India is gearing up for the launch of 5G networks in the first half of 2022. The telecom operators are already testing their 5G solutions in partnership with global vendors, including Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung. Mr Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Network Solutions Ericsson South East Asia, Oceania & India, said consumers in India are ready to pay up to 50% more for 5G if they get bundled service from the operators. Mr Bansal shared further insights with TelecomTalk on whether India is ready for 5G or not and what kind of investments are necessary for the successful rollout of 5G networks.
Q1. How Prepared Is India for 5G Connectivity?
Ericsson believes India is completely ready for 5G, and that is why an affordable 5G spectrum needs to be made available to the telecom operators. Looking at the ‘long-term benefits’ that 5G technology will bring to India, it needs to be looked at as critical infrastructure and the foundation on which the Digital India vision can be realised.
From a technology readiness perspective, we are completely ready to roll out 5G in India, having deployed it across 93+ live networks across the globe. For the unaware, the Ericsson Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015, allowing telecom service providers (TSPs) to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation reducing their costs.
As India gets ready to embark on its 5G journey, Ericsson is committed to working with its partners, customers, and the academic community to design as well as curate India-specific use-cases to create the perfect ecosystem for 5G in India.
From a consumer standpoint also, there is a major interest for 5G in India, and more importantly, the consumers are willing to pay a premium for the new capabilities that 5G brings. Our recent consumer lab study ‘Five ways to a better 5G’ states that at least 40 million smartphone users in India could adopt the 5G technology in the first year of the launch and Indian users are willing to pay as much as 50% more for 5G plans, provided they are bundled with new services.
The latest Ericsson Mobility Report reveals that 5G will represent around 26% of mobile subscriptions in India at the end of 2026, estimated at about 330 million subscriptions which is a substantial figure.
Q2. Why Do Operators Need to Introduce 5G?
The pandemic has accentuated the importance of faster and reliable connectivity for life and work to continue uninterrupted thus, leading to the discussion around the 5G rollout gaining momentum. India is one telecommunications market that is currently the world’s second-largest and has continued to register strong growth over the years. The market is witnessing strong data growth, and 5G is needed to cater to this demand.
5G is a platform for innovation, and because of its socio-economic multiplier effect, it will serve as the critical infrastructure that will open new possibilities for consumers and industries alike thus, leading to new revenue streams for operators.
While 5G services at present primarily address consumer use cases like enhanced mobile broadband, 5G network capabilities are expected to go far beyond previous generations of mobile communications with lower latency, high reliability, higher capacity, and security.
With 26% of mobile subscriptions in India expected to be 5G at the end of 2026, estimated at about 330 million subscriptions (EMR June 2021), India has huge potential for 5G technology. In the initial stage of introduction, 5G will help communication service providers (CSPs) manage the growing data needs of consumers more efficiently.
More than 70% of consumers expect 5G to provide a better performance, such as faster speed, better reliability and lower latency, according to the Ericsson Consumer Lab study (2021). That will enable consumer offerings around gaming, video and AR and VR.
As per an Ericsson ConsumerLab study called ‘5G for Business: a 2030 market compass study’, it is estimated that the addressable industry digitalisation market for service providers could grow to about USD 700 billion by the end of 2030. The projected value of the 5G-enabled digitalisation revenues in India being approximately USD 17 billion by 2030.
Q3. What Are Some 5G Use-Cases We Will See for the Indian Consumer?
Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access (FWA) are anticipated to be the early use-cases for 5G in India. These proposals will contribute to addressing the concern of the limited fixed broadband penetration levels in India and enhance the data experience while on the move.
India is the region with an average monthly usage per smartphone of around 15GB (as of 2020). This is expected to grow to 40GB per Smartphone per month by 2026. 5G, in the initial stage, when it is introduced, will help CSPs manage the rising data needs of consumers more efficiently.
According to an Ericsson economic study of enhanced mobile broadband, evolution to 5G networks will enable 10 times lower cost per gigabyte than current 4G.
Q4. Do You Think Investments in 5G Are Critical for the Indian Economy?
