, globally, are already reducing their dependency on Wi-Fi as they get better connectivity indoors. Thus, Indian telcos must make fresh investments to extend ubiquitous 5G network connectivity besides continuous investment in network automation through AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine translation) for enhanced network performance.

What kind of response do you expect for 5G services in India?

India is well poised to launch 5G services once the spectrum is made available this year to cater to the growing data demand and spur digitization. Our consumer lab study said at least 40 million smartphone users could take up 5G in the first year of the launch and consumers are willing to pay a premium for 5G plans bundled with digital services. The November 2021 edition of Ericsson Mobility Report said 5G will represent around 39% of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2027, or about 500 million subscriptions.

How is Ericsson supporting the Make in India initiative?

We have participated in the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the telecom sector through our partner Jabil (Circuit India Pvt. Ltd). As the first telecom vendor to start manufacturing in India in 1994, additional investments made under the PLI scheme will help scale our Pune facilities where we are currently manufacturing 4G and 5G telecom equipment. 5G radios produced at the facility are being exported at present and will enable us to cater to the domestic market as well when 5G is introduced in India.

What will be the business potential for telcos offering 5G services?

The projected value of 5G-enabled digitization revenue in India is approximately $17 billion. It is estimated that the global addressable industry digitization market for service providers could grow up to $700 billion by the end of 2030.

How is Ericsson supporting Indian telecom operators in this digital transformation journey?

In India, we have been working with our operator partners as well as the academic community to test and develop various 5G use cases which are relevant. The various 5G field trials conducted successfully have set the stage for the roll-out of 5G services. To that effect, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Ericsson demonstrated India’s first 5G live network in Hyderabad along with trials in Gurugram and Manesar. This was followed by a demonstration of India’s first 5G rural trial in Bhaipur Bramanan village on the outskirts of Delhi-NCR. Ericsson also partnered with Vodafone Idea to showcase the power of 5G in the delivery of healthcare in remote parts of the country. The telco also demonstrated blazing speeds of 4 Gbps during the November trials. We have also launched advanced products, such as an intelligent automation platform, time-critical communication for real-time 5G experiences and 5G RAN Slicing solution to support end-to-end network slicing support, etc. Furthermore, Ericsson’s Radio System hardware is 5G-ready since 2015, enabling operators to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation. We are working closely with all Indian operators and continue to engage with them on their network evolution plans.

Are 5G private networks becoming more mainstream? How will it impact enterprises?

Industry 4.0 requires a high-performance communications foundation that is reliable and secure. Private networks are the preferred way to power digital transformation by connecting devices, industrial sites, and augmenting workers. In fact, front-runner service providers around the world are increasing flexibility and enabling smart manufacturing by introducing private networks. For example, Telia in Sweden will build and manage a dedicated local 5G-ready mobile network for mining company Boliden at Aitik, the world’s most efficient open-pit copper mine located in the north of Sweden. Telefónica, Ericsson, and Mercedes-Benz are building the world’s first 5G mobile network for automobile production at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, Germany. Our own 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas, has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a global front runner in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). In India, we have set up a 5G lab with Capgemini in Mumbai where the 5G (standalone) Industry Connect solution has been deployed. It will enable industry innovation, experimentation, and deployment of 5G and Edge technologies for clients across industries.

What will be the early use-cases of 5G for both enterprises and individuals?

Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are expected to be the early use-cases for 5G in India. These will help address the concern of the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in India and improve the data experience while on the move. India is the region with an average monthly usage per smartphone of around 18.4GB (as of 2021). This is expected to grow to 50GB per Smartphone per month by 2027. 5G in the initial stage of introduction will help communication service providers manage the growing data needs of consumers more efficiently. According to Ericsson’s economic study of enhanced mobile broadband, evolution to 5G will enable 10 times lower cost per gigabyte than the current 4G. Over time, we expect more enterprise-related use cases to come up leveraging the benefits of 5G in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, education, etc.

Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are expected to be the early use-cases for 5G in India. These will help address the concern of the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in India and improve the data experience while on the move. India is the region with an average monthly usage per smartphone of around 18.4GB (as of 2021). This is expected to grow to 50GB per Smartphone per month by 2027. 5G in the initial stage of introduction will help communication service providers manage the growing data needs of consumers more efficiently. According to Ericsson’s economic study of enhanced mobile broadband, evolution to 5G will enable 10 times lower cost per gigabyte than the current 4G. Over time, we expect more enterprise-related use cases to come up leveraging the benefits of 5G in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, education, etc.

 

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