We have come a long way from analog to digital communication. The first three generations 802.11 WiFi standards dominated the world in the period 1995 to 2005. The speed and range of data transmission increased steadily from 2Mbps to 54 Mbps in less than a decade. The trajectory changed drastically when the fourth generation (4G) standard was introduced offering speed as high as 600Mbps. The 5G will break new technological barriers where speed will exceed 1Gbps to fulfill wireless requirement of billions of devices for the next decade along with high-energy efficiency (translating into longer battery life), better network security and unparalleled use experience.
In a recent 2017 study by IHS Economics on how 5G technologies will contribute to the global economy, it was found that “by 2035, 5G will enable $12.3 trillion of global economic output. That is nearly equivalent to US consumer spending in 2016 and more than the combined spending by consumers in China, Japan, Germany, UK, and France in 2016”. Further, the global value chain of 5G, supporting 22 million jobs, will generate $3.5 trillion in output – this is approximately the combined revenue of the top 13 companies on the 2016 Fortune Global 1000—a list that includes Walmart, State Grid, China National Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Volkswagen, Toyota, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and Samsung.
India was rather slow to rollout 3G and 4G networks but the government doesn’t want to miss the opportunity with 5G telecom networks. That explains the thrust to conduct spectrum auction in 2017 and try to provide the industry with a head start to align their R&D and business strategies. India is looking up to South Korea where 5G would be rolled out by next year. The reason is simple - 5G will have the potential to bring mobile communication to the same pedestal as established general-purpose technologies such as automobile engine, electricity and the Internet.
Of course, it will take time before surgery by robot medics or completely driverless cars are commercialized in India, but the potential of linking Swach Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India campaign) with automated mobile-enabled waste collection and linking Smart City campaigns with intelligent sensor-laden traffic systems is huge. But imagine how the world will change when 5G enabled networks will deliver not just data and information, but also human expertise and skills in real time (referred to as ‘tactile Internet’).
2G introduced the wireless wizardry to people. 3G further boosted the charm of connectivity. 4G put the magic wand of the Internet in everyone’s pocket. Soon 5G will be the magic potion for the ineludible rise of the machines.
Dr. Ashish Bharadwaj is Director of the Jindal Initiative on Research in IP and Competition (JIRICO). He teaches law & economics in Jindal Global Law School.