How about “5G in India: Progress, Challenges, and the Path Ahead

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Rajesh Kaushal, Vice President, Delta Electronics India


How do you evaluate India’s progress in rolling out 5G, considering the positives, delays, hurdles, and ideal milestones the country should have achieved?

The 5G network roll-out in India has been nothing short of remarkable, positioning the nation among the top three countries globally with the most extensive 5G installed base. This achievement signifies one of the most rapid telecom network roll-outs in history and places India firmly in the top echelons of the 5G landscape, boasting download speeds that outperform many advanced markets. The Indian government has played a crucial role in supporting the 5G rollout. The government has allocated 5G spectrum to telecom operators at competitive rates, and it has also streamlined the licensing process. Additionally, the government has provided subsidies and tax breaks to telecom operators to encourage investment in 5G infrastructure.

The initial launch of 5G networks in key cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata paved the way for widespread adoption, with both Jio and Airtel now collectively serving over 10,000 cities through their ‘True 5G’ and ‘5G Plus’ networks, respectively.

Reliance Industries (RIL) shared in its Q1FY24 presentation that Jio has impressively deployed over 115,000 5G sites and nearly 690,000 5G cells across India. As of August 28, 2023, the country witnessed a substantial deployment of 3.38 lakh 5G BTSs, with Uttar Pradesh leading the way with 35,916 deployments, followed by Maharashtra (34,779) and Tamil Nadu (28,307). Several hurdles have affected the progress, including the challenging and time-consuming process of obtaining Right of Way (RoW) permissions, a complex licensing regime for 5G, and high taxation policies for the telecom sector. The ideal milestones set for India include achieving comprehensive 5G coverage in all major cities and towns by the end of 2023, expanding to rural areas by the end of 2024, and ensuring a fully deployed and operational 5G network by the end of 2025.

India has indeed made substantial progress in its 5G journey, but there is still work to be done. It is imperative for the government and the industry to collaborate in addressing the challenges of deploying 5G and ensuring that this transformative technology reaches every corner of the country. Beyond mobile subscribers, the true potential and return on investment (ROI) for operators will come with the maturity of other 5G use cases. These may include applications such as remote surgeries, automation in factories and institutions, autonomous vehicles, and more. The widespread adoption of these use cases will not only enhance the telecom sector but also revolutionize various industries, ultimately driving economic growth and innovation.

Is the 5G ecosystem in India building upon the existing 4G infrastructure, or is there a need for a completely new ecosystem to be developed?

The 5G ecosystem in India is evolving by building upon the existing 4G infrastructure while simultaneously introducing new elements. This approach allows for a smoother transition to 5G technology while leveraging the groundwork laid by 4G. Delta Electronics India recognizes that the existing 4G infrastructure forms the backbone for the deployment of 5G networks. However, the transition to 5G requires significant enhancements and upgrades, particularly in terms of network capacity, speed, low latency, and the ability to support a multitude of devices connected in the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem.

We understand that building a 5G ecosystem within the existing infrastructure demands substantial investment in upgrading and modernizing networks, including the deployment of advanced power solutions critical for 5G deployment. This approach ensures a cost-effective and efficient rollout. Additionally, it allows for the development of new use cases and services, particularly in areas like smart cities, Industry 4.0, and autonomous vehicles, which rely heavily on 5G capabilities.

India’s approach to building the 5G ecosystem combines the strengths of the existing 4G infrastructure with the necessity of creating a new ecosystem to meet the demands of high-speed, low-latency connectivity. Delta Electronics India is committed to providing the essential power solutions to support this evolution, contributing to the success of 5G technology adoption in the country.

What is the current level of collaboration between telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders in India’s 5G rollout, and is the country on the right track in this regard?

At Delta we recognizes the importance of collaboration among various stakeholders in India’s 5G rollout. The current level of collaboration is noteworthy but still evolving. Telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders are increasingly coming together to drive the 5G ecosystem forward. Telecom operators have been actively partnering with equipment manufacturers to develop and test 5G technologies. Delta Electronics India, for instance, has been working closely with leading telecom operators to provide innovative solutions that support 5G infrastructure.

Regulators, such as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), have been instrumental in creating an enabling environment for 5G. Their efforts to facilitate spectrum auctions and formulate relevant policies have been commendable. However, to ensure that the country is on the right track, there’s a need for even greater synergy among stakeholders. Collaborative efforts should focus on addressing challenges related to spectrum allocation, infrastructure development, and security considerations.

While the current level of collaboration is promising, Delta Electronics India believes that continued efforts to strengthen partnerships among telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders are essential. A more cohesive and coordinated approach will be pivotal in realizing the full potential of 5G in India and ensuring that the country remains on the right track in this transformative journey.

How can research, academia, and indigenous manufacturing contribute to accelerating and smoothening the 5G pathway in India?

Research, academia, and indigenous manufacturing play a pivotal role in accelerating and smoothing the 5G pathway in India. Collaboration among these sectors can drive innovation, enhance technological capabilities, and ensure the self-reliance necessary for a successful 5G rollout. Research institutions and academia provide the foundation for the development of 5G technologies. They can contribute by conducting cutting-edge research, fostering a skilled workforce, and offering specialized training programs. This knowledge transfer can ensure that India has a talent pool well-versed in 5G, ready to address the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Indigenous manufacturing is equally critical. By promoting the “Make in India” initiative, India can reduce its dependency on imported equipment and components, thereby enhancing its self-reliance in the 5G ecosystem. This not only bolsters the country’s economic growth but also mitigates security concerns associated with foreign-made equipment. Collaboration between these sectors can lead to the development of homegrown 5G solutions, tailored to India’s unique requirements and challenges. It can also promote local innovation, create jobs, and enable technology exports. To realize this potential, India should foster a conducive environment for research, academia, and manufacturing to work together. This collaborative approach is instrumental in accelerating and smoothening the pathway to 5G in India.

Is India ready in terms of infrastructure and regulatory environment to fully benefit from 5G, and what are the key gaps that need to be addressed by both the industry and the government

India’s readiness for the full realization of 5G technology hinges on both infrastructure and regulatory considerations. While India has made notable strides, critical gaps persist that require concerted efforts from industry players and the government. One glaring disparity is the inadequate fiber-optic infrastructure. A mere 33% of telecom towers in India are fiberized, a stark contrast to countries like South Korea, the U.S., Japan, and China, where fiberization rates range from 65% to 90%. India’s fiber kilometers (fkm) per capita are also strikingly deficient, with just 0.09 fkm compared to 1.35 in Japan, 1.34 in the U.S., and 1.3 in China.

To bridge these gaps, collaborative initiatives are vital. The industry must prioritize expanding fiber-optic networks and enhancing mobile tower density. Securing adequate spectrum is equally important. The government, on its part, must streamline regulatory processes, address spectrum pricing concerns, and align data privacy and security regulations with 5G standards. A harmonious industry-government partnership is indispensable to ensure India’s comprehensive readiness for the 5G era. Only then can India fully leverage 5G’s potential to foster economic growth, digital inclusion, and technological advancement, bringing it on par with global standards.