5G will facilitate innovative services for consumers, enterprises, and industry, including large-scale IoT, use cases thus, presenting more revenue opportunities for the Indian service providers. With characteristics such as high speeds, low latency, and reliability, 5G will particularly benefit healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, energy/utilities sectors in India. Hence, investment in 5G is critical to unlock the next level of growth for the country.
Q5. How Is Ericsson Supporting Indian Operators in 5G Deployments?
Along with our partners here in India, Ericsson has been working on 5G for several years in the labs and in advanced outdoor field trials. Working with Indian telecom operators as well as the academia community, we have been testing and developing various 5G use cases relevant for India.
In 2019, we collaborated with Qualcomm successfully at the India Mobile Congress (IMC) to show India’s first-ever live 5G video call using spectrum in the 28 GHz band. Ericsson also demonstrated the reliability, speed, and low latency of 5G through India’s first-ever 5G-powered Connected Music performance during the opening ceremony of the India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2019.
We continue to work closely and engage with all Indian operators on their network evolution plans. Just last year, one of our long term partners, Bharti Airtel, extended its partnership with Ericsson for the deployment of 5G-ready radio, 5G Core and transport solutions.
In January 2021, Ericsson and Bharti Airtel partnered to demonstrate 5G on a live network in Hyderabad. By leveraging Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing technology, the operator gave India its first taste of 5G over a commercial network. In June this year, we partnered with Bharti Airtel once again to demonstrate enhanced speeds of over 1 GBPS at a live 5G network at the Cyber Hub, Gurgaon, using Bharti’s 3500 MHz trial spectrum.
Furthermore, Ericsson’s Radio System hardware has been 5G-ready since 2015. This allows operators to upgrade to 5G with a remote software installation.
Q6. What Are Ericsson's Plans in the 5G Space? What Are Some Recent Milestones Ericsson Has Achieved?
Our 5G plans and strategy are based on increased investments in R&D for technology development, and cost leadership has continued to bear fruit, as it is evident from our results in the second quarter of 2021. With a strong 5G product portfolio and cost structure, Ericsson is well-positioned to take advantage of the continued market momentum. In fact, at a global level, there is already a great momentum in demand for 5G, with lead markets moving forward swiftly, creating many opportunities for our core business to grow.
As per the Ericsson Mobility Report released recently, there will be around 580 million 5G subscriptions by the end of 2021 and by 2026, the number is forecasted to reach 3.5 billion. To that end, we are continuing to invest in further strengthening our portfolio and expanding our global footprint.
Ericsson is a market leader in live 5G networks; we were the first ones to deploy commercial live networks across five continents. Customers from all across the globe have chosen us as their 5G partner.
As of now, we have 143 commercial 5G agreements and 93 live 5G networks globally. With our 5G portfolio in place, customers can deploy 5G networks in all main frequency bands and utilize their valuable spectrum assets fast and in the most efficient way. With proven performance results, we enable our customers to stay ahead with 5G technology.
Ericsson has reinforced its global technology leadership with recognitions like:
1. Ericsson has been ranked the highest in the 5G network infrastructure market by Frost & Sullivan’s latest Frost Radar™, by leveraging its current leadership in the 4G network infrastructure market
2. Ericsson has been named a Leader in Gartner’s 2021 Magic Quadrant for 5G Network Infrastructure for Communications Service Providers (CSPs)
Some of the other milestones include:
1. In February 2021, In Ericsson’s lab in Kista, Stockholm, with a technical specification comprising 8 component carriers (8CC) aggregating 800MHz of millimetre wave spectrum, Ericsson engineers achieved delivery rates of 4.3Gbps – the fastest 5G speed to date. The landmark was achieved during interoperability testing using commercial solutions.
2. In March 2021, World Economic Forum (WEF) identified Ericsson’s USA 5G Smart Factory in Lewisville, Texas as a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) pioneer. The forum has awarded the site with its prestigious “Global Lighthouse” designation.
3. In April 2021, Ericsson achieved another 5G technical milestone, further accelerating 5G with single user multiple input multiple output (SU-MIMO) by delivering a single user uplink data rate of 315 megabits per second (Mbps), 15-20 times faster than today’s typical uplink speed.